International Joint Forum on Smart Development in the Middle East and North Africa

الملتقى الدولي المشترك لـ

المنتدى الدولي الأول للتنمية المستدامة بالمغرب العربي والشرق الأوسط 

المنتدى الدولي الأول للتنمية الذكية بالشمال الغربي التونسي

Tabarka, Tunisia
19-21 March 2019

The World Commission on Environment and Development famous report “Our Common Future” published in 1987 defined sustainable development (SD) as the development that meets the needs of the present without comprising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. The entire concept of SD is about the future and the future is all about the children and youth! Youth from all-over the world are encouraged to participate in the conference and present their research, perspectives and initiatives. However, since the Rio summit in 1992 SD is increasingly becoming a concern for both developed and developing countries (DCs). Yet, translating the principles of SD into effective economic and environmental policies seems to be a major challenge for all countries.

Policy Research

One aspect of the conference is to improve the policy research within the United Nations system to help achieve the 2030 SDGs by addressing the significant demand for evidence-based research across the world. The World Association for Sustainable Development (WASD) is inspired by the conviction that the 2030 Agenda and its 17 goals provides momentum for a renewed UN engagement with the academic and research policy institutions and individuals. The conference aims to provide practical recommendations and actions to help transform the way the UN conducts and uses research to achieve the SDGs, and the way research institutes access and benefit from UN data. Participants are therefore invited to address the following key issues in their contribution: how do you see the role of science, innovation and research in service of the 2030 Agenda?; how do you reflect the SDGs in your own research activities?; and do you believe that the UN system is properly using scientific research in finding solutions to global problems?. Please read more details about the UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU) policy research project A.435 entitled “Strengthening the policy research uptake in service of the 2030“ and you are kindly invited to fill in this  UN Policy Research Survey (launched on Friday 25th May 2018 and is open for completion until 31st July 2018).

Youth Engagement

WASD is very keen to encourage the engagement of children and youth from across the world in the conference. We are keen to make the voice of all our children and youth heard and consequently enabling the decision makers to consider those views and ideas in their big decisions. Youth in the MENA region are growing fast and governments in the region expect their universities and research institutions to make a leading contribution by producing graduates ready to grasp the various opportunities generated in the digital economy. It is therefore important that all Higher Education (HE) institutions and societies to consider the youth in all their curriculum design, programs development as well as fulfilling their role as major agents in the realisation of the various future strategic visions in most countries in the region. According to recent reports by the World Bank, with a large youth representation and youth unemployment ratio, the MENA region faces a potential crisis and the education sector should be reformed to include specific qualifications and specialisations in the digital economy. The private sector can play a larger role in helping governments and academia focus investments on high-priority and high demand skills, thus young students are ready for employment the moment they graduate.

Role of Women

Women across the world have an untapped potential as a primary mover of greater development within their countries and regions. Their role is very crucial for increased development, but challenges remain. And so, significant reforms in economic, social, and political institutions must be made to create an enabling environment for women participation and empowerment. However, it appears that investments in human development are not readily translated to better economic and political outcomes for women. Unfortunately, women’s potential and crucial role in development across the world is still impeded by these economic and social factors. Women’s participation is also very important in advancing peace, unity and combating terrorism, which is a most serious threat to SD across all regions of the world. It has also been recognized that women have been largely excluded from the processes of conflict management and prevention and that their role is important in the achievement of lasting peace and security (UN, 2015). With this, there is a need to increase women’s participation in peace processes since out of 31 global peace processes from 1992 to 2011, only 4% of key stakeholder representatives were women (UN WOMEN, 2011 cited in OXFAM, 2016). Women in peacekeeping missions are also crucial given their broad set of skills that helps in improving trust in communities as a whole (OXFAM, 2016). In general, women’s participation helps in accelerating resolution and countering terrorism while ensuring that women’s rights are protected.

MENA Region

Many consider the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region as one of the most important emerging parts of the world economy in the 21st century. The MENA region is strategically vital as it produces the majority of the world’s oil. However, despite the region’s oil, most countries in the region score lower on Human Development Index (HDI) world ranking, with GDP, productivity and investment rates well below the global average. Despite abundant financial and human capital, most MENA countries still lack adequate scientific and technological infrastructure to absorb, apply and create knowledge and disseminate information. At present, almost all knowledge and technology used in almost all MENA countries is produced outside the MENA region reflecting high dependency of MENA countries on outside knowledge and technology. A widening knowledge gap augurs poorly for future development of MENA societies stymied by an inability to create knowledge economies that gain benefits from the opportunities offered by globalization. It is, therefore, becoming widely accepted that the dominant economic model of the region – based on the public sector, oil incomes and workers’ remittances – is not up to the challenges of modern globalisation and the needs of advanced knowledge-based societies.