In his opening remarks, H.E. Dr. Darwish thanked the OECD Secretariat for its commitment to the MENA region, and expressed his gratitude to the Arab countries for their participation in the MENA-OECD Initiative. He further emphasized the value of cooperation among the countries for implementation of policy through regional dialogue, peer advice, monitoring tools and long term cooperation with the OECD.
Shedding light on the important steps that the MENA-OECD Initiative has taken since its launch nearly four years ago, Ambassador Hoornaert of Belgium referred to the OECD as a school in which peers learn from each other and build on their experiences through mutual understanding and multilateral cooperation and underlined that the MENA programme shares this method with Arab countries.
Ambassador Narbona Ruiz of Spain also spoke highly of the GfD Initiative, stating that building new international governance based on equity and transparency, with the need for fostering gender equality and respecting climate change through stronger partnerships, are all challenges that need to be overcome in the region.
Mr. Alter of the OECD thanked the Belgian and Spanish ambassadors to the OECD, for their hard work and highlighted their contribution to the success of the Initiative, which is an important priority for the global relations strategy of the OECD. He emphasized that since its launch; the Initiative has created a culture of cooperation, bringing together hundreds of policymakers from OECD and MENA countries in order to discuss public governance policies.
Steering Group of the Governance Programme:
Programme of Work: On the basis of previous achievements, the Steering Group discussed the main orientations for the future Programme of Work of the Initiative. These future programme activities will be formulated as a strategic response to the main governance challenges that the MENA and OECD countries are facing. In preparation of this strategy, the Working Groups have been successful in promoting the extension of Joint Learning Study Mechanisms, extending the thematic scope of the Initiative to the cross-cutting issues such as gender, civil society, environment and territorial governance, as well as the launching of the first activities of the regional centers.
Ministerial Conference: The Governance Steering Group Meeting was of particular significance, for the participants were able to draw attention to the strategic importance of the upcoming Ministerial Conference. The Steering Group had the opportunity to analyse the conclusions of the regional Working Group activities of 2009 in depth, particularly the impact of the global economic situation, and discussed ways to integrate these conclusions into the documentation for the Ministerial discussions in Marrakech. As input for these Ministerial discussions, the OECD Secretariat also presented the Progress Report on Public Governance Reform in Arab Countries, put together in collaboration with Arab countries as a large set of analysed good practices and successful experiences of recent public governance reforms. The Steering Group welcomed the Report for its usefulness in reform and providing policy-makers with specific information on practices and policy tools in the main areas of public governance and future action.
The Steering Group also contributed to the definition of the contents of the two events that will take place in Marrakech: MENA-OECD Ministerial Conference and 2009 Governance Forum, as well as draft Ministerial Declaration, both events and the draft Declaration received strong support from the participants.
Initiative chairmanship: The Steering Group also recognized the success accomplished by Egypt in its chairmanship of the Initiative during the past three years. The Steering Group endorsed the principle of rotation of chairmanship in order to allow other Arab countries to take the responsibility of leading this regional programme. Having expressed its willingness to accept this important duty, Morocco was endorsed by the Steering Group as the new Chair of the Programme but is yet to be officially approved at the Ministerial Conference in Marrakech.
Participation of Member Countries: Along with the MENA countries, a number of OECD member states were also present, including: Canada, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Sweden, Norway, and the United States. Italy was particularly active in discussions, drawing the participants’ attention to the value of the Initiative as powerful tools to evidence-based capacity building in Arab countries and the future possibilities of e-learning, the thematic Working Group of which Italy is currently Co-Chair. The Swedish representative underlined the progress achieved in addressing the gender issue within the Initiative and encouraged the implementation of the Programme of Work presented by the Gender Focus Group.