he organisers of the Doha Forum were yesterday hailed for bringing together political luminaries, scientists, human rights activists, environmentalists and economists.
This year’s forum stood apart from other such meetings by recognising the role of, and including, cultural leaders such as artists, musicians, writers and poets.
The forum also varied in format as a number of workshops were held on the sidelines, covering a wide range of topics including energy, innovation, and the future of the green economy, regional economics during turmoil, Security Council reform and the role sport can play in economics. The conference witnessed ‘agents of change,’ such as the Egyptian youth who came to share their experience of Tahrir Square, as many workshops facilitated discussions on the dynamics of change in the MENA region.
In the closing session, recommendations for future forums and for the State of Qatar were to continue to invest in education on every front by focusing on the influence of the arts as well as science and technology. Future sessions of the Forum were also recommended to open space for free expression and the respect of difference of opinion to ensure that it remains the most creative and provocative event of its kind in the region.
In the run up to the 2022 World Cup there must be a continuing commitment to document the heritage and history in this area of the world as modernisation and change come swiftly. Recognition of the contribution of youth to the Forum was also recommended, to reflect the growing youth demographic and their role in the future of events.
The Forum requested that the world respect the will of the people that developed the programmes and initiatives of modernisation across the region and continued to progress to improve the participation of every constituency within the Arab world. The Forum also encouraged the youth to continue exploring what happens beyond revolutions and uprisings in the region, from democratic governance to increased participation, to empowerment and institution building – ‘the bedrock of the future of the Arab world.’
At the closing ceremony, Abdullah Toukan, CEO, Strategic Analysis and Global Risk Assessment Centre, said: “The old way of thinking - of violence, terrorism and things that used to take place, do not bring people’s attention to the core of the problem. On the contrary, they bring us on the path of self-destruction. The topics that were discussed and the ideas that came forth are really beginning to formulate in people’s mind, and in the recommendations that came out of it, an agenda of more dialogue – and dialogue is one of the most important things…for the future of this region.”
Stephen Spiegel, Director of the UCLA Centre for Middle East Development, thanked HE Mohamed Abdullah al-Rumaihi, Assistant Foreign Minister for Follow-up Affairs, for his role in organising the Forum, and for “his impressive ability to understand important developments in the world and transform them into practical steps.”
Spiegel identified two themes of the conference: “the first is that the region has no option but political and economic reform and the second is that political and economic reforms are interdependent. There can be no political progress without economic development – and equally, sustainable economic growth is impossible in the absence of political reform.”
Spiegel continued: “Many questions remain about who will emerge as the face of these revolutions, or what role outside powers may play, but participants agreed that in places where protests are occurring, institutions and practices will ultimately be more important than the immediate political fate of individual leaders – and the best role for the international community is to assist the institution building while resisting the compulsion to manipulate politics.”
“100mn jobs must be created in the next decade,” said Spiegel. “But too many governments in the MENA region adopt short-term job creation strategies, namely creating more public sector jobs which are unsustainable and incur huge fiscal deficits. Instead we discussed the important point that major structural changes are required. At the international level a free trade zone should be considered, and attention should be paid to integrating strong and weak economic states rather than those with the same economic problems. Spiegel added: “Entrepreneurship should be promoted to address demonstrators’ calls for economic dignity. Franchising was also recognised as a way to promote jobs and training…a panel suggested that Qatar itself, because of its economic transparency and strong legal protections, might become a Singapore of the Middle East as a hub for regional franchises.”
Al-Rumaihi concluded the conference not by presenting a final statement but by saying to the participants: “You are our message, you are the stakeholders, you are the speakers, you are the target and the objective of this message.”
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