Preparatory Meetings for Forum for the Future
New York, September 24, 2004
This meeting was co-chaired by U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell and Moroccan Foreign Minister Mohamed Ben Issa.
Today, two great communities, the nations of the Broader Middle East and North Africa, and the industrialized democracies of the G8 with other democratic partners, met in New York and took a determined step in building a historic partnership to advance political, economic, and social reform and progress in the region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa. The Foreign Ministers and Representatives of 24 governments today committed themselves to continue their dialogue and collaboration at the first meeting of the Forum for the Future in Morocco later this year.
The Forum for the Future will root these shared reform efforts in an open and enduring dialogue that responds to the needs of the region while respecting the unique character of each country. Ministers also reaffirmed that successful reform depends on the initiatives of the region. Through the Forum for the Future, foreign, economic, and other ministers will meet regularly to discuss and promote democratic, economic, and educational reforms throughout the Broader Middle East and North Africa. Today's meeting served as a valuable opportunity for countries to engage in a dialogue to develop the agenda for future actions, including the first Forum meeting.
Ministers expressed their support for the growing momentum for reform in the Broader Middle East and North Africa, as reflected in the statement issued at the Arab League Summit in Tunis, and also in recent reform declarations of business and civil society representatives, including those of Sanaa, Aqaba, Istanbul, Alexandria, and Beirut. They also recalled and reaffirmed the commitments made by the G8 countries at Sea Island which build on the G8 countries' already strong bilateral and collective engagement with the region and which are intended to expand and evolve over time.
United in their commitment to increase opportunities for every young person, every woman, and every man, the Ministers agreed to collaborate in their efforts and engage also in productive interactions with the business sector where vitally important new jobs are created and civil society, the open laboratory of ideas. Consistent with the spirit of the Arab League's Tunis declaration of May 23, 2004, which endorsed "the broadening of participation in political and public life and the reinforcement of the role of all components of civil society including the non-governmental organizations," Ministers heard from representatives of civil society and business from the Broader Middle East and North Africa and G8 countries. Business and civil society leaders will be the governments' partners in the Forum for the Future discussions.
Ministers confirmed their commitment to expand democratic institutions and practices and to undertake joint activities that will support reform efforts within the region. Yemen reported on behalf of Turkey and Italy on the three countries' leadership in organizing the Democracy Assistance Dialogue announced at Sea Island, an initiative to share experiences and best practices across the region. Ministers welcomed the announcement that the first meeting of the Dialogue would take place in Rome in November.
Ministers reaffirmed that their support for reform in the region will go hand in hand with their support for a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, based upon U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338. They reiterated their commitment to the full implementation of the Roadmap and to the goal of two states, Israel and a sovereign, independent, viable, democratic, and territorially contiguous Palestine, living side by side in peace and security, achieved through direct negotiations between the two sides.
Ministers noted that Finance Ministers were invited to convene on October 1, in Washington, to discuss the future economic work of the Forum. That meeting will also provide an opportunity to explore in greater detail market-oriented economic reforms, to encourage donors to contribute to the new IFC Facility with the goal of raising $100 million to support private sector development in the region, and to consider developing further communication and cooperation among development institutions in the region through a network of funds.
Government representatives discussed shared goals and challenges in the area of education. All participants agreed that ensuring access to education at all levels, especially for girls and women, is an important priority for the entire region. Similarly, participants unanimously endorsed efforts to create new opportunities for young people through training, including vocational training, and welcomed the region's leadership in developing the two regional centers for entrepreneurial excellence announced at Sea Island. Participants also reaffirmed their commitment to market-based economic reforms and their support for efforts to promote intra-regional trade and expand trade opportunities in global markets. They welcomed the establishment by the Consultative Group to Assist the Poor of the microfinance consultative group and the region's interest in and ideas on microfinance pilot programs. Participants expressed continued support for the investment task force being developed by business representatives from the region in consultation with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. Participants also agreed to encourage international development institutions to support the region's reform efforts.
Ministers agreed on the value of consultation, partnership, and joint action in all these areas to support the region's reform goals. The Forum for the Future will be the foundation for this partnership, a "dynamic process based on mutual respect," and will establish itself as a collaborative vehicle for expanding and deepening engagement in support of the reform efforts led by the governments and peoples of the region.
Accordingly, Ministers, with the participation of business and civil society, agreed to establish the Forum for the Future. They found it fitting to do so here in New York, during the annual assembly of the United Nations, where the global community of nations is meeting. Ministers are delighted to announce to colleagues gathered here from around the world that the Government of Morocco has been selected to prepare and host the first Forum for the Future later this year. Ministers also welcomed the offer by Egypt to host a meeting of the Foreign Ministers of G8 member states and members of the League of Arab States in January 2005. Ministers and their governments thank and congratulate the Government of Morocco, and pledge to do their utmost to participate and support Morocco in the planning activities and to ensure the long-term success of the Forum.