Economic and social development of the Middle East and North Africa: Success or failure?

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A round table discussion on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) took place at the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute (DOC RI) on 27 October, exploring the reasons behind the strong economic and social performance of MENA countries. Participants also discussed the prospects for further growth in the region, and whether Muslim states in the rest of the world, particularly Central Asia, can replicate the MENA’s success.

The Middle East and North Africa is mainly associated with civil wars, terrorism and failed states, such as the crises in Libya, Syria, and Yemen show. But before the Arab Spring, growth rates in the MENA region were more stable than other parts of the Global South (with the exception of East and South Asia) due to its oil production. Three area countries – Israel, Oman, and Tunisia – were among 20 fastest growing countries in the world between 1950 and 2010.

Similarly, the increase in life expectancy in the region’s Arab states until 2010 was the highest in the world, and the MENA area recorded the highest increase in school enrolment and literacy during this period too, with the exception of Sub-Saharan Africa.

The round table also discussed the current economic situation in the Middle East and North Africa, the struggle against terrorist organisations such as ISIS and Boko Haram, and relations with the European Union, Russia, Turkey and Saudi Arabia.

The event was moderated by former Turkish Foreign Minister Yaşar Yakış and the Dialogue of Civilizations Research Institute’s Alexey Malashenko and Vladimir Popov.

Roundtable participants:

  • Yaşar Yakış, ex-Turkish foreign minister, ambassador to the UN in Vienna, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia, and chair of the European Union Harmonization Committee of the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.
  • Amirah El-Haddad, senior economist, Sustainable Economic and Social Development Department, Stabilization and Development in the Middle East and North Africa, German Development Institute.
  • Vitalii Meliantsev, head of the Department of International Economics, Institute of Asian and African Studies Moscow.
  • Ahmed Badawi, senior researcher, Center for Middle Eastern and North African Politics, Freie Universität Berlin.
  • Vladimir Popov, research director at DOC-RI, principal researcher at the Central Economics and Mathematics Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences.
  • Peter Knoope, senior visiting fellow at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague (ICCT).
  • Bahodur Eshonov, FAO subregional office for Central Asia, Ankara, Turkey.
  • Veniamin Popov, Director of the Center of the Partnership of Civilizations, MGIMO, Moscow;  former Soviet/Russian Ambassador in Yemen, Libya, Tunisia.
  • Amr Hamzawy, Senior research Scholar, Center of Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Stanford University.
  • Hartmut Elsenhans, professor emeritus, Leipzig University.

A detailed overview of the round table is forthcoming on the DOC Research Institute website.

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