Leading speakers at the Mena Economic Forum  have called for greater socio-economic collaboration to bridge the gap among civilisations and help boost cooperation between the Middle East and the European countries — as countries in both the region are facing major challenges.
While some countries of the Middle East and North Africa are facing unprecedented socio-political and economic challenges, Europe is embroiled in a major economic crisis. Speakers on Sunday urged academicians at the two-day Mena Economic Forum  to come up with suggestions for greater collaboration between these two regions .
His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, said the UAE encourages knowledge cooperation between the East and the West. He stressed on the symbiotic relationship between the socio-political, cultural and scientific communities.
He underlined the exchange of ideas between Sharjah and the rest of the world. “Sharjah is collaborating with the city of Marseilles in exchanging ideas. We have a lot of similarities.”
Addressing the panelists, he said, “This gathering of leaders and thinkers of the East and the West will help us to reduce the knowledge gap between civilisations and help melting of ideas that will accelerate social and economic progress  all over the world.”
Referring to the UAE’s success in socio-economic and political areas, they said, the country remains an example for others who are struggling on these.
Shaikh Nahyan Bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research, said, “We are a strong economy that provides opportunity to all citizens and residents. We have created an environment that helps economic activities, investment and capital inflow as well as social justice — something many countries in the Middle East are lacking.
“In light of the recent developments in the Middle East, especially unemployment, education and illiteracy, I am convinced that the social development in the Mena region requires political stability and economic growth and enhanced competitiveness — that the UAE has successfully demonstrated.”
He said, the UAE is keen to play a more significant role in global affairs. “We at the UAE are keen to extend greater cooperation to all the countries and share our expertise.”
Dr Anwar Gargash, UAE Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, said, more that 40 years after ending colonial rule, countries in the Middle East and North Africa should stop blaming others for their own problems.
“We should stop blaming others for our failures. More than 40 years after the end of colonial rule in the Middle East, we see most of our problems in the Arab World are home-made,” he said at the panel discussion.
“So, the solutions to these problems should also be home-made — especially on the social development, economic growth and human development. And we have demonstrated that we could do that. The UAE is a great example of that success.
“We have demonstrated how things could be developed locally. We have been a local economy for a long time — now playing a global role.”
He said, the UAE is a capital-friendly and business-friendly country. “We have been like that for the last 40 years and the investors and global community know this.”
Citing the World Bank’s Doing Business report, he said, “There isn’t a better place in the Middle East than the UAE in starting a business. So, we have demonstrated that and the rest of the Arab world could attract more foreign capital and talent and create job opportunities by liberalising the business environment.”
Reflecting on the Arab Spring, Dr Gargash said, the Arab World is currently going through unprecedented challenges. Arab Sping was a result of lack of opportunities. “We are seeing conflicts all around us — this is particularly worse in Syria where the crisis has reached at a humanitarian level where there are no winner in sight,” he said.
“I do not see the light at the end of the tunnel, yet. We are unusually absorbed in political issues at the cost of the economic and social problems at hand.”