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Oct 01, 2014 / 0 Comments
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Case Studies from Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia

By Jacques Van Der Meer*

 

For the Southern Mediterranean countries, the issue of the constitution of structural knowledge assets, in particular intellectual property will be critical to the deployment of a knowledge economy strategy. While the volume of patent filings of the region is low, this does not necessarily reflect the non-existence of potential, but rather the insufficiency of the capacity and infrastructure necessary to ensure the value of the upstream resources necessary (research conducted in the universities, public research centres outside universities, corporate research centres for small to medium size companies and major groups etc.).

 

The European Investment Bank, as a lead in the CMI’s “Innovation Capacities” programme, commissioned a study of the Intellectual Property assets in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region to assess the potential of developing a successful IP system. Coordinated by Professor Ahmed Bounfour othe University Paris-Sud, this study, “The market of patents in the South-Mediterranean zone and its potential for development Egypt, Morocco, Tunisiaevaluates the context of innovation in three countries (Egypt, Morocco, and Tunisia) and, based on a “gap-analysis” with Turkey, South Korea, and Malaysia, subsequently evaluates possible scenarios and policy options to develop the Intellectual Property Rights system and market. Some of the highlights of the study are as follows:

  • Intellectual Capital in the region can be major drivers of growth and value creation, as well as a way to promote “hard” intangibles, like Intellectual Property Rights, Utility Models, Copyrights and Trademarks.
  • Some 80% of patent applications are characterized by non-residents demand in the Southern Mediterranean, and most of the remaining twenty per cent of resident applications are single applicants. Hence, both stimulating residential applications and looking closely into Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) was recommended.
  • Although MENA countries made progress in updating their patent system to international standards and adopting innovation policies, there is a clear stagnation in patent registration from resident applicants. Hence, the necessity to identify causes and ways to stimulate local demand for patents.
  • MENA countries have little focus on industrial research, and Intellectual Property Rights regimes are based on academic research, which is not absorbed by the local industry. Turkey’s governance model marrying industrial and academic research is a good model to look into for MENA countries.
  • The region has a potential in innovation that has yet to be triggered.

 

Read the Study “The market of patents in the South-Mediterranean zone and its potential for development Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia” in Arabic (attached below).

Oct 06, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Most global warming was caused by developed countries, but combatting it is now the work of both developing and developed countries.  This fundamental inequality, and how to resolve it, is at the core of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).  And of every climate change agreement since then, including of course the Paris Agreement of 2015 and the Marrakech Agreement of 2016.

 

In those various agreements, developed countries agreed to provide substantial – and subsidized – financing for climate change mitigation projects in developing countries which decide to be pioneers and champions of climate change mitigation, whether in renewable energy, transport, or other sectors.  In that context, the Climate Investment Funds (CIFs), including their climate change mitigation components, the Clean Technology Fund (CTF) and the Scaling Up Renewable Energy Program (SREP), were launched in 2008.  The CIFs were a precursor to the much larger Green Climate Fund (GCF) launched in 2015.  To date the GCF has more than US$10 billion in contributions.  It provides grants and highly-subsidized loans for public and private sector projects.  And both the public and private sectors need to become much more familiar with how it works and how to access it.

 

One of the key investment principles behind such financing is that each dollar should have maximum effect.  This means that projects should be transformational, i.e. not business as usual, and should have such a clear demonstration effect that the projects can be expected to be replicated elsewhere.  There is a well-known phenomenon in the development of a technology in which the technology has not yet crossed the “Valley of Death”.  In other words, the demand for that technology is low because its costs are high, and its costs are high because its demand is low – demand, and hence production, is not yet high enough to create economies of scale in the manufacturing of the technology.

 

Renewable energy technologies have faced the Valley of Death, and demand for some of them has been sufficiently stimulated by policy incentives (e.g. high feed-in tariffs and investment subsidies).  Examples of this are solar photovoltaics (PV) and wind power, which were transformational for the energy sector.  Subsidized financing, and other policy instruments, have taken PV and wind to the scale at which they no longer need substantial policy support.  They have crossed the Valley of Death and are going far beyond the other side.

 

However, the revolutionary transformation in the energy sector still to be completed is the one which provides continuous clean energy reliably 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, all year round.  That’s how fossil fuel-fired electricity generation can be fully replaced.  PV works only when the sun is shining, and wind power when the wind is blowing, even if they are now low-cost options when they are available.  They therefore need to be complemented by clean technologies which can store energy to use when the sun and wind can’t provide it directly.

 

One such option for storage is to generate heat from the sun, store the heat, and use it to generate electricity.  That is what solar thermal – or concentrated solar power (CSP) – does very effectively.  CSP can provide clean electricity 24/7/365, using thermal storage (e.g. storing heat in a salt solution).  Its costs are falling as its use scales up, but – at only 5000MW of CSP currently in operation globally – it’s not yet safely on the far side of the Valley of Death.  Policy incentives are still needed to scale up demand, and achieve those full economies of scale in manufacturing of the equipment.

 

One region of the world where CSP is particularly productive is the large, dry, cloudless and sunny deserts of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA).  Therefore, that’s the region where any global subsidies can achieve a particularly substantial scale up of the use of CSP technology.  For that reason, the CTF adopted a US$5.6 billion CSP Investment Plan for MENA in 2009, which resulted in the successful 500MW Noor CSP plants in Morocco (a 10 percent increase in the global capacity of CSP).

 

The CTF subsidized funds catalyzed a package of other concessional and non-concessional financing from public and private sources, and led to a weighted average cost of capital (WACC) of only about 4 percent for those projects.  A WACC as low as 4 percent would have been impossible to achieve otherwise, and the scale up of CSP in sunny MENA would therefore have been much slower to happen without the CTF.  CSP would have stayed on the wrong side of the Valley of Death for longer.

 

Recent CSP prices in Dubai, Australia and Chile, and China’s large scale-up of CSP, suggest that grid competitiveness for CSP is not too far away, but there is still some distance to cover.  Fortunately, the availability of concessional financing for climate change mitigation in MENA is still substantial.  There are some funds remaining in the CTF and SREP, and even larger funds in the GCF, which has been barely tapped for MENA so far, and not at all for energy storage or CSP.

 

The GCF is the story waiting to happen for CSP and energy storage in MENA. For example, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Libya or Lebanon could propose CSP projects to the GCF, and benefit from comparable WACCs to those which enabled the Noor CSP plants.  There are plenty of GCF-accredited financial institutions active in MENA that could support such projects: for example, AFD, KfW, FMO, JICA, EBRD, AfDB, the World Bank, and IFC. Which will be the first one to bring low WACCs from the GCF to MENA to enhance the regional and global scale-up of CSP?  Maybe governments, utilities, and the private sector just need to ask….

Sep 26, 2017 / 0 Comments
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“It is possible!”. With these words and a lot of smiles, the first forum of the Syrian International Business Association (SIBA) ended. “SIBA” has made it possible to unite, promote and represent the voices of Syrian business men and women living abroad.

 

On July 12th and 13th 2017 and after several months of preparation, SIBA was formally established. About 80 participants representing different generations of Syrians living across 17 countries as well as several development partners were hosted in Marseille by the Center for Mediterranean Integration for the first forum of the Syrian International Business Association (SIBA)

 

With high hopes and enthusiasm, participants presented the projects they have built to create opportunities for their fellow Syrians—now refugees in the countries hosting them, by reinvesting in these countries and their businesses there. They have done so in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, as well as in the Gulf countries and Europe.

 

During this forum, the role of SIBA was defined; the association will be supporting the business community and will help Syrian refugees adapt to their host countries.  

 

Since the first meeting in Eschborn, back in February 2017, Syrian businessmen have been working intensively to bring SIBA to life. During the forum, concrete actions were taken.  The constitution of SIBA was unanimously voted, a board of seven directors was elected and Mr. Samer Shamsi Basha was named president.

 

“Every Syrian has his own problem. With SIBA, Syrians will support others Syrians”, stated Mr. Mumtaz Daboul, member of the steering committee.

 

SIBA, the next chapter!

 

As SIBA sets its foundation, participants expressed their optimism regarding the future of the association and what it can bring to the Syrian diaspora around the world. 

 

“I am optimistic about the future of SIBA. Its members have a common objective and share a feeling of responsibility towards the Syrian people. I fully trust that they will work for its success” said Mr. Fadi Haddad. Mr. Haddad delivered a clear message; “we want to establish a forum that can unify all Syrian businesspeople and be at the service of Syrian refugees living in host communities.”

 

Despite the pain and the heavy losses, Syrians still fight to achieve their dreams and offer help to their fellow countrymen and women. Mr. Haddad expressed his hope that “SIBA will become a shield for all Syrians”. “It will provide many services to refugees, such as finding funds, facilitating banking procedures, assist in obtaining diplomas equivalences, and providing professional training” he added.

 

Optimistic about SIBA’s future, Yara, a young entrepreneur was enthusiastic to be part of a project that could be “useful for her country”.

 

For Yara a lot of young people have ideas and projects to realize but don’t have the funds nor the capacity to do so. The role of the business community should be to support them and SIBA can become the place they can find this support.

 

Regardless of their political differences, Syrians living all over the world came together to talk about investing in the future of their country. This is what makes SIBA a unique experience for the Syrian diaspora. 

Sep 26, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Over the five years of the Syrian conflict, municipalities of Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey hosting 89% of Syrian refugees have developed extraordinary resources and solutions to this humanitarian and developmental crisis. Today, some of them have surpassed their response towards strategizing on how to turn the burden into opportunities for local shared growth. Host municipalities across the region learnt from this experience about “Improving local economic opportunities for host communities and refugees”.

 

During the 2nd Annual CMI Peer- to Peer learning workshop of Mediterranean Host municipalities network (Beirut, May 9 -12, 2017) representatives from more than 40 municipalities from Jordan, Lebanon  and Turkey have gathered under the umbrella of the Center for Mediterranean Integrations’ Mediterranean Host Municipalities Learning Network, to discuss their best practices in hosting refugees. They emphasized on of their biggest challenges- creating economic opportunities for both communities.

 

One important solution lies in identifying opportunities to develop local growth and to attract investments from entrepreneurs and the private sector. Change is notable in the starting outreach and actions of host municipalities : Sarhan municipality in Jordan took an avant-gardist step by reaching out to closely 50 private companies, offering them incentives such as land facilitation and simplified procedures to attract the private sector. Central government also played a primordial role, particularly on the level of financial and administrative regulations.

 

Such policy and regulatory support has allowed three plants to get established in Sarhan, including Syrian-led businesses, and among which the pickle industry is generating 250 jobs for Jordanians and Syrians.

 

“There are 550 Syrian industrial facilities in Jordan employing 14,000 workers of which 4,000 are Syrians” tells us Mohammed Al-Shaer, a Syrian businessman managing Sigma Detergents in Amman. “Only through the easing of restrictions on industrial investment in general, and for Syrians in particular, can we leverage the labor markets, locally and nationally”.  

 

When relocating their businesses to host countries, Syrians are not only transferring capital, but also knowledge and experience. Municipalities’ increased awareness of Syrian entrepreneurs’ role in strengthening local economic development, social cohesion and livelihoods for both Syrian and host communities is yet another reality changing the response of municipalities to the crisis.  

In Turkey, the 51% of relocated businesses from Syria multiplied employment opportunities and widened market opportunities. The resources and know-how have even helped reviving dormant and forgotten industries, such as handmade shoe-making in the city of Gaziantep.

 

Senior advisor at the World Bank, John Speakman explains the importance of host countries seizing the abundance and closeness of Syrian human and financial capitals. “The closer your investors are, the better it is. Syrians live near you, and there lies infinite potential of investment”, he said.

Changing the vision and action of local authorities towards Syrians’ participation in the labor market, is therefore key. According to Rami Sharrack, deputy executive director of the Syrian Economic Forum in Gaziantep, Turkey, the first step is “establishing working groups in each municipality in charge of local economic development, involving the Syrian private sector as an active member”.

 

Moreover, gender is emerging more clearly as the new face of the municipal responses to the crisis as Syrian and local women are becoming the breadwinners. In fact, women’s access to the labor market continues being a chronic and common issue in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

 

Several municipalities are becoming more aware of benefits female workers can bring to local economic development. They are building, through their networks of private and Non-Governmental Organizations, the skills and employability of both Syrian and local women, linking them to their labor market needs. Zarqa’s municipality in Jordan provided training to 60 women including Syrians in the production of pickled products, and followed up by providing them permit for home-based businesses.

While in Saida, Lebanon, a private restaurant chain, called Tawlet, defied an even more complex challenge, and is hiring today Palestinian, Syrian and Lebanese women as cooks.

 

One major limitation to municipal action remains the limited financial resources, particularly in Lebanon where basic services and infrastructure have always been defaulting in rural areas. Haneen El Sayed, Program Leader tells us how the World Bank is starting a 200 million dollars’ project to rehabilitate roads in Lebanon: “This is one example of many  on how the World Bank helps support countries affected by the crisis, and helps generate jobs and incomes to both Syrian and Lebanese workers”.

 

Following the European Union-Jordan compact, adopted in December 2016, it was also agreed to simplify rules of origin requirements to Jordan exports to the EU, provided job opportunities are offered to Syrian refugees, alongside Jordanians.

 

Jordan will also make it possible for over 165 000 Syrian children to access education and increase opportunities for Syrian youth to receive vocational training.

 

Learning from these examples highlighted the many ways for host municipalities to turn the presence of Syrian refugees into economic opportunities. The host municipalities network participating to the Beirut workshop want to learn more on how to better attract the private sector and leverage Syrian workforce and businesses.

 

A compendium capturing some of those good practices was also discussed and shared among them, as one of the many tools the municipalities wills use to exchange and learn through their Host Municipalities Network. Going forward the Network will continue to facilitate peer-learning within the community of practice on local economic development in the forced displacement context.  

 

Jun 21, 2017 / 0 Comments
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“The fact is that given the challenges we face, education doesn't need to be reformed -- it needs to be transformed. The key to this transformation is not to standardize education, but to personalize it, to build achievement on discovering the individual talents of each child, to put students in an environment where they want to learn and where they can naturally discover their true passions.” 

-Sir Ken Robinson

 

In a recent World Economic Forum report on global competitiveness, Egypt ranked 137 in the world out of 144 countries in primary education meeting the needs of a competitive economy, with only 20% of children from the poorest 20 percent enrolled and completed the basic education level. In addition to enrolment issues, disparities in students’ academic and social achievement, cultural gender biases and the poor quality of teachers and school infrastructure have been impacting students’ ability to interact and learn.

 

A persistently marginalized population, primarily of young people in rural Upper Egypt, remains highly disadvantaged in accessing education. This dates to multi-faceted challenges, some of which are:

 

  • Over half of youth (especially female) listed parental disapproval, father disagreement, or customs and traditions as reasons for not entering school.
     
  • Schools in rural communities are usually placed in the main village or destitute, which could take students over 1 hour of walking to reach. A valid reason for parents to not send their girls to school and for boys to dropout due to the tiredness caused by long walking distances, especially during winter time.
     
  • erosion of social capital due to out-migration to suburban or urban areas

 

Most rural communities do not have the resources to address all of these challenges with separate initiatives. However, what if all could be addressed simultaneously? A Community School run collectively by individuals from the community.

 

Since 2007, Man Ahyaha has been diligently working on sustainable development projects in some of Egypt’s most underserved and impoverished areas in different governorates that suffer severe percentage of underprivileged villages in Upper Egypt, Old Cairo and Alexandria.

We have been working in Aayat destitute (60 km away from Giza) for more than 2 years on various developmental projects including alternative education program for children and teenagers, Microfinance for women and young ladies and building concrete infrastructure for poor households.

By June 2016, we decided to conduct needs assessment, human-centered observations and multiple focus groups discussions with the community there, the necessity of an elementary school for the children in elementary school was brought to our attention.

 

In Baharwa Village in Aayat, the nearest elementary school is 3 km away, which keeps the younger children only enrolled on papers, but have no access to any actual learning. Moreover, the distance coupled with the lack of transportation leaves most of the children unable to go to school.

Conditions are worse during winter, with the muddy road and the rainy weather.  These are all factors that affect the enrollment of children in schools and contribute to the drastic dropout rate, especially for girls.

 

At Man Ahyaha, we believe that any project should be initiated to fulfil a real need that the community we are working with has and not re-create a solution for a fictional need, therefore we started building a community school with the villagers and for villagers.

 

Community schools are a viable alternative to public schooling, yet it abides by the formal education system’s curriculum alongside the informal education techniques. One of its main pillars of uniqueness lies in its ability to enhance enrollment and completion rates of children from age 6 to 14 (class1-6). In our classes, we allow for creative informal education techniques such as building skills and personal development, especially that children in rural areas are more open to activity-oriented learning.

 

Our schools became centers of the community and are open to everyone – all day, every day, evenings and weekends; with a variety of services to provide medical and social help along with monthly community meetings.

Teachers in community schools are more of knowledge facilitators, ensuring the factor of hiring high quality teachers who can impact students’ ability to interact and learn in a safe space and an intellectually stimulating environment.

 

Most importantly, community schools create a concrete alternative for the far-away built schools that drastically affect girls’ enrollmentand prevent the completion of their education.

 

Right now, Man Ahyaha is trying to execute its vision of “Support Community Engagement through Education”. Considering our efforts and success in Baharwa, we are now replicating the community school module in another village in Aayat District.

Our approach encompasses an all-levels development for the whole rural area through education, sustainable infrastructure, Access to healthcare and community center.

 

                                                                                                             

 

Jun 20, 2017 / 0 Comments
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June 20 is an international day to salute the resilience of refugees worldwide. Five years into the Syrian crisis, refugees have proved strength, courage, and perseverance.

 

We tell here some stories on their status and lives.

 

The Three Neighboring Countries

 

A young Syrian girl playfully hides from our camera at an adhoc compound for refugees in Saida, Lebanon. Lebanon hosts more than 1,011,366 Syrian refugees*, with limited official camp management regulations.

 

 

Young "Rouya" posing for our camera, at the Harran Camp, Şanlıurfa, Turkey. "She likes taking photos" told us her mother. Turkey hosts 2,992,567 Syrian refugee, registered with UNHCR. 

 

 

While in Jordan, 660,785 Syrian refugees are registered with UNHCR, and teenagers aged 12 to 17 constitute 13.5%.

 

 

Learning, Working and Singing!

 

"There is a pleasure in sharing creative moments with the children that come through here" says Khawla Omar Mekhlef, who's an Arabic language teachear the IMPR Urfa Community Center (Şanlıurfa, Turkey) while teaching young Syrians how to prevent bullying. Khawla is herself a refugee.

 

 

“I love to paint, my teacher always says that I am good at it” tells us Youssef Kashaam, 11 years old at the Art and Peace center, Gaziantep, Turkey.

 

 

And in Saida, Lebanon, Lebanese cook together with Syrian and Palestinian refugees, revisiting recipes and opening the doors of a touristic restaurant in the portal city, Tawlet.

 

 

Sana Suleiman, another resilient refugee in Turkey, explained to us how she joined her husband in winning bread by learning and working in sewing. She's also looking forward to build more capacities by learning Turkish language. "My husband and I urgently need to work, but in order to work we need to learn Turkish and that takes a long time” (IMPR Urfa Community Center, Şanlıurfa, Turkey).

 

 

Nothing can stop young Syrians from integrating and showcasing their talents! Tali Julak, the 12 years old in the center of the below photo has not only joined a Turksih/Syrian choir, but also dreams of fame. “I want to become good as Beethoven was in playing the Piano” (The Art and Peace center, Gaziantep, Turkey).

 

 

Returning Home

 

All of these stories and more, much more, are ones of individuals making the best of their refugee status. Individuals fighting everyday for dignity and respect. A common wish that the young and old had shared with us, is the wish of returning home. 79 y.o. Abd Allah Mahmoud Kasem wisely smiled to our camera, telling us: “I have spent 5 years in this camp, we are free to move and live in decent conditions but the best would be for us to go back to Syria” (Harran Camp, Şanlıurfa, Turkey).

 

Jun 12, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Our continued belief in the enormous resourcefulness, resilience and sheer drive of young Arab women has yet again been reconfirmed. In Cairo, Yara Yassin and Rania Rafie are agents of change. These young women work with local artisans to transform plastic bags into high-quality fashion products sold around the world.

 

Continue reading this article on the World Bank's website, here

May 03, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Humans of New York

Exactly a year ago, families from across Europe and the Middle East gathered in the heart of Paris to make a stand against violent extremism. Fathers of terrorism victims sat next to mothers of jihadists at the conference organised by Families Against Terrorism and Extremism (FATE). When Karolina Dam, a Denmark-based mother, started speaking about losing her son to Daesh, the simultaneous French interpretation suddenly stopped. Initially it was assumed a technical problem had occurred, but then the interpreter stepped out of his booth, tears running down his face.

 

The power of family members to deter their loved ones from engaging in terrorism cannot be overstated. For too long, families have been left to the way side as policy and security officials grapple at the issue alone. This must change. The family unit can play both a positive and, indeed, negative influence in relation to violent extremism and must now be at the forefront of discussions. Families are often demonised and victimised - seen as both part of the radicalisation problem, but also as victims of terrorism. Their potential to make a vital contribution in resolving some of today’s most pressing security challenges remains vastly underexplored. Proximity, Prestige and Passion are the three P’s that may, in fact, position families better than any other stakeholders to counter violent extremism.

 

Proximity to individuals vulnerable to recruitment into violent extremist networks is key to terrorism prevention efforts. Especially within the MENA region, where family bonds are critical, parents and siblings of at-risk-youth can help to identify and disrupt radicalisation processes. A study of young people’s attitudes towards violent extremism in the West Bank found that family influence was even more important than peer guidance. Research also shows that religiously inspired self-starters  often exhibited ‘leakage’ to family members, either in expressing extremist views or in sharing their plans to engage in an act of terror.

 

The prestige that family members enjoy as intervention providers and counter-messengers puts them in a better position to prevent violent extremism than governments. Policymakers are frequently viewed with suspicion or lack contextual understanding. Military- and law-heavy responses to terrorism threats have undermined their credibility to engage in soft-end prevention efforts. Some countries additionally have ‘competing national security priorities’, and so the onus falls to civil society. The family, as the smallest unit of civil society, can benefit from its members’ roles as educators, role models, protectors and authorities to complement the role of the state in countering violent extremism.

 

As families are directly concerned by the consequences of violent extremism, they also have the passion that many other stakeholders lack. Policy makers, security forces and professional frontline workers can only respond to radicalisation with logic. Family members are uniquely placed to communicate emotionally to protect their loved ones from the social harms of extremism, and the security threats of terrorism. Their messages are visceral and intuitive, their voices credible and compassionate and their networks organic and self-sustaining. As a result their efforts tend to be more effective in the long run.

 

Parents are in an excellent position to provide education, guidance and counter-speech that resonate with their children, whilst humanising the impact that engaging in terrorism can have. While civil society empowerment initiatives have traditionally targeted mothers, our research in North Africa suggests that different family members can play different roles in prevention, intervention and deradicalisation efforts. Our focus groups with Moroccan and Tunisian family members stressed that mothers are best placed to act as safeguarders and intervention providers thanks to their intimate, regular contact with their children and their sensitivity and intuition to changes in behaviour. Fathers, often respected as the head of the family, may be able to positively shape youth behaviour and act as role models. Siblings, on the other hand, are excellent peer-to-peer counter-speech agents. Their closeness in age, shared interests and knowledge of social media equips them well to engage in counter-speech. In particular, older siblings can play a vital role as they are often idolised by younger offspring.

 

The notion that families can be frontline practitioners against violent extremism can be a daunting one for those involved, and so training is essential. Most of our survey respondents confirmed the need for more training to fill the gaps in their knowledge about radicalisation processes and extremism dynamics. To fully exploit the potential of family-led approaches, we will need to provide them with the tools, courage and motivation to safeguard their sons, daughters and siblings from being lured into violent extremist networks. Furthermore, building bridges between governments, civil society organisations and families will also be necessary. Once empowered, families can counter violent extremism with non-violent means and challenge hatred with compassion. Maybe they can even fill the gaps where intelligence and security forces are powerless.

 

Apr 18, 2017 / 0 Comments
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They come from all sorts of places in Syria, own a variety of businesses, live in various cities of the world, and represent the full spectrum of Syrian politics. They are all ages, too. What do they have in common? They are business-owners, entrepreneurs, and other members of the Syrian diaspora.

 

Since the Syrian conflict broke out in 2011, members of the diaspora have been working to create opportunities for their fellow Syrians—now refugees in the countries hosting them, by reinvesting in these countries and their businesses there. They have done so in Jordan, Turkey, Lebanon, Egypt, as well as in the Gulf and Europe.

 

Almost six years after the start of the conflict, they met for the first time in Germany at the end of February 2017. Their spirits were high and motivation strong. Applause and oriental sweets, made by Syrian refugee women working in a Syrian-owned shop in Jordan, punctuated the rhythm of the days. “We came here because we are looking for hope,” said one participant to the crowd.

 

“This is an important moment for us. It is the first time we have had the chance to do something,” said another. This was the day the Syrian International Business Association, SIBA, was launched.

 

That day, they decided to pool their efforts to make more of an impact on economic opportunities for Syrian refugees in countries neighboring Syria in the short-term. Eventually, they also want to make an impact on the post-war reconstruction of Syria.

 

“This organization is being built to survive, we are very proud of it,” the rapporteur of a breakout group that worked on SIBA’s organizational structure said.

 

“Yes, we want to have one strong voice in order to work together, work for Syria,” said another contributor.

It is an established fact: Diaspora communities have often taken the initiative when it comes to kick starting economic recovery or getting involved in reconstruction either during a crisis or just after one. There is evidence of this from countries such as Nepal, Palestine, Haiti, and Rwanda.

 

When the dust settles, they do this through remittances of money, the transfer of skills, Foreign Direct Investment, entrepreneurship, heritage tourism, and “nostalgia trade”—such as handicrafts—as well as through philanthropy, volunteerism, and advocacy.

 

“For [members of the] diaspora,” said Gervais Appave, Special Advisor to the Director General at the International Organization for Migration. “Motivation is natural, and they know what’s needed.”

 

SIBA will promote and represent parts of the Syrian Business Community outside Syria.

 

The creation of SIBA is the just the starting point. Its next steps? Expanding its network, follow-up, and five priorities:

 

  • Regulatory barriers (investment climate, mobility, trade and labor laws)
  • Youth empowerment, gender equality, and education (social inclusion, primary/intermediate education, professional training, gender programs)
  • Opportunities for investment and matchmaking (identify sectors, markets)
  • Solutions to financial sector challenges (access to finance, money exchange and movement)
  • Making the strong links between business and philanthropy more systematic

 

These priorities echo the findings of consultations conducted by the World Bank Group in thirteen cities in ten countries to identify incentives for the diaspora’s involvement in development, and the challenges that hinder it.

 

”Strong engagement with the diaspora is a clear win-win for hosts and the refugees themselves,” said the Bank’s John Speakman, who led the consultations.

 

 “Jordan has already succeeded in attracting US$240 million in Syrian investments,” said Mukhallad Omari, Secretary General of Jordan’s Investment Commission. “This is what the Jordan Investment Commission was created for, to act as a single entry point for all investors.”

 

The Jordanian example could serve as a best practice for other host countries in the region.

 

“Whatever is needed to facilitate Syrian investment, the Jordanian economy, and the Jordanians,” said Yarub Al Qudah, Jordan’s Minister of Industry, Trade and Supply, “we are willing to do. These investments will contribute to the growth of our economy and to job creation.” 

Apr 10, 2017 / 0 Comments
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Over the past six years, at least half of Syria’s 30,000 physicians—perhaps more, no one knows for sure—have fled the country. Like other Syrian refugees, they have gone wherever they can: Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Europe, and, in much smaller numbers, Canada and the United States.

 

Continue reading this article on The Brookings website 

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