By Arab Times
BEIRUT, Jan 20, (Agencies): Kuwait has launched an initiative to form a $200 million fund for investments in technology, Kuwaiti Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled Al-Hamad Al-Sabah said on Sunday.
Addressing an Arab Economic Summit held in Beirut, citing economic cooperation as the Arab region’s “primary concern,” the Kuwaiti minister, who is His Highness the Kuwaiti Amir Sheikh Sabah Al-Ahmad Al-Jaber Al-Sabah’s representative for the talks, described the initiative as a step towards embracing a digital economy. He mentioned that His Highness the Amir created a fund to prop up small enterprises in the Arab region back in 2009, with Kuwait contributing a share of $500 million.
The fund has helped save some 437,000 jobs in the region, while it financed more than 7,000 Arab-made development projects, which shows His Highness the Amir of Kuwait’s vision of investing in “valuable youth power”. Given their “intertwined fates,” he spoke of the “close rapport” that Arab nations have forged over the years, having held talks on a regular basis in a bid to attain prosperity and development.
Sheikh Sabah Al-Khaled renewed his appreciation and trust in the business agenda of the summit, thanking Lebanese President Michel Aoun for his hospitality and support. Michel Aoun on Sunday called for adopting an Arab reconstruction and development initiative by creating an inter-Arab bank. Addressing the Arab economic and development summit held in Beirut, the Lebanese President said the initiative aims at helping all affected Arab countries and people.
“I hereby put forth my initiative aimed at adopting the strategy of reconstruction for development, calling to set up efficient mechanisms that live up to these challenges and to the requirements of reconstruction, on top of which the establishment of an Arab Bank for Reconstruction and Development,” he said.
He also stressed the necessity of setting up efficient mechanisms that live up to the requirements of reconstruction and development in the Arab world. “Against this background, I call on all the Arab institutions and financing funds to meet in Beirut during the coming three months to discuss and finalize these mechanisms,” he added.
Michel Aoun, meanwhile, urged world powers to step up efforts for Syrian refugees to return home, regardless of any political solution to the war there. Aoun told the Arab economic summit in Beirut that Lebanon had suggested solutions for safe returns for the meeting to agree. Since conflict broke out in Syria in 2011, more than 1 million people have fled across the border to Lebanon, where aid agencies say most live in extreme poverty. The United Nations says it is not yet safe to return Lebanese officials have called for refugees to go home after Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad reclaimed most of the country with Russian and Iranian help. Divisions among Arab states over Syria, and internal disputes in Lebanon, have undermined the summit before it began, with several leaders staying away. A key point of contention has been whether to bring Syria back into the Arab League, more than seven years after its membership was suspended. Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah, which has helped Assad’s military defeat rebels and militants, wants rapprochement with Damascus. Its critics oppose this, insisting the United Nations must oversee any repatriations.
“Lebanon calls on the international community to make all efforts possible and provide suitable conditions for a safe return of displaced Syrians … without tying that to reaching a political solution,” said Aoun, a political ally of Hezbollah. Secretary General of the Arab League Ahmad Abul-Gheit announced on Sunday that speeding up the elimination of poverty is the optimal way to dry out the sources of terrorism and extremism.
Speaking at the Summit, he said that 20 percent of the Arab population live under multidimensional poverty, indicating that the General Secretariat in the Arab League, in collaboration with the UN, has issued a report that includes an Arab strategy to eliminate multidimensional poverty. He believed that the Arab population includes large masses of youth, who could pose burdens to their countries’ economies and become easy victims of religious and political extremism, unless they are correctly exploited.
Abul-Gheit considered that the economic growth is still insufficient to achieve the desired change because of the political and security circumstances in the past few years. The Mashreq Conference on Women’s empowerment kicked off on Saturday under the patronage of the Lebanese Prime Ministers Saad Al-Hariri.
The conference is held ahead of the 4th Arab Development, Economic and Social Summit in Beirut scheduled on Sunday. “The absence of women in the labor force equals the absence of half of the society, and causes a huge loss to local growth and production. We have focused in the last few years on empowering women and activating their role in all fields in line with UN’s goals to achieve sustainable development,” Al-Hariri said. The Lebanese government have taken several steps towards the goal through allowing women to assume high-ranked governmental posts, and enforcing laws against women discrimination, Al-Hariri added.
Al-Hariri announced that the World Bank Group have initiated new strategies in funding policies that aim to achieve gender equality in the Middle East, which is an important step that will help move from the planning phase to execution. On his part, Abul-Gheit said, that a number of matters listed in the business agenda that will be discussed in the Summit on Sunday include women’s empowerment, and ensuring their medical, social and educational rights were met.
Abul-Gheit stressed the importance of integrating Arab women in the economic world and spread awareness of their essential role in the community. Lebanese Minister of Health Ghassan Hasbani said in a statement to KUNA, that it was important to have laws that help empower women, but is more vital to close the big gap between men and women in society. Lebanese MP Rola Tabsh told KUNA that empowering women can be achieved in laying more rules and laws concerning equality. To achieve equality, women must be active in the labor market starting by handling public jobs reaching political posts, she added.