CAIRO: With the aim of putting the past behind and shedding light on the region’s future, the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East will open Sunday in Sharm El-Sheikh, where hundreds of global policymakers and business leaders gather to explore forces that will shape the region in the coming years.
“This year’s meeting will not look backward but will look forward on global trends in the Middle East. It will highlight both challenges and opportunities for this region and its future, André Schneider, the WEF’s managing director and chief operating officer, told Daily News Egypt.
“In many of our previous meetings, we looked more on the past and history. This year, we try to outline a future together and explore decisions that we need to take today that will make the future happen. That is why the forum chose “Learning from the Future as this year’s theme.
“‘Learning from the Future’ is going to provoke a lot of questions when people see it. It will make people curious, which is part of its purpose: to make people think in new ways and open perspectives. . So by learning from the future and being creative, you can actually learn a lot about the present, explained Daniel Davies, the WEF’s associate director on the Middle East.
“In the Middle East, people are very conscious of the past. They are very aware of historical forces that affect the region, which can sometimes hold the region back. So we need to get a fresh perspective, be more dynamic, and try to look into the future.
A key pillar of the forum’s agenda will focus on a series of futuristic scenarios that the Middle East can encounter in the next 20 years and relate them back to today’s priorities. The first scenario – dubbed the Sustainable World – will describe a world in 2025 that is marked by soaring demographics, climate change and high energy prices.
“The forum will highlight bold actions that need to be taken to protect the environment’s natural resources such as water. No business or government can act without a [sustainable] environment, Davies said.
The second scenario will explore the rise of China as well as other Asian economies as a super power that can compete with the US and Europe for influence in the Middle East. The forum will also delve into the hyperlinked world, where people, businesses, and governments are interconnected and how globalization can take the Middle East onto a new level.
“These issues all relate to today. .When we expand these global trends forward, they tell us a lot about the world today, Davies pointed out.
“The forum will also cover some of the current hot issues in the Middle East and the world in general, he added. “The clouds now gather around the global economic outlook, and the forum [will raise issues like] what a global recession means for the Middle East and what the financial practices that we’ve seen evolving in the past few months mean for the Middle East. Are they opportunities or are they threats?
Oil prices have been very high which present economic challenges on the horizon like inflation or stagflation, which has become a global issue.
As business rubs on politics, the forum will also tackle various political concerns that impact both the region and the world. “The region’s political instability remains a big challenge that needs to be addressed. The danger is a deterioration of the political situation that can spill over and disrupt economic progress.
The political situation in Syria and Iran will also be discussed during the forum in a bid to build bridges and understanding among different parties involved.
Meanwhile, minor representation from Syria and Iran will attend the meeting this year.
“Fundamentally, the World Economic Forum invites all representatives of society who will engage in the open dialogue, clarified Schneider, adding that the forum has not overlooked inviting Syrian or Iranian politicians.
“Our objective is to bring all people – government officials, politicians and business people – who will be affected by the issues being discussed, Davies explained.
This year, the forum will bring together 13 heads of state, along with key politicians and business leaders under one roof. Among those expected to attend the event are President Hosni Mubarak, US President George W. Bush, King Abdullah Ibn Al Hussein of Jordan, the UAE’s Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, and Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas.
More than 1,500 policymakers and business leaders from 55 countries across the world will participate in this year’s meeting including First Lady Suzanne Mubarak, Prime Minister Ahmed Nazif, Minister of Trade and Industry Rachid Mohamed Rachid, Finance Minister Youssef Boutros-Ghali, Qatari Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad Bin Jassim Bin Jabr Al Thani and Kuwaiti Prime Minister Sheikh Nasser Mohammed Al Ahmad Al Sabah.
Other prominent participants include The Duke of York, Middle East Quartet envoy Tony Blair, Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency Mohamed El Baradei, Assistant Secretary-General of Egypt’s National Democratic Party Gamal Mubarak, World Bank President Robert Zoellick and US Trade Representative Susan Schwab.