Second-annual flagship MENA Forum from the sidelines of UNGA

Second-annual flagship MENA Forum from the sidelines of UNGA


‘Exploring MENA’s role in driving resilience through Sustainability’ was in the second-annual flagship MENA Forum from the sidelines of UNGA which was debated as described here below.

.The above featured image is for illustration


SRMG Think and the Middle East Institute co-host second-annual flagship MENA Forum from the sidelines of UNGA




Convening on the sidelines of the 78th Session of the UN General Assembly, the second edition of MENA Forum goes beyond the headlines to provide unparalleled insights through the lens of MENA’s leading figures and thinkers

The distinguished panelists and moderators include senior ministers from Egypt, Jordan, United Arab Emirates, Turkey and Qatar as well as diplomats, leading experts and private sector decision-makers

MENA Forum 2023 will be livestreamed and will be available to watch here from 09:40AM EST on 22nd September

To coincide with the Forum, SRMG Think Research & Advisory publishes ‘MENA Forum Report: the case for cooperation beyond de-escalation’, providing a complementary examination of MENA’s potential for fostering regional collaboration across geopolitics, economics, and energy

New York – SRMG Think Research and Advisory (SRMG Think), an independent research and strategic advisory firm focused on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), is pleased to announce the second edition of its flagship annual MENA Forum, providing a global platform to showcase the region’s growing role in contributing innovative solutions to address important issues impacting the world today. Hosted in partnership with non-partisan think tank, the Middle East Institute (MEI), MENA Forum 2023 will convene on the sidelines of the 78th session of the UN General Assembly (UNGA) in New York on Friday, September 22nd.

SRMG Think’s mission is to bridge the knowledge gap by offering data-driven, fact-based analysis and insights on the MENA region. Its dedicated team of leading experts and analysts serves as a trusted source for governments, businesses and NGOs seeking to better understand and navigate the region. The MENA Forum represents how SRMG Think utilizes its experienced team and global network to foster dialogue, promote understanding and offer fresh perspectives on a region undergoing significant transformation.

The exclusive one-day policy forum will explore topics at the heart of the global conversation as world leaders and policy-makers gather to discuss global priorities during UNGA’s high-level week. The Forum’s theme “MENA: Reinforcing Global Resilience Through Sustainability” will facilitate constructive dialogue examining the ways in which MENA can work with the international community to develop sustainable, long-term solutions to critical regional challenges. It will also provide a unique lens on how the region is evolving into a dynamic hub driving new trends and contributing to the global agenda.

As the MENA region assumes a greater leadership role on the world stage, the Forum will deliver unparalleled insights and address the region’s pivotal role in the energy transition, global peace and stability efforts, and economic sustainability. The Forum will similarly explore how enhanced cooperation among key regional players is fostering sustainable development and stability.

The Forum will provide a collaborative environment for a diverse range of regional policy-makers, diplomats, leading experts and private sector decision-makers to deliver distinct perspectives through eight high-level keynotes, talks and panels. This year’s participants include Her Excellency Rania Al Mashat, Minister of International Cooperation, and Governor for the World Bank, European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the African Development Bank, and other international institutions, Arab Republic of Egypt; His Excellency Dr. Ayman Al Safadi, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Expatriates, Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan; Her Excellency Mariam Almheiri, Minister of Climate Change and Environment, United Arab Emirates; Ahmet Yıldız, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Republic of Türkiye; His Excellency Dr. Majed Al Ansari, Advisor to the Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Spokesperson, State of Qatar; Timothy Lenderking, U.S. Special Envoy for Yemen, United States Department of State; Dr. Amer Bisat, Managing Director and Global Head of Emerging Markets, BlackRock; and Dr. Sara Vakhshouri, Founder and President, SVB Energy International, among others.

Neil Quilliam, Director of Energy, SRMG Think, said: “As MENA continues to achieve its development aspirations and evolves into an engine for global growth, it has become increasingly important for governments, businesses and decision-makers to understand the region. However, there is currently a lack of actionable insights that these entities and individuals can rely on. In light of this, a MENA-focused UNGA side event, featuring invaluable perspectives from the region, is more crucial than ever. The MENA Forum fosters open and frank discussions on the economic, political, and environmental challenges and opportunities present in MENA through the lens of regional leaders and the brightest thinkers. SRMG Think’s mission is to provide independent research and advisory and this event, co-hosted with MEI, demonstrates how our deep regional and global network provides a roadmap to navigate a rapidly evolving region.”

Paul Salem, President and CEO, Middle East Institute, said“MEI is proud to collaborate with SRMG Think on this year’s MENA Forum. As the world confronts challenges around energy transition, climate change, economic diversification, trade, and human security, the MENA region remains a focal point where all of these complex dynamics converge. It is critical to bring leaders and policy practitioners from the region to engage with the international community in order to build on common interests and opportunities for a better global future.”

Think Research – ‘MENA Forum Report: the case for cooperation beyond de-escalation’

This research report complements MENA Forum 2023’s dialogue concerning the evolving dynamics within the MENA region. The report explores MENA’s potential for promoting regional cooperation and contends that the de-escalation of tensions in the region has opened a window of opportunity for states to collaborate on pressing, shared issues in three key areas: geopolitics and security, economics, and energy. However, the report underscores that while factors such as the rapprochement between Saudi Arabia and Iran have helped create an opening for regional states to cooperate, this time-limited opportunity must be seized now to boost long-term stability and support energy transition.

  • Geopolitics and Security: The shift towards multipolarity in the global order, driven by factors such as rising great power competition between the United States and China, and the reprioritization of US interests towards the Indo-Pacific, has allowed ‘middle powers’ in the MENA region to rise in importance. MENA countries are responding to global power shifts by pursuing de-escalation and greater intra-regional cooperation. Factors motivating this shift include both the ‘great power’ competition, the Iranian threat, and the need for economic sustainability. As a result, the region is acting as a bridge in an increasingly fragmented global political order and MENA states have also adjusted their approaches towards each other on issues such as regional security, investment and financial aid, and trade relations. However, the report emphasizes that the progress made in de-escalation and regional cooperation must be fortified by more robust foundations to ensure its endurance.
  • Economics: MENA’s economic performance is divided into two contrasting regions: high-income GCC countries and middle-to-low-income economies. This disparity has been exacerbated as high oil prices have supported GCC growth and economic diversification. Oil revenues for GCC countries amounted to more than US$570 billion in 2022 (Saudi: US$311 billion, the UAE: US$119 billion, Kuwait: US$98 billion, and Oman: US$42.9 billion). While lower-income nations in the region grapple with high public debt levels, and difficulties accessing capital markets, GCC countries, buoyed by high oil prices, are advancing robustly with their economic diversification policies, offering the prospect of financial support to their lower-income neighbors. However, the GCC’s new investment strategy focuses on profitable investments and attaches conditions for financial support, including often painful IMF reforms. The GCC’s change in approach from delivering financial aid to MENA countries to focusing on strategic investments that deliver financial returns reflects their aim to secure and grow their wealth – in full recognition of the eventual shift away from hydrocarbons – while still influencing regional development and underpinning stability. This approach provides a newfound opportunity for lower-income MENA countries to implement structural reforms for positive economic development.
  • Energy: As the MENA region embarks on a journey to redefine its energy landscape, it confronts a series of challenges from rising energy demands to the urgent need for integrating renewable resources into existing infrastructural setups. The technical and financial requirements of these increasingly complex energy systems require regional collaboration on multiple fronts: in electricity grid interconnections and exchange markets and cross-border renewable energy investments, and in knowledge and technology sharing. The abundant yet unevenly dispersed renewable energy resources in the region which sees varying levels of wind and solar resources for instance, further underscores the need for a strategy rooted in cross-border collaboration to achieve ambitious energy targets. Both the ambitious strides towards energy diversification and the region’s extreme vulnerability to the impacts of climate change mean that this collaboration is increasingly essential.

The report finds that MENA is at a critical juncture and must capitalize on the current momentum and lay the foundations for the long-term cooperation in geopolitics, economics, and energy that is essential for addressing common challenges and mutual gain in the region.

About SRMG Think Research and Advisory:

SRMG Think Research and Advisory is an independent research and strategic advisory firm focused on the MENA region, helping entities navigate a complex global landscape and support decision-makers with unique insights and data. The firm’s leading advisory industry talent, comprising experts and analysts from top institutions, such as the United Nations, the World Bank and Chatham House, has a deep understanding of the region, which Think leverages for its strong suite of services providing unique insights, analysis, and evidence-based views in the areas of energy, geopolitics, macroeconomics, and media. Think’s deep regional knowledge is further bolstered by being a firm born out of the Saudi Research and Media Group (SRMG), the largest integrated media group from the MENA region, with a 50+-year legacy of independent coverage on the MENA region.

For more information, please visit: and

About the Middle East Institute:

Founded in 1946, the Middle East Institute is the oldest Washington-based institution dedicated solely to the study of the Middle East. MEI has earned a reputation as an unbiased source of information and analysis on this critical region of the world, a reputation it has meticulously safeguarded since its creation. Today, MEI remains a respected, non-partisan voice in the field of Middle East studies.





Stop Categorizing North Africa With Middle East

Stop Categorizing North Africa With Middle East

Stop Categorizing North Africa With Middle East, advises PeacePro telling Global Peace Index it diminishes the chances of Africa being seen as one continent. So here is the argument.

Stop Categorizing North Africa With Middle East – PeacePro Tells Global Peace Index

…Says MENA categorization makes it difficult to see Africa as one continent

A peacebuilding think tank in Nigeria on the aegis of ‘Foundation for Peace Professionals’ also known as PeacePro has urged global bodies, academic institutions and research groups to stop categorizing North African countries with the Middle East under the acronym of MENA  Middle East and North Africa).

PeacePro noted that such conflicting categorization by global bodies such as the World Bank, World Health Organization and others was creating none existing barrier between North African countries and the rest of Africa, thereby making it difficult to see Africa as one and to create social, economic and psychological integration in the continent.

Executive Director of PeacePro, Mr Abdulrazaq Hamzat, who stated these while engaging Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP), the producer of global peace index on popular social media platform Twitter, questioned the rationale for using such categorization in the global peace index report.

Hamzat said; “Why is Africa usually divided into 2 on the global peace index report? This division has consistently raised questions in our sessions at Foundation for Peace Professionals (PeacePro)”.

The IEP ambassador also said that his organization is currently working on an African based enlightenment report, which is an extract from the global peace index, to create further awareness on GPI report and the extraction of North Africa to Middle East in the Global Peace Index report has been a major point of contention, making it difficult to visualize Africa as one continent, with its data scattered across different regions.

Responding to Hamzat’s inquiry on Twitter, IEP Global Peace Index noted that, for regional analysis, IEP splits Africa into sub-Saharan Africa and MENA, adding that it was consistent with the World Bank grouping.

However, Hamzat stressed that even though, it was consistent with other categorization including that of the World Bank, Peacepro was yet to understand the rationale for such categorization thus, open for enlightenment on the subject.

Hamzat further said that it was important to note that, in politics and academia, North African countries are commonly grouped with the Middle East under the umbrella of MENA, a development which has been questioned by many people, including in North Africa.

As a regional identifier, MENA is often used in academia, military planning, disaster relief, media planning (as a broadcast region) and business writing.

However, Hamzat noted that there was no MENA region amongst the United Nations Regional Groups, nor in the United Nations geoscheme used by the UNSD.



Prioritising water and food security in smart City Development


We all know technology could turn one of the greatest challenges of today into one of the greatest opportunities for sustainable socio-economic development to maintain economic progress while dramatically reducing emissions, but beyond Tech: Prioritising water and food security in smart City Development would be a must, especially in certain regions of the globe.

The image above is credited to the Gulf Times


Beyond Tech: Prioritising water and food security in smart City Development

Female Farm Worker Using Digital Tablet With Virtual Reality Artificial Intelligence (AI) for Analyzing Plant Disease in Sugarcane Agriculture Fields. Technology Smart Farming and Innovation Agricultural Concepts. Image used for illustrative purpose. Getty Images

Dake Rechsand’s Chandra Dake examines why water and food security networks are equally essential for the smart cities of the future.

Smart city projects dominate the development vision of economies across the world. In the Middle East, such developments are gaining momentum by the day. Therefore, a future where the word “smart” prefixes every city in the developing world is not too far away. However, at this juncture, the question remains: What are smart cities beyond their obvious technological underpinnings?

By definition, smart cities are urban centres where infrastructure, such as power grids, water utilities, and traffic control, is connected via different information and communication technologies (ICT). In the Middle East, smart city developments must prioritise food and water networks due to long-standing scarcities. Due to systemic challenges, including but not limited to an arid climate, high soil salinity, unreliable rainfall, and desert conditions, the region has not made progress toward sustainable water and food security.

Systems thinking approach to food security

Food scarcity has many causal factors as well as consequences. In the regional context, it has led to a trade deficit, with nearly 90 percent of food being imported. Such supply-chain dependencies are not sustainable in the long run. While the obvious solution is local food production through agriculture, it is anything but easy due to desert conditions, soil salinity, and water scarcity, among other detriments. This complex situation calls for a “systems thinking” approach.

Systems thinking posits a multidimensional assessment of a problem, as well as a strong focus on how various constituents interrelate. For example, due to soil salinity, local food production requires excessive irrigation, which further aggravates existing water scarcity. The adoption of smart agriculture technologies (AgriTech), such as irrigation sensors and precision farming, carries merit. However, their impact is limited to increased efficiency in irrigation and yield measurement; they cannot address systemic challenges such as soil salinity.

Water-retentive mediums such as ‘Breathable Sand’ make a compelling case here. Through its permeability, it ensures effective nutrient supply to the roots, leading to optimal yield with nearly 80 percent less water usage. Combined with smart AgriTech, such solutions can enhance food security without compromising water goals, characteristic of systems thinking. Concurrently, smart cities, through the effective use of sensors and networks, must make provision for a reduction in water usage, reuse, and recycling.

Sponginess adds to smartness in cities

As part of smart city projects, developers can implement Sponge City solutions like ‘IDer’ across public areas. In application, they absorb rainfall runoffs, keep surfaces free from waterlogging and skidding, and even filter and store the water in underground reservoirs. The harvested water can enhance the city’s water security, as well as supercharge its agriculture-led food security efforts. Instead of traditional carbon-intensive techniques, such as the construction of canals and sewers, urban master planners can explore Sponge Cities to address flooding incidents associated with increasing rainfall.

Thanks to smart cities’ ICT capabilities, stakeholders can effectively measure the positive outcomes. The “measurability” is paramount because, in the short term, it enables regional economies to show accountability and transparency in key conventions such as COP28 and, in the long term, helps stay on track to achieving ambitious goals like net-zero emissions.

The bottom line is that the standalone capabilities of ICT in smart cities need on-the-ground, practical solutions to contribute to sustainable development goals.


Chandra Dake is the Executive Chairman and Group CEO of the Dake Group. 





Global economic uncertainty means oil prices will continue to surprise


Global economic uncertainty means oil prices – and your fuel bill – will continue to surprise us all this year.  Let us hear what Carole Nakhle says about it.

The image above is on Oil price uncertainty. Holmes Su/Shutterstock


Global economic uncertainty means oil prices – and your fuel bill – will continue to surprise this year

By Carole Nakhle, University of Surrey

Oil prices have confounded expectations in the first quarter of 2023. Brent – a major global benchmark – hit a low of US$72 (£58) a barrel on March 17, while the world’s other main benchmark, WTI, dropped to less than US$66 a barrel. This is a far cry from the nearly US$114 and US$103 a barrel, respectively, reached on the same day a year before following the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, a major oil producer.

These unexpectedly low prices remain even as the war in Ukraine continues with no clear end in sight. Other developments have also failed to boost prices as expected. China, the world’s largest importer of crude oil, abandoned its zero-COVID policy in December 2022, creating expectations that Chinese oil demand would quickly return with a vengeance, propelling prices higher. A couple of months before this, OPEC+ (the cartel of certain oil-producing nations) had announced a production cut of 2 million barrels a day (mb/d) – roughly 2% of world supply and the largest cut since 2020.

A surprise announcement of 1.1 mb/d of cuts by OPEC+ on April 2 did boost prices. On top of a 0.5 mb/d decrease announced by Russia in February, this has brought the group’s cuts to 1.6 mb/d. And by mid-April Brent reached US$86 and WTI US$83 per barrel.

But oil has now started to retreat again, an unexpected development during a war involving a major oil exporter, and at a time when a giant consumer like China is reopening after three years of economic isolation.

This shows that oil price forecasts continue to be unreliable. The economic outlook and Chinese consumption growth are key to demand expectations, while Russia is the wild card in terms of supply. Until uncertainty around these three factors dissipates, global oil markets will not have a clear direction.

Oil price movements:

US Energy Information Administration, Bloomberg, Author provided

Economic outlook

Oil demand is closely linked to economic growth because a slowing economy shrinks income, leading people to curtail expenditure and travel less, and slowing down manufacturing that uses oil. Various economic forecasts have recently highlighted the major challenges facing the global economy, but widely prevailing uncertainty seems to top the list.

In its April 2023 World Economic Outlook, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) emphasised a high level of uncertainty “amid financial sector turmoil, high inflation, ongoing effects of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and three years of COVID”.

The World Bank has also warned that “a lost decade could be in the making for the global economy” as “nearly all the economic forces that powered progress and prosperity over the last three decades are fading”.

April’s OPEC+ Monthly Oil Market Report kept its forecast for economic growth and oil demand largely unchanged from previous reports, but said: “The global economy will continue to navigate through challenges including high inflation, higher interest rates particularly in the Eurozone and the US, and high debt levels in many regions.” It stated that “these uncertainties surrounding current oil market dynamics” were behind its decision to cut production.

Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman Al Saud (centre), minister of energy, industry and mineral resources of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, speaks at an OPEC press conference in Vienna, Austria, October 5 2022. Christian Bruna/EPA-EFE

The China factor

China is the world’s second-largest oil consumer and the second-largest economy after the US. So all eyes have been on its oil demand since the country ended the nearly three-year zero-COVID policy that severely restricted its peoples’ mobility and economic activity.

Today, it is the main bullish factor in many global economic forecasts. The IMF’s managing director recently said:

China this year is going to contribute about one-third of global [economic] growth. We calculated that 1% more growth in China translates into 0.3% more growth for the economies that are connected to China.

The IEA believes China will account for half of the global increase in oil demand this year. Goldman Sachs expects China’s oil demand growth to boost Brent by roughly US$15 per barrel.

However, such enthusiasm is not universally shared. A Citibank report says China’s post-COVID recovery seems slower than expected. Being an export-driven economy, the Asian powerhouse is exposed to the health of the rest of the world. A weakening global economy will reduce demand for Chinese exports, with negative repercussions on its economy and therefore oil demand.

Similarly, China’s National Bureau of Statistics said “the external environment is even more complex, inadequate demand remains prominent and the foundation for economic recovery is not solid yet”. Or, as the Saudi energy minister reportedly said when asked about an oil demand rebound recently: “I’ll believe it when I see it.”

Russia: not done yet

As a major oil producer and exporter, Russia also has a massive influence on global oil markets. Despite sanctions since the beginning of the war in Ukraine (and following the annexation of Crimea in 2014), Russia continues to be the world’s third-largest oil producer after the US and Saudi Arabia.

When Russia invaded Ukraine, oil prices spiked due to fears of a loss of Russian supply. The IEA warned the resulting 3 mb/d loss (around one-third of Russia’s total and almost 3% of world production) could produce “the biggest supply crisis in decades”. Analysts from investment bank JP Morgan said Russia could cut up to 5 mb/d of production driving global oil prices to a “stratospheric” US$380 per barrel.

Such gloomy scenarios did not materialise. Russian oil continued to flow but changed direction from Europe to Asia, helping to ease price pressure for consumers everywhere. And Russia’s cuts in retaliation for sanctions have so far been smaller than expected. Of course, it could cut more, especially if this would put more economic pressure on the west and affect support for Ukraine.

This cocktail of uncertainties should encourage a more cautious stance when it comes to predicting oil prices, this year at least. Some analysts have already reduced their 2023 price forecasts, with estimates varying between US$81 and US$100 a barrel.

Expect more revisions. As one study that tracked the evolution of oil prices over four decades said: “all price expectations are subject to error”.

Carole Nakhle, Energy Economist, University of Surrey

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.


Call for applications to finance projects in 7 Mediterranean countries


Call for applications to finance projects in 7 Mediterranean countries


Green Economy: UfM launches call for applications to finance projects in 7 Mediterranean countries

The above image is of UfM

(TAP) – On 16/03/2023, TUNIS/Tunisia. The Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) launched a call for applications to finance projects aimed at promoting employment and entrepreneurship in the green economy sector. The aim is to support the environmental transition of the economies of 7 Mediterranean countries, including Tunisia.


According to information published Thursday by the UfM, this call for applications is intended for NGOs working to support vulnerable populations disproportionately affected by the consequences of climate change and by the evolution of the socio-economic context.


Eligible for this call for applications are non-profit NGOs active in the field of environmental transition of economies in an inclusive manner and with respect for social justice. These NGOs must be based in Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Palestine or Tunisia, with priority given to regional projects. The deadline for applications is May 29, 2023.


The selected candidates will benefit from financial support ranging from 150,000 to 300,000 euros (which represents a sum varying between 500,000 and 1 million dinars) per project, as well as from the UfM’s technical expertise, which will give them greater visibility.


Funded by the UfM with the support of the German Development Cooperation (GIZ), on behalf of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation (AECID), this initiative, in its first edition, launched in 2020, helped 18,000 people, mainly young people and women, from seven UfM member states (Greece, Italy, Jordan, Lebanon, Malta, Morocco and Tunisia).

These projects address employment challenges in the areas of entrepreneurship, women’s empowerment, sustainable tourism, and education and research.

The green economy, as well as “green” jobs, are set to play a key role in the sustainable recovery of the Mediterranean region from the COVID-19 pandemic.