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Keynote Addresses Highlights

2012 February

The day’s keynote addresses proved particularly enlightening.  Below is a a brief summary from each of the keynote speakers.

Dr. Joachim von Braun addressed Arab development in a changing world and stated that a particularly serious matter is the Arab world losing out, in recent years, on foreign direct investments.  He cited employment and regional fiscal policy as two fundamental challenges, as they determine food security through macro linkages. Dr. von Braun remarked that for achieving political progress it is essential to build trust between citizens and states; develop human capacity to foster labor productivity; and build social security institutions. He concluded that the political change process can revitalize Arab unity and encouraged the Arab world to learn from the mistakes and successes during transformations of other regions, such as Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Dr. Heba Handoussa presented on the challenges and opportunities of transition. She spoke specifically of Egypt and discussed several factors.  She noted primarily that youth are the best candidates to act as agents of change.  In addition, she noted the following:  i) that there needs to be more involvement at the community level for introducing channels of participation;  ii) that merit based human resource management needs to resurge; and  iii) that job creation needs to be accelerated.

Dr. Nadim Khouri spoke on new perspectives for Arab Food Security, where he emphasized that the Arab world is not starting from scratch despite there being a lot of work yet to be done. He noted that the Arab region is the least advanced in achieving the first Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of ending poverty and hunger.  He juxtaposed the fact that only 18% of the world’s wheat is exported with the reality that Arab countries import more than 50% of their grain requirements and that this dependency is predicted to increase. He concluded that there will likely be a long transition to democracy and that it is necessary to build on existing experiences.