Professor Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum (WEF), at his opening speech at the WEF’s Special Meeting on Economic Growth and Job Creation in the Middle East, Jordan 2011
I had the opportunity of attending the WEF last year in Marrakech as a participant, and this year in Jordan as a co-chair. I was invited as I am part of a global network called “The Global Changemakers” sponsored by the British Council. Through this network more than 700 young leaders have access to amazing opportunities to drive change in their communities through projects affecting 3.2 million people worldwide.
The unique thing about the WEF this year is its timing, and I must tell you, the spirit is indeed very different. After all the changes the region has been facing since the beginning of the year, with millions of youth revolting in different cities of the Arab World calling for: bread, freedom and social justice, it has become impossible to ignore the urgency of creating jobs, offering better education and imposing new measures to combat corruption, encourage transparency and social justice.
We are a generation that’s connected; open to the world, driven and impatient. Enough with waiting for the governments to do everything, a shift has to happen in the role of government from a provider of growth to an enabler of growth. So yes of course the government has a role - and a very vital one. It has to revise its taxation policies, red tape, encourage more investment and entrepreneurship.
As for businesses, some concepts need to be redefined. FDIs cannot remain a way to get cheap labor, use up the resources of the host country, pack up and leave. I do believe that in all FDI agreements it has to be clearly stated that employees should not be paid below minimum wage, they should not exceed maximum working hours and the work environment should be respecting of human rights and dignity. Knowledge as well has to be transferred so that we can have a new generation capable of starting their own businesses afterwards. There is a shift in today’s economy where entrepreneurship is highly encouraged and Corporate Social Responsibility is no longer a choice, but a must.
Civil society and young people, fill in the gaps, encourage communal initiatives and SMEs, organize yourselves and keep posing pressure on governments and businesses to change. Yes, we are moving towards talentism, so unleash your talents and don’t spend years waiting for a government job.
Change is really taking place in the region, we should build up on the amazing momentum that has started, it’s our time!
LLM International Law