Abu Dhabi government to spend £900,000 on training staff to engage with citizens

The government of the capital of the United Arab Emirates has engaged comms advisers Albany Associates and the Thomson Reuters Foundation to train 250 of its staff in communications and reduce its reliance on PR agencies.

Abu Dhabi: Part of wider efforts across the UAE to engage with the public
Abu Dhabi: Part of wider efforts across the UAE to engage with the public

The executive council of the city state of Abu Dhabi is to spend $1.5m (the equivalent of £900,000) on the two-year contract as part of greater efforts to engage with its population of 600,000 people.

Abu Dhabi is governed by the council, which is chaired by crown prince Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.

"This is the first time there has been a cross-government comprehensive training programme and they are making a big thing of making their government more accountable to its people," Jem Thomas, Albany Assocates' head of operations, told PRWeek.

In 2011 the UAE held its second ever election for members of its advisory council in what has been seen as an attempt to introduce democratic representation gradually.

Albany will lead on the contract, which will train both media teams and non-communications specialists such as department heads. The syllabus will cover subjects such as preparing for interviews to using social media, with the initial programme involving workshops before culminating in crisis management exercises.

Thomas added: "If the government is going to communicate with various publics it will need to do this strategically rather than on an ad-hoc basis. They use PR agencies a lot and fully admit that but they want to reduce their reliance on agencies and be more sure about how they engage them. It’s about being more mature."

Albany and the Thomson Reuters Foundation will report to the general secretariat of the executive council.

The former is a small agency which specialises in helping foreign governments set up communications capabilities. The latter, which is the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, also provides media training and claims to have trained more than 2,000 United Nations staff.

Abu Dhabi's move comes after the UK government announced last April it was making a £100,000 investment in training 1,500 of its comms staffers in subjects such as digital skills and measurement.

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