Published on Arab Voices

Keywords to the Middle East and North Africa: Check for yours here

ImageNext 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.   

We believe that by hearing the voices of MENA citizens and by getting a better understanding of their concerns and priorities, we can better serve the MENA Region in its quest for development. Thus this live chat on Tuesday and others in the future I hope.

So far we have received around 60 comments and I thank you for that. We had planned this as a chat in Arabic only but as we have many comments now in English too we will add an English chat forum and I will do my best to juggle back and forth.

Going through your comments I was struck by two keywords that occurred again and again: EDUCATION and GOVERNANCE. Close after that (and here I’m grouping some words): jobs-employment, transparency-access-accountability, knowledge-innovation-ideas-data, sustainability-growth, corruption (part of governance really), youth, transformation, entrepreneurs, leaders, women-gender equality (I’m glad that made the list) and two mentions of civic education which is a slightly different and important take on education broadly.

When you throw open an invitation to the entire world it’s really fascinating to see issues cohere like this. It is clear that there is significant agreement around the priorities for the MENA region at this time. I think the priorities that have been shared resonate very much with the priorities we at the Bank have been discussing.

I look forward to learning more of the issues you want to highlight in our discussion and I look forward to "meeting" you on line next week. I am encouraged by the voices and views that have already been expressed and know that by listening to the people of the MENA Region we will be greatly enriched as there is a tremendous power in your vision, insight and knowledge.

Let me add a couple of my favorite quotes from your comments which also struck such a true chord: Khaled Hussain in Tunisia yearned for an education system that “encourages taking initiative, creativity, individuality and curiosity.”  He went on: “We want to be set free, to think freely and productively, to have the tools and opportunities to put that thinking into action and to recognize the world as a friendly place.” Kaoutharazaaj of Morocco writes “I think that empowering youth, giving them responsibilities, and instilling the spirit of citizenship in them are significant pillars of development.” And Kais Aliriani in Yemen wrote: “No recipe for all Arab Countries. Let the people of the region think for themselves about their future.”

I could not agree more Kais and I hope those of you who join me for a chat on Tuesday will come in this spirit. Whatever the World Bank or any other institution in the world does to support the people of the MENA countries, this must be underwritten by the vision of the people of the region. Please share that vision with us.

The live online chat will be held in English and Arabic with realtime translation into French on Twitter from @WorldBankLive.


Inger Andersen

Former Vice President, Middle East & North Africa

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