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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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Environment

UNIDO supports Budapest Appeal to prevent and manage looming water crises

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LI Yong, the Director General of the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) acted as a panelist during the opening session of Budapest Water Summit 2019, which was convened under the motto ‘Preventing Water Crises’ and which aimed at promoting solutions to tackle the emerging water crises.

“Industries can be instrumental to prevent any kind of water crisis: in situations where water is scarce, the application of resource efficient and cleaner production allows industries to drastically reduce their own water consumption”, said LI Yong. “In situations where water is too polluted, green industries can offer solutions for the cost and energy effective treatment of municipal, agricultural and industrial waste water. Even in situations where abundant water results in floods, industries can engage as water stewards and drive the collaborative process of restoring water regulating eco-system services”.

The UNIDO Director General further emphasized the need for pro-active cooperation, dedicated and well-concerted efforts as well as considerable resources. At the same time, and given the importance of water for sustainable development, Li urged not to underestimate the importance of these efforts.

“The United Nations Industrial Development Organization will continue its efforts to support industries to become environmentally friendly”, said LI Yong. “In this way, industries will play an active role to prevent water crises, in terms of water becoming too little, too much or too polluted”.

During the closing session of the Summit, the Budapest Appeal was presented that formulates messages and guidelines for the international community to prevent and manage the looming water crises. In addition, the Appeal provides a comprehensive summary of findings and recommendations from the Summit and introduces the preliminary online consultation process.

The Summit gathered over 2,200 participants from 117 countries in Budapest, including Hungarian President János Áder and Cambodian Prime Minister Samdech Techo Hun Sen as well as numerous ministers, secretaries of state, representatives of United Nations organizations and heads of multilateral financial institutions.

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EU Politics

OECD and European Commission join forces to further support structural reforms in European countries

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The OECD and the European Commission’s Structural Reform Support Service (SRSS) sealed a new agreement today in Paris that will see the OECD provide wide-ranging policy support to advance structural reforms in European countries.

OECD Chief of Staff, Gabriela Ramos, and Director General of the SRSS, Maarten Verwey, concluded an agreement on 34 reform projects, to be conducted over the next 12 to 18 months, in 18 EU countries under the umbrella of the Structural Reform Support Programme of the European Commission.

The OECD SRSS agreement comes at a time of a slowdown in global growth, rising inequalities and  higher environmental degradation, which threaten people’s well-being. The OECD, with its extensive knowledge base and expertise, is supporting governments to tackle these issues head on and considers the cooperation with the SRSS to be an excellent opportunity to further leverage its expertise to deliver better policies for better lives.    

The action will see the OECD working closely with the SRSS to provide policy advice and working directly with governments to advance structural reform in various policy areas, including education, labour markets, tax, governance, environment and transport infrastructure. These projects respond to the reform priorities identified by the respective EU Member States and will for example help governments develop sustainable development strategies, establish frameworks for circular economies, improve housing affordability in cities, or improve the provision of labour market services. The OECD will capitalize on the digital transformation and also deliver on skills strategies. In a nutshell, it will redouble efforts to support European countries, Members and Partners, in their goal to build strong, inclusive and sustainable economies.

The Structural Reform Support Service offers tailor-made support to all EU Member States for the preparation, design and implementation of growth-enhancing reforms. The support is provided on the request of EU Member States, requires no co-financing and mobilises experts from all over Europe and beyond, from both the public and the private sector.

The new OECD – SRSS agreement allows the SRSS to leverage OECD’s expertise on best policy practices and structural reforms in the EU Member States. Such co-operation will deliver value added impact, carried out with efficiency, for the benefit of all countries.

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Guterres: We must do everything possible to avoid global ‘fracture’ caused by US-China tensions

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Tensions around global trade and technology continue to rise and the international community needs to “do everything possible” to prevent the world being split into two competing spheres, led by the United States and China. 

That was the message from UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Saturday, speaking during the World Bank Group and International Monetary Fund (IMF) Annual Meetings in Washington DC. 

In remarks to the International Monetary and Financial Committee, the UN chief said that “during tense and testing times” he continued to “fear the possiblity of a Great Fracture – with the two largest economies splitting the globe in two – each with its own dominant currency, trade and financial rules, its own internet and artificial intelligence capacities and its own zero-sum geopolitical and military strategies.” 

A trade war between the two economic giants is threatening to wipe out gains across the global economy, which could shrink global GDP next year “equivalent to the whole economy of Switzerland” said the new head of the IMF, Kristina Georgieva, just a few days ago.  

Mr. Guterres told world financiers that “it is not too late to avoid” the division, but “we must do everything possible to avert this…and maintain a universal economy with universal respect for international law; a multipolar world with strong multilateral institutions, such as the World Bank and IMF.” 

He noted three main areas where fiscal policy and investment in the future would be pivotal. First, make tax systems “smarter, greener, and more aligned behind the sustainable development and climate action agendas”, he urged. 

Secondly align the whole financial system behind the 17 SDGs, or Sustainable Development Goals, incentivizing longterm public and private finance, and “revisiting financial regulations that may inadvertently encourage short-termism in financial markets.” 

Third, “it is time to break the cycle of excessive debt build-up followed by painful debt crises”, meaning taking a systemic approach to lend and borrow more responsibly. 

And we must keep a focus on countries particularly vulnerable to the impacts of the climate crisis, namely Small Island Developing States.  I fully support proposals to convert debt to investment in resilience such as through the Debt for Climate Adaptation Swap initiative”, noted the UN chief. “We should move this from idea to reality. 

Together, let us raise ambition for development finance, climate finance, and finance that is inclusive and enables markets to grow, businesses to thrive and people to live in dignity.” 

‘Great opportunities’ ahead, for climate action 

Speaking at a meeting of the Coalition of Finance Ministers for Climate Action, Mr. Guterres said that the 44-member group launched just six months ago, was “a vital part of our response to the climate emergency”. 

The Climate Action Summit last month in New York had shown “the world is waking up to the crisis”, with “great opportunities” ahead to reduce air pollution, save billions of dollars on disasters fueled by global warming, and unlock the true benefits of the green economy. 

Despite a “glaring gap in ambition and finance” finance ministers can turn the tide: “You come to the table with a mix of tools, including tax policy, controlled spending and climate budgeting…And you can end counter-productive subsidies for fossil fuels and pave the way for what I would like to see as a major trend: shifting taxation from income, to carbon.” 

Sweden and Colombia are already using carbon taxes; Uganda is implementing a Climate Change Budget Tagging System; and the island of Dominica has used fiscal policy to improve preparedness for climate shocks, following a devastating hurricane. 

“Your Coalition is taking the ‘whole of government’ approach we need for systemic change. We need to have in place by COP26, country-level road maps and fiscal policies for economic, technological and energy transitions”. 

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