AIWF hosts high-level Special Reception in Beirut honouring Saroj Kumar Jha, Regional Director of the Mashreq Region, the World Bank

AIWF hosts high-level Special Reception in Beirut honouring Saroj Kumar Jha, Regional Director of the Mashreq Region, the World Bank 10 July 2018

The AIWF Special Reception in Lebanon examined critical economic reform programmes announced at the recent CEDRE Conference held in Paris with a focus on enhancing economic opportunities and prosperity for women and youth in Lebanon

The Arab International Women’s Forum (AIWF) held a Special Reception on Tuesday 10 July 2018 in Beirut in honour of Saroj Kumar Jha, Regional Director of the Mashreq Region, The World Bank. The Special Reception was held at the Beirut offices of and with the valued partnership of the Fattal Group, and with the valued support of AIWF Global Partner PwC Middle East.

AIWF was proud to welcome senior members, partners, guests and high-level Lebanese and MENA business leaders and civil society to the Reception, during which Mr Jha delivered a special address as the evening’s Guest of Honour Keynote Speaker, sharing timely and valuable insight into the World Bank’s much-needed initiatives and projects to revitalise Lebanon’s infrastructure and development. The focus of the evening’s programme was on enhancing economic growth and opportunities for young people in Lebanon, highlighting the World Bank’s lead role in implementing critical economic reform and investment programmes as announced at the Cedar (CEDRE) Conference for international donors and investors supporting Lebanon’s economy, held in Paris on April 6, 2018.

At the CEDRE Conference, 50 countries and organisations including the World Bank and the IMF convened and pledged over $11 billion to an investment programme to reform the Lebanese economy, overhaul infrastructure and boost economic growth. This figure includes over $4 billion in loans from the World Bank and $1.1 billion from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, and signals the start of a new drive to modernize the Lebanese economy and enhance the potential of the private sector. Crucially, this investment is expected to provide tens of thousands of job opportunities for Lebanese youth, with investments supporting over 250 projects in sectors including transport, water and irrigation, sewage, electricity, communications and tourism.

Mr Jha’s remarks on behalf of the World Bank highlighting its outreach to support a greater role for women in the economy were especially well received and much appreciated by all. AIWF deeply appreciated Mr Jha’s kind endorsement of the mission of AIWF and its longstanding relationship with the World Bank as a key partner in enhancing economic opportunities and social development for women and young people.

“Since the turn of the century, MENA region has made significant gains in women’s access to education and health. But their access to economic opportunities remains a persistent challenge,” Saroj Kumar Jha, World Bank Regional Director for the Mashreq, said in his keynote statement. “Approximately four out of five working-age females in MENA are out of the labor force. The average of working women stands at 22 percent, which substantially lower than the global average of 46 percent. The World Bank is committed to address this imbalance through clear objectives at the onset of projects that ensure the creation of economic opportunities for women,” he added.

Haifa Fahoum Al Kaylani, Founder & Chairman of AIWF, said: “AIWF is proud to have had this very special opportunity to welcome Lebanese leaders in business, in public life and from civil society to the AIWF Special Reception held in honour of the World Bank’s Regional Director for the Mashreq in Beirut. The Reception brought into focus the key initiatives the World Bank is undertaking in Lebanon to foster growth, development, and job creation for all. Importantly, the focus of the evening was on how economic reform measures announced at CEDRE in April 2018 can be leveraged to create progress and opportunities for women and young people, who should not only be given a voice to participate fully in the development of a new economic future for Lebanon but must be the prime beneficiaries of enhanced economic and social prosperity and the unprecedented opportunities that result from much-needed reform and investment initiatives.”

The evening was a resounding success for AIWF and was attended by over 100 guests  representing a diverse range of private sector, governmental and non-profit organisations including the Ministry of Finance; American University of Beirut; Credit Libanais; Berytech; Lebanese Council for Women Affairs; World Bank Lebanon; PwC Lebanon; Global Compact Network Lebanon; The Peace and Prosperity Trust; US Embassy Beirut; Ministry of Justice Lebanon; International Labour Organization; BBC; Institute for Women’s Studies in the Arab World (IWSAW); Union of Arab Chambers; Institute for Human Rights of the Beirut Bar Association; and Unilever Levant, among many others. Expressions of thanks and appreciation for the event were voiced by many of the guests attending.

Since its inception in 2001, AIWF has received the World Bank’s continued and much valued support and cooperation in its mission to support a greater role for women in the Arab region. The close link between AIWF and the World Bank goes back over a decade when the World Bank first extended a generous welcome to AIWF in hosting a major AIWF Annual Conference, Partners for Change: Realizing the Potential of Arab Women in the Private and Public Sector in Washington DC in 2008, with the support of former World Bank President Robert Zoellick who opened the conference with a keynote address.

In 2017, the World Bank supported AIWF’s Young Arab Women Leaders 10th conference in a highly successful and long-running series designed to support young women entrepreneurs, educators and executives, focused on ‘Women-Led Innovation in STEM’ and held at the Royal Academy of Engineering in London. In September 2018, AIWF is proud to be partnering with the Center for Mediterranean Integration to deliver a high-level conference in Amman on Women, Water & Youth, a milestone in AIWF’s 17-year advocacy for sustainable empowerment, economic opportunity, education, mobility and prosperity for women and young people in the Arab world taking an intersectional approach to three key development challenges in the region – water scarcity, women’s economic participation, and youth unemployment.

AIWF is proud to have worked so successfully with the Fattal Group in Lebanon for many years and to have had its valued support for the first Reception held in Beirut in September 2014 as well as in the organisation for Tuesday’s second high-level Reception. AIWF is also proud to have had the support for this event of AIWF Global Partner PwC, which has worked in longstanding partnership with AIWF to make a positive difference for Arab and international women in business and the professions, towards the joint mission of empowering and enabling women and young people to contribute to and share in the economic growth and development of the MENA region.

The generous and ongoing partnership of the World Bank on AIWF initiatives to empower women and young people in the MENA region and internationally is deeply appreciated and AIWF very much looks forward to working again with the outstanding World Bank team in Beirut in the future to leverage AIWF’s network of Lebanese business leaders in support of the World Bank’s mission and strategy in Lebanon. The AIWF Board reiterates its thanks to all partners and guests for their kind support of AIWF’s work and mission following July’s highly successful Reception, another key milestone in the longstanding AIWF-World Bank partnership.