WEF Blogging | Curtain Call & Final Thoughts

الإثنين 21 أيار 2007

The World Economic Forum has come to an end and it has been quite the extraordinary experience for me personally, specifically with being able to blog live via 7iber.

I ran around asking a series of various questions to a variety of powerful people these past three days, the essential question being: “what does this benefit the average Jordanian?”. I have to say the reactions to this questions usually came with an “oh not this again” kind of sigh; it was pretty much the same question every Jordanian journalist or writer had been asking. There was however a point on the ride back home when I was contemplating this question and what it means to ask or even answer it.

It was, as I concluded, almost a bit selfish to assume that an international conference addressing major regional issues and having some of the biggest players in the neighborhood in the same room, would essentially boil down to “what does this do for me” or “what about Jordan”. Fadi Ghandour almost took off my head when answering the question as he told me if you want to see the immediate effect on the average Jordanian look at how many were put to work just to make these last three days happen. From security to public relations to various IT companies to cleaning to hosting, etc etc. But what he was really getting at was two things: this is not a Jordanian thing and it is not designed to bring immediate solutions. It shouldn’t be seen in this light to begin with. Thinking about it along these terms is to delude oneself.

It is absurd to think for even a second that such a forum is going to change much and in fact when it comes back to the shores of the Dead Sea two years from now, I suspect those same issues will be discussed, the same problems will be mentioned and the same solutions will be offered. BUT some things will have gotten better. I have to emphasize that point for a moment. Do not be fooled for a second that the participants of this forum did not take anything away with them because here is where such a thing does matter for the average Jordanian and/or Arab.

Conversations that change the world take place in such forums. Sheik Makhtoum talked endlessly about how we think or rather how we’re not thinking and this was an issue, under the framework of education and our youth, that dominated the forum and was backed up with a $10billion announcement.

I would argue that attitudes changed from previous meetings as many participants and people noted to me personally. Issues such as Corporate Social Responsibility are becoming essential centerpieces to economic development. When it was first introduced everyone wondered why would a profit-seeking corporation want anything to do with helping its people when it doesn’t benefit anything directly. Since then attitudes have shifted. There was an awareness in the tone of many of these business leaders that there is a need for CSR; that shaping their own society will in the long run help them as businesses. Complaining to the government about how poorly educated the workforce is has no longer become an option for a region that is struggling to employee efficient Arab workers. CSR is now seen as an investment by the business community in order to reap its benefits in the long run, which realistically speaking is not very long.

So I would have to say that the way CSR was approached during the forum was something that will no doubt manifest itself in practical terms in the very near future.

These, and many other such issues, are what will make all the difference to the average Jordanian and to the average Arab. From deals that were struck to announcements that were made, to contacts and networks that were established and conversations that took place; it matters.

This is to say nothing of how such a forum puts Jordanian businesses on the world stage with the much bigger fish in the sea. The amount of exposure Jordan receives from a mere three days has no real dollar value. And this also extends to the many young people from INJAZ students to Jordan Youth who were in attendance of the many sessions and did not hesitate to pose questions to some of the region’s leaders as well as world leaders. Their presence did not go unfelt, unseen or unheard.

I should note here at the end, that these are the impressions of merely one citizen and I am sure others see the WEF in a different light and have their own opinion on the event and its outcome. Or at least I hope they do, otherwise we would be living in quite a monochromatic world.

I leave you with this video that was presented during the closing session of the World Economic Forum:

Photos used in this post are courtesy of the World Economic Forum