Also available in: العربية
I have just returned from London where I attended the seventh meeting of the Friends of Yemen (FoY) group. This group was created in 2010 to help support Yemen through a period of crisis. It is co-chaired by the United Kingdom, Saudi Arabia and Yemen itself, with 36 other members, including the United States and Russia.
At the meeting, members discussed how the international community would support Yemen to complete its political transition toward federalism, implement the outcome of its national dialogue—and lay the foundations for a democratic modern civil state.
Fatigue, Bloodshed and Turmoil: Syrians Speak Through Art
If images spark conversation, can a conversation spur action? Or more specifically, can a discussion about art and Syria’s economy the more than 100 prompt finance ministers attending the World Bank’s annual Spring Meetings in Washington to dig deeper into their pockets and give more humanitarian aid to Syria?
Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea after the popular voting in early March, the European Union and recently the U.S. and Canada have imposed their first round of sanctions—an asset freeze and travel ban on some officials in Russia and Crimea. This week NATO's foreign ministers, warning that Russian troops could invade the eastern part of Ukraine swiftly, ordered an end to civilian and military cooperation with Russia. Should the crisis escalate, potential fallout on Middle East and North Africa (MENA) countries is likely. The effects would be transmitted directly through trade and indirectly through commodity prices.
After 3 years of war, themes of fragmentation, fatigue, and bloodshed all come across in the work of Syrian artists currently being exhibited at the World Bank.
Collectively, their paintings convey a sense of the internal turmoil caused by external violence, paintings that hint at conflict: the skeleton beneath the skin, a fractured womb, being caught in a trap like a fly, the scarlet gashes of torn flesh, and sinister handcuffs, to name a few subjects.
Join us April 9th, 2014, for the opening of the art exhibition featuring 35 paintings by 15 Syrian artists who were given the time and space to work at an artist residence in Lebanon.
Get a glimpse of the paintings here.
After the situation in Syria deteriorated, around October 2011, thousands of Syrians fled to Lebanon, among them many young emerging artists. With the difficult conditions and emotional trauma, artists had to take jobs in construction and in restaurants instead of creating art. Given the situation and my belief in the importance of art in hard times, the idea of an artists’ residence in the town of Aley, or the Art Residence in Aley (ARA), arose.
Classical music welcomed me into Fadi Al Hamwi’s flat in the Gemmayze neighborhood of Beirut. His room was simple and distinctive. Instead of furniture occupying the space, he had lined it with art. Music swelled around us and half-finished, dramatic life-size paintings leaned against the walls. Fadi, a 27-year-old painter from the Syrian capital of Damascus, had moved to Beirut almost two years ago. On the walls were a series of X-ray portraits, mostly of animals. He said his art explored the lack of humanity in the Syrian war, exposing men and woman stripped to the structure of their bones.
Crony capitalism is the key development challenge facing Tunisia today
Last week’s Economist magazine focused on Crony Capitalism. From the powerful oil barons in the USA in the 1920s to today’s oligarchs in Russia and Ukraine, they show that such entrenched interests have been a major concern over time and around the globe. North Africa is no exception. The fortunes accumulated by the family and friends of President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali of Tunisia and Hosni Mubarak of Egypt were so obscene that they helped trigger the Arab Spring revolutions, with protestors demanding an end to corruption by the elite.
Among the olive groves, almond blossoms, lush grass, and views of small towns nestled on hilltops and in valleys, World Bank colleagues and I hiked a trail in northern Palestine. Ducking into cool, dark, ancient aqueducts used by civilizations centuries ago, we paused for tea brewed by our local guide in a kettle over an open flame. A homemade meal by a local family topped off our trek.
The Palestinian economy is stalling. Growth dropped sharply in 2013, unemployment is on the rise, and tax revenues for the Palestinian authority are falling significantly short of what is needed to finance even recurrent expenditures. That’s the bad news that many are well aware of. There is however a potential source of good news that currently lies dormant, but if tapped could both stimulate growth and transform the Palestinian economy.