x Abu Dhabi, UAE Friday 21 July 2017

UK aims to extend fund to Arab Spring nations

The UK seeks to renew efforts to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development on countries affected by political unrest during the Arab Spring, as it assumes the presidency of the Group of Eight developed nations.

The United Kingdom will aim to refocus the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) on countries affected by political unrest during the Arab Spring, as it assumes the presidency of the Group of Eight developed nations.

Taking the helm of the G8, which rotates every year, the UK is seeking to resume expansion of the development fund, which once took as its aim rebuilding Eastern European countries emerging from the Cold War.

Under the British government's plans, the bank's mandate would be enlarged to encompass Egypt, Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco.

The UK is also seeking to establish a G8-backed fund worth US$250 million (Dh918.3m) to help countries in the region strengthen civil society and institutions that will prevent the hiding of stolen assets by former regime members.

The British government seeks to promote transparency initiatives and assist "the recovery of stolen or illegally sequestered assets, wherever they may be within the G8 and other banking systems," said Dominic Jermey, the UK's ambassador to the UAE.

Also on the UK's agenda are new alliances for food security, "mentoring" programmes for small and medium enterprises and bigger corporations, climate change, cyber security and prevention of violence against women.

The EBRD launched its first investments in Jordan, Tunisia and Morocco in September last year after they were granted the status of potential recipient countries for funding, which the UK is seeking to push forward.

The UK will attempt to lay the groundwork for "deep and comprehensive" free trade agreements with other countries in the Middle East as a means of promoting reform.

The country will also advance a mooted free trade agreement between the United States and the European Union, two economies which jointly account for a third of world trade.

The UK will also bring together investors as part of a conference designed to facilitate investment in Egypt, Tunisia and other countries transitioning to democracy as part of the Deauville Partnership, launched in May last year as part of France's presidency of the G8. At the time, leading economies and Arabian Gulf countries raised $38 billion to support Arab states.

The creation of a $250m fund to help support asset recovery would provide technical assistance to help governments in North Africa develop better oversight of their financial sectors and strengthen civil society organisations, said Jessica Irvine, the Gulf representative of the Department for International Development.

"We're pleased that the governments of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Qatar have pledged funding and hope other Gulf governments will follow suit," she said.

The three countries have pledged $165m, though the UAE, the other Gulf country which has signed up to the Deauville Partnership, has so far not committed any funds.

Ms Irvine said that the transition fund was not aimed at any particular country but would help support sound governance across the region.

 

ghunter@thenational.ae