Last Thursday I had dinner with my friend Youssef. He told me he was disappointed with the way things were turning out in his country. A young Tunisian educated at the Sorbonne, Youssef took leave from his cushy management consultant job to volunteer for the government after the revolution. Like Youssef many Tunisians feel disillusioned. I replied that now is the time to redouble the efforts.
I recall the first time I visited Nakheel Palestine for Agricultural Investments Company fields at Jericho two years ago, when MIGA was still at the early stages of underwriting the project constituting planting date trees. The land was empty and, at the first glance, the first thought that came to mind was “how can this be developed into arable land?”
During our research for a report on climate change in the Arab world which will be released in Doha next week, I travelled the region extensively. I met a number of people struggling bravely against higher temperatures and sporadic rainfall, but it is really the children who tell the most eloquent stories about the negative impacts of climate, now and in the future.
Across MENA countries people are striving to improve their livelihoods in the face of multiple risks, ranging from economic crises, conflict or natural disasters, to unemployment, disability, and illness. For them, institutions that offer a chance to escape poverty and help build their resilience to crisis are essential. Key among these institutions are safety nets. This historic moment inspired our team to prepare the forthcoming report Inclusion and Resilience: The Way Forward for Social Safety Nets in the Middle East and North Africa.
“It’s messed up, I had to lose an eye to see things clearly” Alia said, shaking her head. My charismatic and confident classmate then carefully tucked her hair under her veil. “Bushwick Bill?” I asked. She smiled and showed off her perfect row of teeth. “Yes!” She seemed pleased, yet slightly embarrassed that I had noticed that she was quoting an old-school rapper.
It has been a year since WaterHackathon Cairo took place, bringing together Egyptian technologists with water specialists to brainstorm innovative ICT solutions for Egypt’s biggest water challenges. Since then, one of the WaterHackathon winners—Team Abu Erdan—has successfully turned their idea for a mobile farming tool linked to the cloud into a full-fledged mobile platform.
Similar to their peers around the world, young Palestinians do equate schooling with the prospect of getting good jobs. But what is most striking is that education has become a source of self-worth and social recognition. In the words of one young man from Old City in Hebron, “When you have a degree you have your respect wherever you go.”
The other day I was in a car going to a meeting with Yemen’s Minister of Planning and International Cooperation. A car bomb exploded less than 500 meters from our location, targeting the Minister of Defense. The minister escaped but 12 people were killed and many more were injured. These are only some examples of events that we face in a fragile and conflict-affected state.
A little more than a year ago, when Marie-Hélène Bricknell arrived in Iraq to establish a permanent presence for the World Bank, sirens in the "Green Zone" warning of incoming missiles wailed through the night. Even before the permanent presence, and despite the difficult security situation, work had been ongoing. A number of important accomplishments had been achieved.
I was a high school teacher in the Bay area in California and reverse immigrated to Egypt. I had a few hours available to me and I wanted to teach, so one day by coincidence someone in my church asked me to teach Arabic in Cairo’s “Garbage City.” What I witnessed was a horror initially, but then fell in love with a group of people with such an incredible work ethic. Over the years, I’ve watched an amazing transformation of their trade.