Participants attend a session during the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) meeting in Davos, January 23, 2013 - REUTERS/Pascal Lauener.
CAIRO – 24 January 2018: The World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos hosted a special panel session Wednesday on ‘finding a new equilibrium in the Middle East’, where panelists identified unemployment and extremism as the main challenges facing the Middle East region.
Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel bin Ahmed Al-Jubeir said that the challenges facing the region are terrorism, extremism and inefficient governments that are neither transparent nor accountable.
He said that addressing these problems entails the opening up of the society, opening new areas for investment and easing the business environment.
On the rapid change momentum in Saudi Arabia, Al-Jubeir said that the youth in his country have many ambitions that they want to realize. For this reason, he said, the kingdom had to open up areas that were not previously open, tackle corruption and come up with new projects.
He added that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman wants to turn the kingdom into an innovative country and wants to empower youth and women.
“In order to do this, change should be comprehensive,” Al-Jubeir said during the session.
Turkey’s Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Şimşek tackled unemployment as a main challenge in the region, saying that youth population will continue to grow in the region until they reach 180 million by 2050, all of whom will be looking for jobs.
Given the region’s already high unemployment rate, “this is a major challenge that we cannot ignore,” Şimşek said.
Germany’s Federal Minister of Defense Ursula von der Leyen tackled terror as a main problem in the region. She highlighted the importance of including women in the region’s reconciliation and reconstruction process because “it is the only way to have a modern and open minded society,” she said during the panel discussion.
She also said that beating terror and Daesh in the Middle East will need a strong role by Europe in the region’s reconstruction and reconciliation process.
The United Arab Emirates’ Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Anwar Gargash said that a survey that asked youth about their biggest problems showed that they see unemployment and extremism as the biggest two problems.
The World economic Forum kicked off on Tuesday in the Swiss resort Davos, with the attendance of some 2,926 people.
This year, participation from the Middle East is 16 percent more than last year and represents a 30 percent rise when compared to 2016.
Notable participants from the region include Jordan’s Queen Rania, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and Lebanon’s Saad Hariri.