World Economic Forum – MENA kicks off in Jordan on May 19

King Abdullah: “My friends, we will solve the problems of our region!”

By Irene Hell

As road blocks are set up around King Hussein Bin Talal Convention Centre by the Dead Sea, the Jordanian Armed Forces have also increased their presence in Amman.

That is quite understood, as the area is gearing up to host The World Economic Forum’s Middle East and North Africa (WEF MENA) version, which will be held next week from May 19 till the 21st.
Some 1,000 world leaders in politics, economics and civil society from 50 countries will be attending this year’s forum, where global decision makers are expected to discuss various means to support Jordan in shouldering the burden of refugees. That, in addition to ways how to help solve or bring an end to regional conflicts, achieve stability, and perhaps peace.

“My friends, we will solve the problems of our region only when we build on its strengths. We cannot be sidetracked by regional turmoil,” King Abdullah urged the global community in his opening WEF speech at the same place, two years back in 2015. The situation has only become worse across the borders in Syria, more refugees have poured in to neighboring countries in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey, among other countries, and the international cry for help, not only for refugees, but for countries sharing that burden is yet to be fully met.

Powerful business leaders coming to Jordan promise a big economic push and new resources for Jordan’s 2025 Vision. And perhaps, such a step can also mean creating new business ventures and jobs as well as empowering the youth in the Hashemite Kingdom, something which King Abdullah of Jordan and his wife Queen Rania, have been pushing for.

The opening speech on May 20th will be delivered by Hussein bin Abdullah II, the Crown Prince of Jordan, while his parents will be sitting in the audience listening to their 22 year old son.

Young people in the Middle East are met with socioeconomic challenges and political turmoil. Wars have pushed many to discard their dreams in favor of taking up jobs that can support their families at times of need. Their aspirations can only be met when solutions for peace and stability are set and implemented in region that has been undermined by suicide bombings and political hardliners.

During the WEF in Jordan, some Arab and Israeli start ups are expected to team up for find solutions. This will be part of an International Finance Corporation (IFC) and the World Economic Forum initiative that is set to bring together 100 Middle Eastern and North African start ups in order to fuel the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

This initiative bears, like hundreds of idealistic and very successful initiatives before, the trademark of Klaus Schwab. The high-minded German-born business professor who founded the World Economic Forum in 1971.

Schwab’s vision is to improve the state of the world and to make business a tool for peace and prosperity – prosperity for all.

His Davos meeting in the Swiss mountains became “must go” for many heads of state, owners and CEOs of billion dollar companies, philanthropists like Bill Gates and George Soros, as well as for producers of political thriller movies.

Schwab might well be the best-connected person of our time, and his high-powered meetings, which combine making money and doing good have gained him the trust of almost all heads of states, all major institutions and universities as well as the global business community.

In 2003 Schwab and King Abdullah launched their first forum in Jordan. In the recent 16 WEF conferences in the region, private meetings between Israeli Presidents such as Simon Peres and Arabian leaders managed to disarm many ticking time bombs.

The focus this year in Jordan will be on the growing economic reform efforts in the Middle East, a shift of investment and trade priorities, as well as support for the 1.3 million Syrian refugees in Jordan and the suffering population in Syria, Iraq and Libya.

Ursula von der Leyen the Federal Minister of Defence of Germany will attend the meeting as one of the co-chairs. After increasing tensions with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan she and King Abdullah most likely will discuss options to transfer German troops from the Turkish air force base Incirlik to the Hashemite Kingdom.

Other Cochairs of this meeting are
Dominic Barton, Global Managing Partner, McKinsey & Company, Børge Brende
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Norway, Khaled H. Biyari, Chief Executive Officer, Saudi Telecom, Khadija Idrissi Janati, Founder and Chief Executive Officer, KMK Groupe, Majid Jafar, Chief Executive Officer, Crescent Petroleum, Philippe Le Houérou, Executive Vice- President and Chief Executive Officer, International Finance Corporation, Maurice Lévy Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Publicis Groupe as well as Arif M. Naqvi, Founder and Group Chief Executive, Abraaj Group.

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