MDF3:  “Voices for Change, Partners for Prosperty” [Archives:2000/11/Business & Economy]

March 13 2000

Mohammed Hatem Al-Qadhi
Yemen Times,
Cairo, Egypt

Seven hundred development practitioner, economists, businessmen and media people from across the Middle East and North Africa met in Cairo last week for the third Mediterranean Development Forum(MDF3).
Organized by the World Bank and other organizations and agencies and held under the auspices of Mrs. Suzanne Mubarak and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah ibn Al-Hussein of Jordan, the theme of the three-day forum was : Voices for Change, Partners for Prosperity”.
The meeting focussed on the development needs of the countries of the MENA region as they work towards becoming fully integrated in the global system. Over 600 practitioners and experts and more than 40 workshop sessions, analyzing and debating such topics as: which way for the MENA region after the WTO meeting in Seattle? strengthening NGOs and making them more effective; attracting foreign direct investment, fighting corruption; constructing an Arab free trade area; transparency and the role of the media; and how companies can become globally competitive. At MDF there were seven main workshops themes, each of which had six sessions. The themes are : Global trade and regionalism, institutional reforms and sustainable development, what makes your firm internationally competitive?, civil society, knowledge and development and partners for employment creation ad social protection.
MDF is a partnership of Middle Eastern and North African think tanks which began working in 1997 to support development throughout the region. There were two previous MDF conferences -in 1997 and 1998- both of which were held in Marrakesh.
” To the voices of change I have joined my voice” proclaimed the First Lady of Egypt. She urged the conference to take seriously the concerns expressed in Seattle and Bangkok. Development must be comprehensive and balanced, the end has to be human welfare and progress. Mrs. Mubarak stressed in her speech on the interaction between nations by saying” We live in a time of unprecedented interaction between nations and peoples. Never before have the borders of the sovereign state been as previous to the flow, not only of visitors, material goods and capital but also of ideas”. She also said that: “we must promote growth and equity, the alternative is not only unjust but a prescription for civil strife”.

Queen Rania of Jordan urged those involved in development to learn from the practical experiences around them at the conference. She quoted the example of Jordanian Young Entrepreneurs Association, now keen to establish a regional networking. On the other hand, ” Globalization needs strong political support, there has to be a public dialogue, Egyptian PM said, adding that ” regionalism is the preparatory stage for globalization”.
In a press conference, Kemal Devis, Vice President of the World Bank, said that ” the media have an important role to play in development, translating the policy debate to the wider public and feeding back the views of the people to the decision-takers, so that everyone is aware of the difficult trade-offs that have to be made between economics and social responsibility.” For this reason out of the 700 participants 100 were journalists.
It is worth mentioning that there was no official participation for Yemen in MDF3.