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World Economic Forum on the MENA to Focus on Building New Platforms of Cooperation

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The World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa will be held at the Dead Sea in Jordan on 6-7 April 2019 in partnership with the King Abdullah II Fund for Development (KAFD). This will be the 10th meeting in Jordan and 17th meeting in the region. The meeting will convene more than 1,000 government, business and civil society leaders from over 50 countries.

Under the theme “Building New Platforms of Cooperation”, the meeting will focus on four transformational imperatives: Shaping a new economic and social model for the region; environmental stewardship in the Arab world; finding common ground in a multiconceptual world; and the Fourth Industrial Revolution in the Arab world.

“The region is at a pivotal time of taking the bold decisions necessary to future-proof its societies and economies. At this meeting, we will hold several strategic dialogues, with particular attention on the relationship between the public, private and civic sectors, the impact of the Fourth Industrial Revolution on skills and jobs, and new initiatives to help resolve long-standing conflicts,” said Mirek Dusek, Deputy Head of Centre for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs and Member of the Executive Committee at the World Economic Forum.

For his part, Chairman of KAFD’s Board of Trustees Alaa Batayneh said, “Having Jordan host the World Economic Forum on the Middle East and North Africa for the 10th time reaffirms the importance of Jordan’s political and economic position within the region.” “The Forum offers an international platform to highlight the priorities and plans of Jordan and the region, in the fields of development, energy, technology applications, and natural resource management,” he added.

With the full support of the host country and presence of Their Majesties King Abdullah II bin Al Hussein, Queen Rania Al Abdullah and H.R.H. Crown Prince Al Hussein bin Abdullah II of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the meeting will bring together leaders from Gulf Cooperation Council countries, the Levant and North Africa, as well as key international stakeholders from East Africa, Europe and the United States.

The Co-Chairs of this year’s meeting are: Khalid Al Rumaihi, Chief Executive, Bahrain Economic Development Board, Bahrain; Thani Ahmed Al Zeyoudi, Minister of Climate Change and Environment of the United Arab Emirates; Rania A. Al-Mashat, Minister of Tourism of Egypt; Alain Bejjani, Chief Executive Officer, Majid Al Futtaim Holding, United Arab Emirates; Wafa Ben-Hassine, MENA Policy Counsel, Access Now, USA; Sumantra Chakrabarti, President, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), London; Tony F. Chan, President, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), Saudi Arabia; and Sigrid Kaag, Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation of the Netherlands.

Among the public figures taking part in the meeting are: Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, New York; Muhammadu Buhari, President of Nigeria; Mahmoud Abbas, President of the Palestinian Nationality Authority and Chairman of the Executive Committee, Palestine Liberation Organization; Armen Sarkissian, President of Armenia; Emine Erdoğan, First Lady of Turkey; Abdullah Abdullah, Chief Executive of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan; Khalid Al-Falih, Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources of Saudi Arabia; Omar Al Olama, Minister of State for Artificial Intelligence of the United Arab Emirates; Yusuf Bin Alawi Bin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Oman; Ghassan Hasbani, Deputy Prime Minister of Lebanon; and Khalid bin Ahmed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain.

For the second time, the World Economic Forum is partnering with the Bahrain Economic Development Board to bring 100 Arab start-ups to the meeting. The initiative aims to further integrate entrepreneurs into a national and regional dialogue on pressing challenges. More than 400 applicants representing 17 countries and spanning numerous sectors including finance, energy, health, environment, media and education applied. Among the selected start-ups are Careem (UAE) – also included in the 2017 selection – the region’s first “unicorn”, which was recently sold for $3.1 billion; Coded (Kuwait), the first coding boot camps for the Arab world; Proximie (Lebanon), a company that uses augmented reality for surgeons to contribute remotely to clinical procedures; and Wahed (UAE), the world’s first halal investment platform.

Representing young people, the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers (aged between 20 and 30) and Young Global Leaders (under the age of 40), will take part in the discussions. Social Entrepreneurs

will also contribute to the dialogue on innovative local and regional action to address pressing problems.

The meeting will also focus on highlighting long-term approaches to responding to systemic issues. For example, the Humanitarian Investing Initiative, launched at the Forum’s Annual Meeting in Davos, will showcase innovative approaches to investing that respond to the long-term challenges of protracted humanitarian crises. Taking this long-term approach, other sessions will feature solution-based, forward-looking dialogues on issues of healthcare, energy, water, gender equality, the future of jobs, cybersecurity and more.

Building on the World Economic Forum’s long-standing position as a platform for peace and reconciliation, the meeting will also host dialogues with key decision-makers from the region, the United States, Europe and Asia on addressing geopolitical challenges in the region.

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Energy News

IEA hosts high-level meeting on Africa’s energy outlook

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Workshop findings will provide input to a special report on Africa that will be published later this year in the World Energy Outlook. (Photograph: IEA)

The International Energy Agency held a day-long workshop on Wednesday to discuss ways to promote greater energy development across the African continent.

More than a hundred senior representatives from governments, energy companies, financial institutions and academia attended the meeting, which was opened by H.E. Dona Jean-Claude Houssou, Minister of Energy of the Republic of Benin, and H.E. Chakib Benmoussa, Ambassador of His Majesty the King of Morocco to France.

Findings from the Workshop will provide input to a special report on Africa that will be published later this year in the World Energy Outlook, the IEA’s flagship publication. It will also inform the IEA’s first ministerial summit with the African Union Commission, which will be held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in June. 

“Promoting access to energy across Africa is one of the world’s major development challenges and one of the IEA’s key priorities,” said Dr Fatih Birol, the IEA’s Executive Director, during his opening remarks. “While the challenges are important – particularly with regards to access to energy or clean cooking fuels – the continent’s energy resources are tremendous. With the right policies and investments, they could be harnessed to provide greater economic benefit for all populations across the continent.”

Developing Africa’s energy sector potential is an essential step to providing greater economic opportunities and prosperity across the continent, which is home to vast energy resources. Still, today more than 600 million people across the continent remain without access to electricity. The workshop addressed policies, technologies, business models and financing to accelerate the transition to a thriving and sustainable African energy sector, set against a favourable backdrop of declining energy technology costs, increasing digitalisation, and strengthened policy commitment, including through Africa’s Agenda 2063 and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

The workshop marked an important milestone in the IEA’s strengthened engagement with Africa. In recent years, the IEA welcomed Morocco and South Africa to its family and recently forged a strategic partnership with the African Union Commission (AUC). The IEA is also stepping up its collaboration with African countries and regional organisations on capacity building for data and long-term planning, and technical policy dialogues on a range of topics.

The workshop was followed by deep-dive sessions on energy access, energy and gender, energy and growth, and power system reliability and sustainability.

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EU Politics

EU is strengthening its political partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean

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The European Union is strengthening its political partnership with Latin America and the Caribbean by focusing it on four priorities – prosperity, democracy, resilience and effective global governance – for common future.

The vision for a stronger and modernised bi-regional partnership focused on trade, investment and sectoral cooperation is set out in a new joint communication presented by the European Commission and the High Representative. This new partnership aims at working together in changing global and regional realities that require joint efforts to address common challenges and opportunities.

On this occasion, High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini commented: “Latin America, the Caribbean and Europe have social, cultural and economic deep links, a long history of common work for peace and prosperity, and share the same attachment to cooperation and multilateralism. With this communication, we lay the ground for further strengthening our collaboration, for the sake of our peoples and of the whole world.”

Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica said: “Our commitment remains to continue engaging with countries in the region according to their different levels of development through tailor-made partnerships and innovative forms of cooperation such as transfer of knowledge or triangular cooperation. In this context, we will pay particular attention to countries least developed and in situations of conflict where the potential to raise finance is the lowest. Only when we join forces can we deliver on our ambitious Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development or the Paris Agreement”.

Building on the achievements of the last decades, the partnership should concentrate on four mutually reinforcing priorities, underpinned by concrete initiatives and targeted EU engagement with the region:

Partnering for Prosperity – by supporting sustainable growth and decent jobs; reducing socio-economic inequalities; transitioning towards a digital, green and circular economy; as well as further strengthening and deepening the already solid trade and investment relationship

Partnering for Democracy – by strengthening the international human rights regime including gender equality; empowering civil society; consolidating the rule of law; and ensuring credible elections and effective public institutions

Partnering for Resilience – by improving climate resilience, environment and biodiversity; fighting against inequalities through fair taxation and social protection; fighting organised crime; and deepening dialogue and cooperation on migration and mobility, in particular to prevent irregular migration, trafficking in human beings

Partnering for effective global governance – by strengthening the multilateral system, including for climate and environmental governance; deepening cooperation on peace and security; and implementing the 2030 Agenda.

Background

The strategic partnership between the European Union, Latin America and the Caribbean is based on a commitment to fundamental freedoms, sustainable development and a strong rules-based international system. As a result, there is an unprecedented level of integration and our economies are closely interconnected.

The EU has signed association, free trade or political and cooperation agreements with 27 of the 33 Latin American and Caribbean countries.

Close to six million people from both regions live and work across the Atlantic, and more than one third of Latin American and Caribbean students studying abroad do so in the EU. The EU is the third largest trade partner of Latin America and the Caribbean and the first investor. Total trade in goods amounted to €225.4 billion in 2018, while foreign direct investment reached €784.6 billion in 2017.

The EU has promoted the cooperation in areas of strategic interest, efforts to tackle anti-microbial resistance, improving aviation safety, working together against climate change and promoting a safe and human-centric digitalised economy are some concrete examples that illustrate this partnership towards a common future.

The EU has been the largest provider of development cooperation to its partners in Latin America and the Caribbean, with €3.6 billion in grants between 2014 and 2020 and over €1.2 billion in humanitarian assistance in the last 20 years, including assistance under the EU Civil Protection Mechanism in case of natural disasters.

The EU and LAC countries often align in the United Nations, and have closely cooperated on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the Paris Agreement.

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Tech News

EU plans to invest €9.2 billion in key digital technologies

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The Digital Europe Programme is a new €9.2 billion funding programme whose goal is to ensure that all Europeans have the skills and the infrastructure needed to meet a full range of digital challenges.

It is part of a strategy to further develop the digital single market, which could help to create four million jobs and boost the EU’s economy with €415 billion every year while increasing the EU’s international competitiveness.

“For too many years, Europe’s tech sector has lagged behind third countries such as the US and China. We need a coherent Union-wide approach and an ambitious investment to secure a solution to the chronic mismatch between the growing demand for the latest technology and the available supply in Europe,” said Austrian ALDE member Angelika Mlinar, one of the MEPs repsonsible for steering the plans through Parliament.

A part of the budget  would be allocated to encourage small and medium-sized enterprises and public administrations to use technology more often and better, while other parts will cover strategically important fields such as supercomputers, artificial intelligence and cybersecurity.

“We can count on European excellence when it comes to research and innovation, but our businesses, especially SMEs, still found it difficult to access and take advantage of new solutions,” said Milnar. “This programme has been crucially designed to tackle the low take-up of existing testing technologies. We are on track to deliver one of the most promising and necessary funds for Europe’s future.”

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