Tunisia demonstrated one year ago that citizens' voice matters. Accountability is a must. Government legitimacy is key. Starting from Tunisia, a wave of revolutions now commonly referred to as the "Arab Spring" spread to the entire Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Citizens demanded voice, accountability and opportunity for all, not only for a selected few and mostly privileged. The World Bank has taken significant steps to support this rapid and positive change.
How could the World Bank engage and bring together Egypt’s technology community with water specialists to solve the country’s most pressing water and sanitation challenges? This past October, Cairo hosted the first-ever WaterHackathon in an effort to find out. WaterHackathon Cairo brought together Egyptian technologists with water specialists to brainstorm innovative ICT solutions for Egypt’s biggest water challenges. With 70% of the participants between the ages of 19 and 28, the event captured the energy and commitment of Egypt’s young people.
Next week I’ll be in a “live chat” conversation online with anyone who wants to jump in and share a thought about what the Middle East and North Africa needs now to shape a future so deeply challenged by the voices of citizens demanding a better social contract. It has been stunning to see how young people have used social media platforms so creatively to exchange views, to monitor and to hold authorities accountable over the past year. With this same set of tools I believe we at the World Bank can better learn from citizens of the region what their priorities are now. While the World Bank is not a big source of financing to MENA (despite the image some have of us!), we do have global knowledge to share and expertise to offer. But only insofar as countries value that and seek our input.