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The Center for Middle East Development (CMED) held its annual conference in Doha, Qatar from May 20 to May 22, 2013. The conference continued CMED's mission of addressing some of the most pressing economic challenges facing the Middle East today, focusing on the economic effect of Islamic governance, the Middle East's pivot to Asia, youth employment and entrepreneurship, and new ideas for fostering regional stability through investment.

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The Center for Middle East Development (CMED) held its annual conference in Doha, Qatar from May 20 to May 22, 2013. The conference continued CMED’s mission of addressing some of the most pressing economic challenges facing the Middle East today, focusing on the economic effect of Islamic governance, the Middle East's pivot to Asia, youth employment and entrepreneurship, and new ideas for fostering regional stability through investment.

Now in its eighth year, the annual CMED event 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 since 2000.

The 2013 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.

Chancellor Gene Block leads the UCLA 8-Clap in Doha.
Professor Steven L. Spiegel, CMED director, gives closing speech at the 2013 conference.
Professor Steven L. Spiegel, CMED director, gives closing speech at the 2013 conference.

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 Jon Stewart; and Marya Almahdaly, a 25-year-old Saudi woman? entrepreneur and co-founder of the Rumman Company.

Participants tackled some of the most pressing issues affecting the economic growth of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, including the opacity of new Islamic governments in the region, their plans for the future and the expected consequences of those plans for the regional economic dynamic. Other topics included the moribund private sector and bloated public sector, rampant unemployment, and the humanitarian disaster resulting from the civil war in Syria.

Despite these very real problems, participants had an optimistic outlook on future opportunities, such as possible new MENA trade partners in Asia and India; a 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, CMED director, 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.”

On May 21, 2013 Chancellor Block, Vice Provost Fan, Dean Heyman and Professor Spiegel met with Mohamed Abdulla Al-Rumaihi, Ambassador of Qatar to the United States, with whom they discussed the development and accomplishments of universities in Qatar, as well as the Ambassador’s thoughts about international partnerships.

The UCLA delegation with Ambassador Mohamed Abdulla Al-Rumaihi (third from right).
The UCLA delegation with Ambassador Mohamed Abdulla Al-Rumaihi (third from right).
Chancellor Gene Block and Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani.
Chancellor Gene Block and Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani.

This meeting led to a luncheon the following day at the Qatar Foundation with His Excellency Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani, president of Hamad Bin Khalifa University and vice president for education, Qatar Foundation. The lunch discussion addressed potential areas for partnership between the Foundation/University and UCLA, as well as Sheikh Abdulla bin Ali Al-Thani’s Harley-Davidson trip in Santa Barbara on Highway 1!

Earlier that day, Gene Block and Cindy Fan attended a morning meeting with Professor Sheikha Abdulla Al-Misnad, president of Qatar University, in her office on campus. Others in attendance were Professor Mazen Omar Hasna, vice president and chief academic officer, Cesar Wazen, director of scholarships, and Professor Wyatt Roderick Hume (Rory) (former UCLA executive vice chancellor), executive director, Education Training and Development, Qatar Foundation. Among the subjects of discussion were Arabic language for non-Arabic students, public health and the UCLA Healthy Campus Initiative.

 
 

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