G20 Summit Should Tackle Economic Growth in the Middle East

The leaders of the most powerful countries in the world will meet next week at the annual G20 summit. A year and a half into the Arab Spring, and with faltering economies in North Africa threatening to erode much of what was achieved, these leaders must use this opportunity to seriously advance a strategy for regional economic growth and stability. Today, NDN released a press statement urging the G20 to undertake this urgent work on the sidelines of the Los Cabos Summit.

When the world’s largest economies meet in Los Cabos, Mexico next week for the G20 Summit, strategies to promote growth and development in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) should be an integral part of the conversation. A stable, prosperous, and globally integrated Middle East is in the interest of every one of the countries assembled at this meeting. When considering the realities of energy production, the decades of humanitarian turmoil, and the violence that has victimized the region and been exported to the West, the importance of effective transition becomes undeniable. The G20 must recognize that supporting economic growth and development will be the key to securing this long-term stability. While transitional MENA countries are not explicitly included in the Los Cabos agenda, the inclusion of “Economic stabilization and structural reforms as foundations for growth and employment” among the summit’s priorities offers an excellent framework for this discussion.

In May of this year, the G8 reaffirmed its support for the 2011 Deauville Partnership, a framework in which member states pledged financial and technical support to aid MENA transition countries in achieving short and long-term economic stabilization. While pledges and consultations are important first steps, there is much more to be done. In Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab spring, economic stagnation and sky-high unemployment threaten to reverse the hard-fought political gains of the last year and a half.

The critical issue of economic support for these new governments now demands the G20’s attention. With 40 percent of the MENA population under the age of 25, a group suffering from the highest unemployment rate in the world, a real strategy for economic reform and growth is essential. Without empowering this generation to build a real future for themselves, they will become susceptible to forces seeking to lock the region into continued cycles of violence and misery. Significant sideline meetings should be held during next week’s G20 aimed at aggressively confronting these challenges. The Los Cabos Summit is an opportunity to move beyond rhetorical statements and work toward concrete support mechanisms. Not a minute should be wasted.

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