23 May , 2014
Kuwait Rising As Political And Economic Hub Of Arab World
A summit group photo
Kuwait: The Summits of Peace
As Asia and the Middle East are witnessing a rapid turmoil in the sky of politics, and on the land of reality, Kuwait, being in the geographical and historical heart of that map, and inspired by the diplomatic career of its ruler, Emir of Kuwait, Sheikh Jaber al-Ahmad al-Jaber al-Sabah, has acted as the heaven for regional and international summits during recent times.
It is His Highness’ wish to turn Kuwait into an economic hub via hosting such summits. However, this has resulted in many inquiries on the cost of such a role. Some voices criticized the authorities regarding the amount of money spent during a short span of time, just to host those summits.
Sheikh Mohammad Al-Abdullah Al-Mubarak Al-Sabah, Minister of State for Cabinet Affairs refuted the information spreading on social media that the most recent Arab Summit, held in Kuwait last March, cost the government almost KD 90 million (1 KD = 3.549 USD). Sheikh Mohammad said that the cost of the previous eight summits only cost Kuwait KD 40 million.
The mega-events that made Kuwait a summit hub, included Friends of Syria, GCC ministerial meetings, Arab African Economic forums, and the three Arab League summits.
Rumours spread that the announced official figures indicated for less than the actual budget spent beyond the summits’ logistics cost. When counting the announced contributions and donations the that Kuwaiti government provided to Friends of Syria and the African Summit, for example, then the number will be far more than the given one.
The outcome of these summits, according to many commentators like Badrya Darwish, Kuwait Times, had no real outcome: “Without the picture options and handshakes, we dream of serious action being taken at an Arab Summit, for a change. We want the nations to wake up and realize that the only thing for them is unity. I don’t think any of them is blind not to see that. We wanted them to talk for a change, admit their mistakes and open their hearts to each other and have a new start as a united nation. I think I am a dreamer. But sometimes dreams can be costly.”
One of the most important summits was the Arab-Africa Economic Forum, as it gave the chance for joint investments. Organized by the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development in association with the Arab League and the African Union Commission, it was held in November 2013 under the title “Beyond Promises: Moving Forward Towards An Effective Arab-Africa Partnership”.
The forum included a number of sessions in which economic and development issues related to the establishment of a partnership between the Arab and African countries were discussed, particularly in the areas of food security, poverty alleviation, manpower development, development support and activation of the role of NGOs.
The forum was attended by high-level public sector officials, Arab, African and international organizations, Arab and African specialized organizations, as well as Arab and African intellectuals , and private sector and civil society leaders from the Arab and African world.
The forum was designed to shed light on the status of Arab-African development cooperation based on the experiences of stakeholders involved in development operations, particularly in infrastructure, transportation, energy and other sectors, as well as to determine potential cooperation in the areas of Arab-African agriculture and food security.
South Sudan President Salva Kiir with other Heads of State and a delegation from Africa and the Arab world at the 3rd Afro-Arab Summit in Kuwait City
The Arab-Africa Economic Forum
Deputy Prime Minister/Finance Minister, Shaikh Salim Abdul-Aziz Al-Sabah, stressed that Arab and African countries were in need of mobilizing the necessary financial resources for carrying out programmes and projects in different economic and social sectors, which requires concerted efforts to attract capital from local and foreign sources, including donor countries, national, regional and international development organizations and the private sector.
Shaikh Salim said, “We are aware of the challenges which we have to overcome in order to enable our countries to ensure all aspects of sustainable development – economic, social and environmental – mainly the millennium’s development objectives as stated in the UN Declaration of the Millennium (2000). The chance of achieving these objectives in full by 2015 is remote, as a result of the negative impact of successive crises on international effort, particularly the global food crises which hit the world suddenly in 2007 and 2008, coupled with a sharp rise in foodstuff prices and the global financial crises late in 2008.”
As Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development Deputy Director-General Hashim Alweqayyan pointed out, the forum discussed the themes and issues in order to come up with practical recommendations for consideration by the Summit. The issues discussed, he said, were related to the following themes: Arab-African cooperation in the areas of development, Arab-African joint investments, development and domains of promotion of Arab-African trade, and the role of NGOs in development support. He stressed that the forum aimed at shedding light on the status of Arab-African development cooperation based on the experiences of stakeholders involved in development operations, particularly in the areas of infrastructure, transportation, energy, as well as at determining potential cooperation in the areas of Arab-African agriculture and food security, in addition to identifying the strengths, weaknesses and future challenges of the fields of mutual cooperation.
The Arab Organization of Agricultural Development shared in the forum’s activities and its Director-General Dr Tariq bin Moussa Zadjali gave a presentation on Arab-African cooperation in the area of food security and its present state in both regions. He pointed out that per capita production of foodstuffs in the Arab world is high compared with sub-Saharan Africa, and the level of most food crop productivity in both regions is below the world level. Cereal post-harvest waste is estimated at 13% of total crop production in the Arab world, and 10-20% in the case of a cereal crop storage in sub-Saharan Africa.
Additionally, Dr Zadjali referred to the developments of the foreign trade of foodstuffs, malnutrition, food gap and the rate of self-sufficiency of foodstuffs in both regions, as well as the fisheries sector, including trade, marketing and industry and the main challenges facing it.
The presentation also covered the suggested areas of Arab-African cooperation in food security and fisheries, mainly the joint action plan for agricultural development and food security in both regions agreed by the Arab-African Summit in Surt (Libya) in 2010. The plan includes intensifying agricultural production through joint projects, developing storage systems, setting up an Arab-African network of strategic food reserves, developing the rational use of irrigation systems, improving rural infrastructure, and promotion of Arab-African agricultural trade. He underlined the importance of considering the feasibility of setting up Arab-African companies for the production of cereals, vegetable oil, sugar and agricultural equipment.
Agriculture and food security
The forum’s recommendations shed light on the status of Arab-African development cooperation based on the experiences of stakeholders involved in development operations, particularly in the infrastructure sector, and called on Arab and African countries to preserve the limited capacity of agricultural resources, land and water for renewal of their services through adopting appropriate agricultural policies to ensure food security.
For peace, development, and culture, Kuwait has paved its way as a summit hub. The talk of costs may stop once the harvest is clear.
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