x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 22 July 2017

UK reignites efforts to help Arab nations

The British government is using its presidency of the Group of Eight to reinvigorate international efforts to support six Arab countries in their move towards democracy.

Rosemary Davis, the United Kingdom's Arab world spokeswoman, says the British government wants to reinvigorate global efforts to support six Arab countries in their move towards democracy. Pawan Singh / The National
Rosemary Davis, the United Kingdom's Arab world spokeswoman, says the British government wants to reinvigorate global efforts to support six Arab countries in their move towards democracy. Pawan Singh / The National

The British government is using its presidency of the Group of Eight to reinvigorate international efforts to support six Arab countries in their political and economic development.

Those efforts are being made via the Deauville Partnership, which is made up of the G8 economies as well as Kuwait, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, the UAE and international financial institutions.

The partnership offered US$38 billion in financial help two years ago to the six countries - Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Libya, Jordan and Yemen. But so far only a limited amount of the cash has flowed.

A longer-than-expected transition era in some countries, together with the flaring up of conflict in Syria and the rumbling on of the euro-zone crisis, has contributed to stalling the support effort.

"There had been commitments made and promises and money but the execution had been quite poor," said Rosemary Davis, the United Kingdom government's Arab world spokeswoman.

"I don't think its been delivering as well as it could have been and that's why the UK government wanted to reinvigorate it."

"With everything that's happening in the Middle East, adopting it in some ways to take account of the Arab Spring and revolutions makes sense," Ms Davis said

More than two years on from the start of unrest in Tunisia, many of the Arab Spring nations still face similar problems. The rate of unemployment in the Middle East and North Africa region remains among the highest in the world. Public funds have been all but drained and businesses are struggling from a lack of funding. Shortly before the G8 Summit in Northern Ireland last week, the UK government announced the launch of a scheme for at least 250 entrepreneurs from the six countries. Under the project, the entrepreneurs will learn new skills from being matched with mentors from leading companies from across the Deauville Partnership. Several conferences have been organised by the UK and other Deauville partners in London, Tunis and Cairo to help the governments of the six countries to attract funding.

The UK government's role also includes supporting the widening of the mandate of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) outside its heartland of Europe to encompass Tunisia, Egypt, Jordan and Morocco.

The EBRD has already established an office in Tunis and aims to invest up to €2.5 billion (Dh12.04bn) in private-sector initiatives by 2015. "It is already investing €1bn and is awaiting ratification from three states and once that happens that will unblock a further €1.5bn in money," said Jessica Irvine, the Arabian Gulf representative of the Department for International Development.

The UK government is also organising a conference in London focused on enhancing the role of women in business.

A US$250 million fund has been formed to support social welfare reforms in transition countries to help to unblock funds from international multilateral organisations.

Support is also being offered in asset recovery and in strengthening oversight of financial sectors and civil society organisations.

"There is a commitment under the Deauville Partnership to publish what has been achieved in a year's time," said Ms Irvine.

 

tarnold@thenational.ae