Jordan’s King Abdullah Il Ibn Al Hussein has called a meeting of policy, political, royal, business and academic leaders on Oct. 21, to discuss how best to spur economic growth and job creation in the Arab world, as countries in the region continue to wrestle with the aftermath of the spring uprisings and a new, global protest against income disparity that started this fall and has been centered primarily in Europe and the United States.
The meeting, which will be held in Jordan, will host more than 1,000 participants from more than 50 countries, according to a press release. The king and his wife, Queen Rania Al Abdullah, will open the event. Attendees will include Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari, Palestinian Authority Prime Minister Barham Salih, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) and former British prime minister and UN Middle East Quartet Representative Tony Blair.
“While it was political change in some countries of the region that clearly captured the attention of decision makers in the first half of this year, it is quickly the economy that is rising to the top of the regional agenda,” said the World Economic Forum’s Miroslav Dusek, acting director, head of Middle East and North Africa in a video featured on the World Economic Forum Web site. “And the question this special meeting will want to answer is how do you create the conditions for economic growth and human development at a moment where the social and political relationships are being reshaped?”
The meeting will be organized around “for thematic pillars:” conditions for macroeconomic stability and growth, employment, education and entrepreneurship. Topics of discussion will include digital innovation, the impact of social media, U.S.-Arab relations, resource management and the advance of women and youth. “The region has a tremendous asset, which is the youth bulge and the current low dependency ratio,” Dusek said. “However, it also faces challenges with regard to structural unemployment.”
Dusek said a significant portion of the meeting will address how best to “scale up and accelerate entrepreneurship, particularly among the young people.” Co-chairs of the meeting will, according to the press release, “serve as champions of multistakeholder dialogue and innovation.” Co-chairs will include U.S. Coca-Cola board chairman and CEO Muhtar A. Kent and Soraya Salti, social entrepreneur and senior vice-president Middle East and North Africa for INJAZ Al Arab - Ja Worldwide.
The meeting announcement comes as the Occupy Wall Street protests spread beyond Zuccotti Square and into Europe, Africa, and Asia. Prior to the meeting, Abdullah appointed Awn al-Khasawneh, deputy chief of the International Court of Justice, as his new prime minister, the Associated Press reported.
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