Remember this acronym TAP. It is short for transparency, accountability and participation and is here to stay for a long, long time. It is a simple euphemism for a very complicated roadmap for Arab transition to “dignity, freedom and social justice.” But is TAP really a remedy for the chaos gripping the Middle East? Even if it is not, it certainly was the resounding buzz word at a World Bank regional seminar “Transitions and Governance Reforms in MENA,” convened in Rabat, Morocco, recently.
Regardless of their original circumstances, successful economic and political transitions have a single, unifying characteristic. They may be motivated by crisis, but their successful implementation requires a broad consensus on the need for change, a shared vision of its goals and a common agreement on how to reach them. The need for this critical consensus emerged over the course of a seminar on the role of governance reform in the current transitions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. Hosted by the World Bank in the Moroccan capital, Rabat, the Transitions and Governance Reforms in MENA seminar brought together a diverse range of government, civil society and media representatives to discuss the region’s challenges with former world leaders and members of the international development community who had undergone similar transitions.
I am very pleased to announce the launch of a new recruitment drive for Arabic speakers, called the SMART (Strategic MNA Arabic Recruitment of Talent) program, which will provide a small cohort of the best and brightest Arabic speakers with a unique opportunity to pursue a career at the Bank. We are very excited to introduce young, dynamic professionals to the MENA region of the World Bank and in this small way contribute to the expansion of the Arab talent in the World Bank’s MENA Region.
Our latest regional outlook shows a two-track path for growth in MENA. In 2012 oil exporters are likely to fare much better than oil importers in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Growth of MENA’s oil exporting countries will be strong and rise from the average of 3.4 percent in 2011 to 5.4 percent in 2012. The new Regional Economic Update presents the outlook for MENA in the context of rapidly-evolving global and domestic environments, recognizing the linkages that matter for shaping country-specific outlooks and the multiple risks that could alter them.
Why 13 governments, 10 ministers and 270 people decided to gather for policy discussions on infrastructure in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and the role of the private sector. (And no, it wasn’t the fact that the forum was in Marrakech because none of us left the hotel). I was really inspired by the enthusiasm generated by the March launch in Rabat of the Affiliated Network for Social Accountability – Arab World. The event brought civil society people from across MENA together and demonstrated a real ability to shape and further a debate around the issues of participation and youth.
“I am sorry, I am so very sorry, I did not mean to be disrespectful,” the young man says as soon as he has blurted his story out. He fidgets nervously with his little notepad. He is young, but the deep lines that crease his face reveal the hard life he has led. This is his story: “Do you know what it is like to wake up feeling ashamed every morning, feeling deeply ashamed that I cannot help support my aging parents,” he says, “that I cannot go and buy a bit of fruit for my little sister since I do not have a single coin in my pocket? I went to school, I did well, I went to university, I did even better but what was it good for? Nothing! Here I am, I cannot afford to get married. I cannot even look my mother in the eyes as I spend the nights in the street drowning my sorrows.” The young man lifts his head, his eyes welling up with tears. “I have been stripped of my manhood, or maybe I should say, I was never even allowed to become a man.”