The Middle East and North Africa region still lags behind other comparable countries in gender equality. Women’s access to opportunities continues to be restricted by socio-structural obstacles, inflexible mentalities and deep-rooted traditions. The Arab Spring gave women hope that empowerment and greater participation in decision-making were possible, but future progress is threatened.
It was a cold and rainy afternoon in Tunisia in February of 2011. My colleagues and I were on mission, driving from the Ministry of Employment to our next meeting. We got stuck! The street was blocked with hundreds of youth chanting “3amal” (“work” in Arabic). They were outside one of the biggest public employment offices in Tunis demanding work, often violently.
Disaster Risk Management has become a critical component of national policy and planning. In the Middle East and North Africa region, the interplay of natural disasters, together with the impacts of climate change, water scarcity, and urbanization, have emerged as serious challenges for policymaker. While the number of natural disasters around the world has almost doubled since the 1980s, in MENA, the number has almost tripled.
One day on a recent mission to Tripoli, Libya – after an early start and a hectic morning of meetings – I went with the World Bank’s Representative to a wonderful Turkish Restaurant in the heart of Tripoli to have lunch and to discuss the progress of the mission. As we were dinning, our waiter engaged in polite conversation with my Tunisian colleague in French.
I started working in Morocco four years ago as a result of the government’s request for
support in implementing their national agricultural strategy, the Plan Maroc Vert. This strategy set the ambitious targets of doubling the agricultural value added and creating 1.5 million jobs in little more than a decade.
The Middle East and North Africa Transition Fund held its second steering committee meeting in the Moroccan capital, Rabat last month. Four new grants were awarded at the meeting in support of the ongoing reform process in Morocco. Jonathan Walters, World Bank coordinator for the Transition Fund was in Rabat and provided us with some background on what the Fund hopes to achieve both in Morocco and the region.
The Middle East and North Africa region is 60 percent urbanized compared to the global average of 52 percent and is home to one of the world’s most rapidly expanding populations. By 2030, a 45 percent increase of MENA’s urban population will add another 106 million people to urban centres.
In Morocco, a structural transformation of the economy that will lead to stronger growth and job creation will require a coordinated set of policies in several key areas. It will involve maintaining the stability of the macroeconomic environment, improving the business environment, and developing a trade policy that better supports the competitiveness of Moroccan products.
Are fast-track quotas necessary and sufficient for gender equality in the Middle East & North Africa?
As I write from Sana’a, I am thinking “ten percent is not enough.” Few would disagree that more women should be represented in legislatures across the Middle East and North Africa. Yet the best ways to achieve improved outcomes is still being debated.
A democratic and social transition is underway in Morocco following popular demonstrations inspired by the regional “Arab Spring,” calling for more democracy, inclusion and shared prosperity. A central feature of the transition will be the strengthening of Morocco’s governance framework, and it has so far led to the revision of the constitution and to new elections.