Econostrum | Economic News in the Mediterranean

Responding to New Demands

Written by By Mats Karlsson, Director of CMI on Monday, October 29th 2012 à 14:00 | Read 277 times

By Mats Karlsson, Director of CMI

Nearly one year ago, the Arab Spring erupted. No one could have predicted its arrival or the course of events that followed; no one can say for sure where those events will lead. But the tensions that underlay the uprisings were common knowledge: 

The need for more efficient and open governance, for social justice, for greater regional collaboration, and, above all, for more and better jobs, particularly for the millions of young people faced with an uncertain future. 

The establishment of the CMI in 2009 reflected growing awareness of the need for change. The CMI was created to focus the efforts of governments, international organizations, and independent institutions of civil society and regional vocation on efforts to identify and apply knowledge and practices capable of producing dialogue, learning, and well-informed policy decisions in specific areas of public concern. The vision behind the CMI’s founding is even more pertinent today, when so much is in flux and creative, effective solutions to the problems that gave rise to the Arab Spring are so sorely needed. 

Three facts distinguish the CMI’s second year, 2011, the year to which this annual report speaks. First, the CMI moved from a start-up to a more capable, mature institution. Second, programs launched in 2009 began to deliver results. And third, the Center was called upon to respond to new requests emanating from the Arab Spring. 
As political events unfolded, planned events gave way to new initiatives. In Barcelona in March 2011 we engaged with many partners in a broad conference on local, bottom-up governance in urban areas, helping to open new territory for decentralized empowerment in response to the demands of the “Arab street,” In May, we hosted a meeting of close to a hundred representatives of civil society from the region, helping them voice their demands for enhanced cooperation from the G8 nations. This became a core message at the G8 Broader MENA meeting in Kuwait on November 21-22, where we spoke to foreign ministers of the region. In June and September, we brought together a network of leading economists to discuss the knowledge economy, trade integration, and investment needs. This led to the Deauville Partnership Finance Ministers requesting the CMI to coordinate a report on trade integration and FDI. Our first consultation takes place on November 28. Also in June, the new Tunisian government requested that the CMI facilitate a dialogue with many partners on social protection and inclusion, a matter high on the regional political agenda. A program is now in its works. The CMI demonstrated its ability to respond. 

At the same time, programs put in place at the CMI began to deliver. For example, although the risks of climate change may not seem pressing at the moment, countries must begin the long process of preparing themselves for climatic events—flooding, heat waves, and rising sea levels, among other environmental challenges. Collaborative studies of Alexandria, Casablanca, the Bou Regreg Valley, and Tunis were completed, and new discussions begun with Algiers and Tripoli, Lebanon. Such work will have a long-term impact. 

The CMI’s other programs also moved ahead, as recorded in the pages that follow, and three new programs were added. The new arrivals focus on the knowledge economy, city-to-city cooperation (with Germany’s GIZ), and innovation in water supply. A fourth addition, focusing on social protection, is in the works. Activities designed to respond to current needs in the southern countries of the Mediterranean region have accelerated beyond our expectations. 

Institutionally, CMI has evolved from a start-up to a vital organization with a headquarters staff of 30 and many more in other locations. Our finances have grown from a three-year planning horizon of $18 million to $28 million. The key financing vehicle, our multidonor trust fund, is almost fully allocated. Outreach activities have increased, in particular through the introduction of e-communities. We have signed memoranda of understanding with the Union for the Mediterranean, the Islamic Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization, the Amman Institute for Urban Development, and the Office de Coopération Economique pour la Méditerranée et l’Orient. Looking to 2012, the CMI will have to respond to strategic, substantive, and managerial challenges. As foreseen in our founding documents, we commissioned an independent assessment in advance of our 2011 annual meeting. The results of that assessment are discussed in this report. Meanwhile our Oversight Committee and Strategic Council have advised that we take time to stake our path. 

As the CMI continues to evolve in response to the Arab Spring, we must ask how we can leverage in our work the reality of integration—in other words, the commitment and concerted action of stakeholders from both the southern and northern rims of the Mediterranean. While the details of the CMI’s activities and programs vary, the common thread is that the Center is closely attuned to the demands of our time and steadfast in our commitment to dialogue, learning, and support for well-informed decision making. 

The Annual Meeting will give us the mandate to create a CMI 2.0 responding to the new demands of the people of the region.

Mats Karlsson, Directeur du CMI
Mats Karlsson, Directeur du CMI

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