MORE THAN 1,200 participants from 56 countries, the majority of them from the international business community, gathered together in Jordan's Dead Sea resort in May to debate "putting diversity to work" at the fourth World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Middle East.
Recognising that the Middle East is a region of unparalleled diversity--of culture, language and religion as well as in terms of economic structures and political models--discussion at the forum, held under the patronage of King Abullah II, centred on using this diversity as a positive force--a source of strength and progress--concentrating on three specific areas: Industries of the future; Peace, Stability and International Relations; and Society and Change.
The three-day WEF event, which in addition to business participants attracted high-level politicians, academics and representatives of civil society mainly from the Middle East (around 850) but also from Europe (approximately 150) and the United States (over 100).
With an agenda ranging in topics from: Is the Arab World Betraying its Youth? through Islamic Finance: Going Mainstream; Defining Global Citizenship: from Philanthropy to Activism; Iraq: The Regional Security Dimension; The Emerging Ecosystem; The Next Wave in Arab Banking, to Workspace: Empowering Entrepreneurs, it was difficult to fit in all the discussions one wanted to participate in.
One is swept along by the atmosphere at WEF; if there is a complaint of the event it would be that there are simply not enough hours in three days to enjoy the discussion and debate of distinguished guests, which this year included Queen Rania of Jordan, Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League, Princess Lowla Al Faisal of Saudi Arabia; Sheikh Salman bin Hamad Al Khalifa, Crown Prince and Commander of Bahrain's Armed Forces and Israeli President Shimon Peres who, alongside business hotshots and celebrated thinkers, gave their opinions of what is happening in the Middle East currently and how certain problematic issues might be approached.
Yet, for all the seriousness of the topics under discussion and the respect shown to the various--and often disparate--approaches taken by the panel and the audience, the entire event managed to assume the atmosphere of lively post-prandial debate at a rather urbane dinner party. King Abdullah welcomed participants with a challenge: to prepare the region for "the day after peace" when the Middle East will face critical issues such as water...