On Tuesday February 16 Silatech and SPARK kicked off a 2-day Expert Meeting on ENTREPRENEURSHIP FOR STABILITY IN THE MENA REGION in Doha. Dutch Ambassador Yvette Burghgraef – van Eechoud welcomed special guests from Turkey, Syria, Somalia, Yemen, Qatar and many other countries from the region in her residency. The Main question addressed was: How to create economic opportunities for refugees and IPD’s in the region?
The Arab region is experiencing unprecedented instability with ongoing conflicts and political upheaval affecting multiple countries. Over the past five years, 9 of the 22 countries of the Arab region have experienced significant conflict. As a result, while the region contains 5% of the world’s population, it has close to 40% of the world’s forcibly displaced population, or 16 million people (UNHCR 2013). Adding to this fragile situation is the marked increase in incidents of violent extremism perpetrated by non-state actors. Given this backdrop the focus of this expert meeting will be on the role enterprise can play in increasing economic opportunities for refugees and IDP’s, creating sustainable economic growth and reducing the allure of violent activities (including criminal gangs, piracy and violent extremist movements).
Opportunities and obstacles
The programme included plenary sessions such as ‘Creating Economic Opportunities in Crisis Situations’, ‘The Plight of Refugees’, and ‘Winning the Peace.’ There were also breakout sessions on ‘Entrepreneurship Programming’ and ‘Coalition Building.’ Case stories were presented by guest speakers from Turkey, Syria, Yemen and Somalia. The full programme is available here: Spark Programme
During the meeting many urgent issues where discussed. Technology was highlighted as a current industry which can be utilized to increasingly address and solve some pressing needs of the refugee community. Multi-stakeholder collaboration was also emphasized throughout along with the importance of including all actors such as academia, religious leaders, local organizations, entrepreneurs, refugees and IDPs themselves. Also on the table were discussions on legislative restrictions which can usually hinder any progress in granting access for refugees and IDPs to the work force, especially in Lebanon and Jordan.
In due time, a larger report about this expert meeting in Doha will be published online.
Around 20 guests attended this expert meeting, among others from UNHCR, Syrian Economic Forum, Qatar Red Crescent, TAMSS (Tunesia), Innovate (Somalia), ILO and Resonate (Yemen).
SPARK expert meetings since 2013
Since 2013, together with a wide spectrum of international partners SPARK has been organising a series of expert meetings around the world, designed to deepen understanding of entrepreneurship development in fragile states and help develop better tools to support entrepreneurship opportunities in fragile and conflict affected environments. The event in Doha was the 8th Expert Meeting in this series; it took place under the patronage of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.