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UCLA Burkle Center and Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar Conclude Conference With Recommendations for Regional Economic Development

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Doha, Qatar — UCLA's Burkle Centerfor International Relations conference on "Enriching the Middle East's EconomicFuture," co-sponsored by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Qatar, concludedtoday, with participants offering a set of recommendations to promote economicand social development in the region, and foster more sustainable internationalcooperation between the states of the region, Asia, Europe and the UnitedStates.

UCLA professor Steven Spiegel, the conference chair, said, "Ourdeliberations in Doha offered a concrete andinnovative set of initiatives and ideas to advance our common goals of asecure, stable and prosperous future for the nations and peoples of the Middle East. By bringing together experts fromgovernment, industry and academia from Asia, Europe, North America and the Middle East to share views and work collaborativelytowards common solutions, we have successfully laid the foundations for afar-reaching agenda for action, research and further dialogue."

While affirming that all reform initiatives must be locallydesigned, and reflect local customs, traditions and circumstances, theconference addressed three key areas of reform: improving the businessenvironment in the Middle East; creatingsocieties conducive to development, efficiency and productivity; and optimizingthe energy economy to promote sustainable regional economic growth.

On improving the environment for business creation andeconomic diversification in the Middle East, participants discussed the need tobring more practical solutions to address the regional deficits in three areasidentified by the United Nations Development Program's recent report onregional development in the Middle East region: education and training; women'sintegration into the skilled workforce; and increasing freedom of expression,association and the press.

Among the initiatives discussed were encouraging governmentsand businesses in the region to create public/private sector partnerships toprovide computers to each student in the region, and in the longer term to eachperson in the Arab world.

Participants also stressed the importance of enhancingopportunity for and economic empowerment of the region's women, and recommendedthe adoption of affirmative action programs for women's employment ingovernment, as well as preferential contracts to promote women-ownedbusinesses.

The promulgation of a national "Bills of Rights" elaboratingspecific freedoms, roles, rights and responsibilities of citizens in the Middle East also was recommend by conferenceparticipants.

To enhance international and regionalcooperation, participants advocated more people‑to-people exchangeprograms, especially those that facilitate interaction among citizens from the Middle East and elsewhere who share common professionalinterests and activities.

Also recommended were the adoption inthe broader Middle East region of binational researchand investment projects, such as those established by the United States and Israel to promote technicalresearch and development, as well as expanding the Seeds of Peace program ofcross‑cultural youth exchanges across the region.

On energy, the creation of anInternational Energy Development Initiative was proposed, a coalition ofgovernments, corporations and private individuals to address the future ofenergy resources on a worldwide basis. Such a forum would provide a practicaland results-oriented mechanism for international coordination and riskmitigation, and promote international investment in research and development innew and alternative energy policies, technologies and services, as well as aplatform for dialogue among energy producers, distributors and consumers. Conferenceparticipants reviewed proposals to enhance greater market stability throughsuch initiatives as selling 20 percent of existing reserves to consumer states.More regional involvement in nuclear technologies also was recommended, inaddition to other clean alternative energy sources such as solar and windenergy.

Finally, participants stressed theneed to increase scientific and technological education and training throughoutthe region.

Increasing efforts to supporteducation and training was viewed as one of the critical drivers of businessgrowth in the region, as well as the need to create enduring and strongregulatory regimes to enable job growth, entrepreneurialism, access to riskcapital and enhancement of property rights.

New policies and regulatorystructures to promote the development of the middle class and small business,and efforts to facilitate greater transparency and good governance in bothprivate and public sector activities through the region also were recommended.

Conference participants affirmed theimportance of existing initiatives to establish a regional central bank toserve as a common forum and meeting place for the region's existing centralbanks, which would continue to have the same functions and accountabilitiesthey now possess. The new regional central bank could be a venue where allcentral banks could meet and coordinate policies, especially as regionalgovernments face large and growing surpluses.

Participants also discussed the needfor a greater Asian role in the Middle East, necessitated by increasing energydemand, especially in Indiaand China.As economic engagement and trade between the Middle East and Asiaincreases, so too should Asian governments and businesses play increasinglyactive roles in supporting economic development and assistance in the region.

The UCLA Burkle Center conference,which included senior-level governmental, academic and private sector leadersfrom the Gulf region and other Arab states, North America, Europe and Asia, wasaddressed by former U.S. President Bill Clinton, as well as His ExcellencySheik Hamad Bin Jassim Jabr Al-Thani.

The Conferences Organizing Committee at the Ministry ofForeign Affairs organizes the following conferences annually: "The U.S. MuslimWorld Forum," "A Dialogue Between Religions," "Democracy,Development and Free Trade" and "NATO and Security in the Gulf."

The Ronald W. Burkle Centerfor International Relations is an integral part of the UCLA InternationalInstitute, which provides the highest-quality policy analysis on the mostpressing problems on the global geopolitical landscape that affect Americanforeign policy. The center's work includes research, teaching, and publicoutreach and service on the contemporary world and the role of the United Statesin global security, military, political, social and economic affairs. For moreinformation on the Burkle Centerfor International Relations and the conference, visit http://www.international.ucla.edu/bcir/doha/.

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