Special Meeting on Unlocking Resources for Regional Development 2014 .
(photo credit: BENEDIKT VON LOEBELL)
Participants called for a focus on youth employment to dampen the pull of Islamist groups and efforts at creating a “European Union” in the Middle East at a World Economic Forum event held in Istanbul.
The region needs 170 million jobs by 2020, asserted Tarek Sultan Al Essa, CEO and Vice Chairman of the Board of Agility, (a Kuwaiti logistics company) at the World Economic Forum on unlocking resources for regional development held on Sunday and Monday.
“If we can’t tackle this issue, we are going to be responsible for the largest talent pool for extremism,” said Essa, adding, “We spend too much time focusing on politics and not enough on addressing opportunity.”
The World Economic Forum, established in 1971, is a nonprofit international institution committed to improving the world through public-private cooperation.
Majid Jafar, the CEO of Crescent Petroleum, United Arab Emirates, said, “The only sustainable resource and driver of growth is our young people,” and the youth bulge in the region should be seen as an opportunity.
Afsin Yurdakul, the chief foreign editor at Haberturk TV in Turkey, said there was great potential for youth in the region and that sustainable growth is possible.
For his part, Ali Babacan, the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister, also responsible for economic and financial affairs, called for more integration in the region as a kind of “European Union,” which he predicted would lead to more peace and stability in the region.
“We want borders to be irrelevant in this region,” said Babacan, adding that Turkey has worked towards this by removing visa requirements and signing free trade agreements with countries in the region.
Turkey, under the leadership of the Islamist AK Party, seeks to expand its regional role, in what some experts have called a neo-Ottoman foreign policy.