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Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi will attend the WEF. Sarah Dea / The National
Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi will attend the WEF. Sarah Dea / The National

WEF to focus on challenges

Leaders from the Middle East and North Africa in business, economics and politics will focus on the aftermath of the "Arab Spring" as they gather for the World Economic Forum in Jordan this weekend.

Leaders from the Middle East and North Africa in business, economics and politics will focus on the aftermath of the Arab Spring as they gather for the World Economic Forum in Jordan this weekend.

Some 900 of the region's top thinkers and policymakers will arrive at the Dead Sea resort for the WEF's latest brainstorming session, which formally begins tomorrow.

Under the banner of "advancing conditions for growth and resilience", they will discuss three broad regional issues: employment, economic governance and geopolitical security at what the WEF calls "a pivotal time" for the region.

The attendees will include a delegation from the UAE, led by Sheikha Lubna Al Qasimi, the Minister of Development and International Cooperation. Prominent members of the business and financial communities in Abu Dhabi and Dubai are also expected to attend the two-day forum.

For the first time since the disturbances that began in 2011 and led to social and political change in the region, the forum agenda makes no mention of the term "Arab Spring."

Instead, it talks about the "transitions in North Africa" and the challenges they present to the region and the world.

"The current Middle East and North Africa context is of fundamental importance for shaping the economic, social and governance systems of the future," the WEF announced in opening remarks to the agenda.

"Home to youthful populations, energy endowments and some of the fastest-growing economies globally, the region as a whole has formidable assets to drive positive outcomes.

"Two years after the start of the transitions in North Africa, this promise is compounded by a clear urgency for decision-makers to deliver development and prosperity throughout the populations.

"There is therefore a unique opportunity for business, civil society and government to jointly make historic gains in crucial areas, such as youth unemployment, transparency, income disparity, private sector development and infrastructure," the WEF said.

Masood Ahmed, the director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia department, said: "I see discussions around what is the kind of role we envisage for the private sector in the region going forward.

"There are opportunities to have discussions around this with the private sector itself but also with young people and others who have views around the sector.

"A second area is to look at some of the pressing issues around transition countries.

"There are questions about how you move forward on subsidy reform, questions on how you deal with risk and resilience, how you can deal with spillovers from across the region and instability," he added.

The forum will be opened by Jordan's King Abdullah, and will also be attended by Mahmoud Abbas, the president of the Palestinian Authority.

The Israeli president, Shimon Peres, is also expected to attend. Some observers expect a significant statement on the Palestinian Territories to emerge from the forum.

Among international policymakers in attendance, John Kerry, the US secretary of state, will be joined by the US senator John McCain, a member of the body's foreign relations committee, and Tony Blair, the former British prime minister and representative of the Middle East Quartet.

The WEF said the forum takes place "in an environment of a continued global economic slowdown, geopolitical shifts in the Levant, complex political transitions in certain countries as well as a generally heightened sense of public expectations at the national level.

"Therefore, creating resilience anchored in macroeconomic stability, robust national consensus, and effective and timely international partnerships, including with emerging markets, is absolutely critical for realising current opportunities and aspirations," it added.

 

fkane@thenational.ae

tarnold@thenational.ae

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