Almost exactly two years ago, the 2011 Annual Meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos was living and breathing the events in Tunisia and Egypt, which eventually led to the emergence of new regimes in some countries of the Middle East and North Africa. There was a palpable feeling of history in the making and an immense sense of both opportunity and uncertainty related to the largely uncharted territory these events have ushered in regarding security, the economy and governance.
Despite this unique moment of 2011, the 2013 Annual Meeting, which opened yesterday, is arguably even more important for the future of the region.
While two years ago the number of questions about the short-term outlook was as overwhelming as the excitement stemming from the revolutions, we are now in a position to take stock of successes and failures and advance understanding of how the international community can support regional and national stakeholders in producing positive outcomes for individual citizens. At the same time, the on-going conflict in Syria, the unresolved issue around Iran and the terrorism threat in the Sahel, are all reminders of the acute risks that could affect constructive efforts.
Given this context, the Middle East and North Africa agenda in Davos this year will revolve around three main axes.
The World Economic Forum takes extremely seriously both the opportunities and risks associated with the ongoing transformation in the Middle East and North Africa.Miroslav Dusek
With Prime Minister Qandil of Egypt and Prime Minster Zeidan of Libya among North Africa leaders participating this year, this will be the occasion to understand the short priorities and long-term goals of the new governments in this region and how they can be concretely assisted by the international community, both governments and the private sector. This dialogue is absolutely crucial for advancing particularly multi-lateral support for the transitions, including the process conducted by the International Monetary Fund, which is represented in Davos by its Managing Director, Christine Lagarde.
One of the key issues discussed will be how these new governments can credibly respond to public expectations while managing economic transitions, which would usher in a more inclusive social and economic future.
There is robust consensus that the single greatest governance challenge for the Middle East and North Africa as a whole is around jobs and particularly for young people. To address this urgent imperative, the World Economic Forum is launching a new initiative titled "A New Vision for Arab Employment," which will be a key feature of the Annual Meeting. By bringing together young leaders with ministers from the region as well as representatives of large private sector employers, we are aiming to create a safe space for all stakeholders in the job creation ecosystem. While fully acknowledging the magnitude and systemic nature of the challenge, we believe that this "job creation diplomacy" will help advance common action.
Advancing human, national and regional security will be another pillar of our discussions this year. The humanitarian emergency and political impasse around Syria will be clearly on the "front burner," as will be the evolving situation in Algeria and Mali. In addition, the future of the peace process will be assessed in light of the Israeli elections and the emerging priorities of the incoming U.S. administration.
The World Economic Forum takes extremely seriously both the opportunities and risks associated with the ongoing transformation in the Middle East and North Africa. It is this spirit and purpose, which we hope will reverberate throughout our deliberations over the coming days.
(Miroslav Dusek is director and head the of Middle East and North Africa region, World Economic Forum. He holds MA in International Studies, University of Reading, UK; Arabic Language Certificate, Kuwait University. Between 2003 and 2007, Dusek was assistant, then director at the American Center, U.S. Embassy, Prague, responsible for managing public information programs ranging from expert conferences to academic competitions and publications. Between 2007 2011, he worked as public diplomacy specialist, U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, responsible for relations with Iraqi media and for a number of education and cultural projects. Since 2011, he worked as acting director, head of Middle East and North Africa, World Economic Forum, responsible for the design of MENA summits and for the coordination of the Forum's Arab Business Council. He authored articles on Middle East politics and economics for Czech print media. Expertise: public diplomacy in the Muslim world; international relations of the Mediterranean; the role of think tanks in transitional societies.)