International Institute, June 10, 2013 – The Center for Middle East Development (CMED) May 2013 conference, “Enriching the Middle East's Economic Future,” addressed the contemporary economic and political challenges of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The conference, now in its eighth year, has gained the recognition of business, civic and political leaders throughout the international community. It is held in conjunction with the Doha Forum, an annual global conference on international affairs sponsored by the state of Qatar — now in its 13th year.
This year, the conference was honored to host former U.K. Prime Minister Gordon Brown, 2011 Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Tawakkol Karman and former Secretary General of the Arab League Amr Moussa, together with UCLA's own Chancellor Gene Block, Interim Vice Provost for International Studies Cindy Fan and Dean of the Fielding School of Public Health Jody Heymann.
Among the speakers who addressed the gathering were Abdallah Khattab Shehata, member of the Egyptian Freedom and Justice Party and Chief IMF Negotiator for the Egyptian Ministry of Finance; Howard Berman, former chair of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs; Kevin Bleyer, former writer and producer of The Daily Show with John Stewart; and Marya Almahdaly, a 25-year-old Saudi entrepreneur and co-founder of the Rumman Company.
Participants tackled some of the most pressing issues affecting the economic growth of MENA, including the opacity of new Islamic governments in the region, their plans for the future of the Middle East and the expected consequences of those plans for the regional economic dynamic; the moribund private sector and the bloated public sector; rampant unemployment; and the humanitarian disaster resulting from the civil war in Syria and its fallout.
Despite these very real problems, participants explored an optimistic outlook on future opportunities, such as possible new trade partners in Asia and India; the budding entrepreneurial culture in Jordan, Israel and Saudi Arabia; and the growth of free expression and civil discourse through satire, comedy and popular culture, disseminated via both traditional and social media.
During his closing speech, Professor Steven L. Spiegel, Director of the UCLA Center for Middle East Development held up an article from The Gulf Times that documented a trend predicted five years ago at the same conference. Reflecting on nearly a decade of successful conferences, he concluded, “That’s what we do. We assess, we predict, we promote and we build.”
*Matthew Bernstein is a partner at DLA Piper; H.E. Sheikh Ahmed bin Mohammed bin Jabr Al Thani is the Minister’s Assistant for International Cooperation Affairs, Chairman of Permanent Committee for Organizing Conferences, Qatar; Steven L. Spiegel is a professor of political science and director of the UCLA Center for Middle East Development; and Peter T. Coleman is a professor of psychology and education and director of the International Center for Cooperation and Conflict Resolution at Columbia University.
Click here for a UCLA cheer from Doha
For additional information, see the conference website