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WEF 2006 in Egypt.

By Star Staff Writer Jordanians exulted on May 22, at the end of this year's World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting at the Dead Sea, when its chairman Klaus Schwab announced that Jordan is the forum's home in the Middle East. He made the note following the announcement that the forum would hold its next year's meeting at the Egyptian Sharm El Sheikh resort. The forum returns to the Dead Sea in 2007.His Majesty King Abdallah concluded this year's WEF's meeting with a commitment that the Arab world is taking off along the reform path as they have pledged. "This year's forum targeted the most important concerns of our people--opportunity, justice, security and freedom," said the King as he pointed to an opinion survey that confirmed how "people want to move forward". "They want meaningful reform; they want to see tangible difference in their livesC* My friends, thanks to you and many others, we have our flight plan."The King said that friends of the Arab World have showed real support for the region's concerns. These friends, he said, "understand that real reform must come from inside the region, from the stakeholders, the Arab people themselves. And you have delivered a vital message to world leaders: Middle East progress starts here, at homeC* and it has already begun."He praised the active participation of high-level political and business leaders from the Palestinian National Authority, Israel and Iraq, saying that their cooperation will help lift the region off the ground. "Our future depends on a just resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. The Arab world stands together in supporting Iraq's sovereignty, unity and prosperity, and the right of all Iraqis to live in peace and security."More than 1,300 people collectively agreed that this year's WEF meeting was successful. "It is successful in terms of the economic agreements it embraced and the political discussions it hosted," Jordanian Prime Minister Adnan Badran told reporters on Sunday. "I believe it was the most successful meeting for the WEF in the last three years. It was open for all: Leading politicians and economists came in and participated in constructive dialogues," Badran said, adding the Kingdom has benefited a lot from this year's forum by having realized sizable investments and thrived in highlighting significant economic topics, such as the Red-Dead canal project.As the WEF decided to hold its next year's meeting in Egypt, Minister of Finance Bassem Awadallah said Jordan has offered the place and infrastructure to host WEF's previous meetings, and the forum's officials have desired to make the Kingdom a launch pad for the forum in the region. "The forum is an independent entity, and they told us that it would always be held here once every three years," Awadallah said.The three-day forum featured this year more than 60 sessions, inviting profound discussions within political frames. It all began with an update on Iraq, where Iraqi Foreign Minister Hoshyar Zebari said that while the world has been arguing over the rights and wrongs of the US-led war in Iraq, his country has transformed itself "remarkably" into an emerging democracy. He made no direct mention of the American occupation in Iraq, but stressed that the new government there is not just "a shadow cabinet" but it is making improvements in public services, civil society, human rights, corruption and security.Zebari said he decided to attend WEF's meeting "to communicate over and above the daily feed of bad news." He said the world's media headlines "do not reflect the will of the Iraqi people, and that their participation in the January 30 elections sends a message that their future will not be dictated by terrorists. The support and cooperation of Iraq's neighbors are essential to fight terrorism."He maintained that all Iraqis, including the Arab Sunnis, are to be fully represented in the country's democratic process, noting that the Sunnis' participation must be recognized. "If we accomplish this, it will be a turning point in Iraq's future and a key to its survival."Zebari stole the camera's flash on Sunday morning at the Dead Sea's King Hussein Convention Center, when he shook hands with Israeli Cabinet Minister Benjamin Ben Eliezer and exchanged greetings for a minute. Zebari was quoted by the Doha-based Al Jazeera TV satellite channel, saying the gesture bore "no meaning for the normalization of ties", denying that it was planned before. "It has no political ramifications. We both were invited in Jordan to attend the forum. Therefore, this does not indicate any change, concerning the clear and proclaimed policies of the Iraqi government," he said.Meanwhile, WEF discussed the Middle East's political, economic and social challenges. Over 700 of the region's business and political leaders participated in the "Town Hall" meeting on May 20, which highlighted the top issues of concern for the Arab Street and identified steps to address them. The exercise aimed at offering decision-makers in the region "a hand to develop an action agenda that reflects the priorities of Arab leaders but addressed directly the concerns of the Arab street," according to Ged Davis, a WEF's official, responsible for the Town Hall. The session polled participants in 'real time' and found that 65 percent believe Arab governments are "unwilling to implement reform," which made it the biggest obstacle to reform in the region. The Town Hall included an electronic voting on the region's priorities for reform, in which participants selected top three priorities: Transparency and accountability; education; and political participation, and recommended quick actions on these top concerns.Participants chose Israel as a role model to Arab countries for reform on transparency, while Jordan was selected as role model for education. The participants preferred both Israel and Lebanon for reform on political participation. "The voting provided an opportunity for the decision-makers and strategists in the region to take into account the aspiration of the public and to propose concrete action steps," Davis said.

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Publication:The Star (Amman, Jordan)
Date:May 29, 2005
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