World Economic Forum: Some of the Most Important Leaders in the Arab World Will Be Taking Part in the World Economic Forum near the End of May in Sharm Al Sheikh

By Yedder, Omar Ben | The Middle East, May 2006 | Go to article overview

World Economic Forum: Some of the Most Important Leaders in the Arab World Will Be Taking Part in the World Economic Forum near the End of May in Sharm Al Sheikh


Yedder, Omar Ben, The Middle East


ONE OF THE biggest gatherings of important leaders in the Arab world will be taking place near the end of May at Sharm Al Sheikh. The WEF meetings have succeeded where many have failed in the somewhat volatile and often sensitive Arab region. The Forum manages to bring together both "friends and foes", partners and competitors and makes them work constructively towards producing a vision and finding a common ground, common objectives, and more importantly assists them to find solutions and ideas.

This networking paradise came into life three years ago. The brainchild of King Abdullah of Jordan, the first World Economic Forum on the Middle East was an initiative to respond to the precarious condition the region found itself in the aftermath of the Iraqi war.

The Middle East Forum is now the second biggest most important WEF event after Davos. "Our Middle East meeting in its current form was born in Jordan, but after three years there we recognised that it was very much a Middle East agenda, a regional agenda so it is quite natural that it should move around. We will be hosting it again in Jordan next year, which is after all its spiritual home, and every two years the Forum will go to another location. The government of Egypt approached us and we are happy to provide them with an opportunity to show the economic reform achievements they have successfully completed."

With over 1,200 participants, the Forum represents a window for leaders of all spheres to put forward a blueprint for progress and reform. The current director of the Middle East programme, Sherif Al Diwany stressed a number of times that this is a working meeting, with an end result: a vision for businesses to implement; policies for governments to take forward and adapt; and where steps are made to try and find working solutions to complicated and longstanding problems such as those affecting Israel and Palestine or Iraq. But business remains at the core: "Economic progress is an imperative for the region. This is why the programme focuses on the business agenda. A large number of sessions and specialised workshops will bring together business and political participants with that in mind. Specifically, leaders from three or four important industries will come together to create a strategy to optimise the current liquidity in the region to realise these plans."

Last year the gender issue and the issue of young people featured highly on the agenda. This year's Forum titled, "The Promise of a New Generation" is very much based on business and how business will drive the region forward. It is about the reforms [economical and political] necessary to create the opportunities and capacity to accommodate the needs of the young generations [60% of the Arab world are under the age of 25]. As Sherif Al Diwany pointed out "It became evident how important those two agenda items were. For businesses to grow and prosper, create jobs, offer better prospects, to meet the challenges and deliver a better future for the new generation it has to be able to compete and integrate globally. Within this agenda and various aspects of business, one of them, as you mentioned, is innovation, others are travel and tourism, transport and logistics, financial services, banking and capital markets. So that's the agenda: how to compete and how to integrate globally."

The World Economic Forum is a big family of important people from all spheres of life, kings, government leaders, CEOs, businessmen, rock stars. It has 1,000 members in total, of which 90 come from the Middle East [84 from the Arab world and 6 from Israel]. At the WEF these personalities are easily accessible. No fuss, no pretence, down-to-earth discussion. The dialogue brings out solutions. And this is probably why things get done so quickly.

Of the 1,200 participants expected at this year's meeting, 50% are business people, 25% are policy makers or political players, and the remaining 25% is made up of civil society and cultural figures. …

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