The international guests of honor this year will include some current Heads of State and Government. The Forum will also feature other distinguished opinion leaders, eminent political thinkers, decision – makers and members of parliament, renowned businessmen, academics, media figures and international organizations. These participants will contribute to a free, learned and stimulating debate on each of the many topics on the Forum's agenda, with a focus on the Arab Spring, the global financial and economic crisis, International Cooperation, Global Economy, Development, Human Rights and Digital Media.
The 13th Doha Forum will be held at the Ritz Carlton Hotel in the State of Qatar from 20-22 May, 2013. It will be attended by more than 600 participants representing over 80 countries and organizations.
Doha, 20th May 2013:Arab countries should seize the initiative to invest in African countries where economies are growing despite major shifts in the world economy, Senegalese President MackySall said in the Qatari capital on Monday. While Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedhsaid Tunisia was on track to create a new democratic society despite the teething pains of the first years after a rebellion in 2011 that succeeded in ousting former ruler Zain Al-Abidine Ben Ali and set off the Arab Spring uprisings.
At the opening session of the 13th Doha Forum in Qatar, President Sall said, “The world today suffers from economic hardships as we see economies that were flourishing now shaken and we see the emergence of new geopolitical powers in an international economy that is witnessing profound changesbetween and within states.”
Sall, who won a major electoral battle last year against long-time presidential incumbent Abdoulaye Wade, said Africa was taking heed of the move towards democratic reform and popular participation seen in Arab countries since 2011.
“Africa is not unaffected by these changes.Our countries continue to work on a path of creative dynamism and donot want to be far from the process of spreading democracy and freedom of expression in the world,” he said, addressing the opening session of the forum.
While many regions undergo these political and economic shifts, African growth levels continued to be among the highest in the world, he said.
“African countries have new investment opportunities in major sectors including agriculture, energy and infrastructure. The African Union has earmarked $68 billion of infrastructure projects in five areas of the continent,” he said, adding: “We would like to invite Arab partners to come and help build the bridge between the Arab world and Africa.”
Sall said African countries were pursuing a development model that had jettisoned old ideas focussed on state-led projects. “We want to go beyond state support for development because that hasn’t worked. We call for the private and public sectors to come together to build roads, railways, electricity plants and other useful projects in African regions,” he said, adding this would be the aim of a roundtable with G20 countries in St Petersburg later this year.
Also addressing the opening session, Tunisian Prime Minister Ali Larayedhgave an outline of progress in Tunisia, the birthplace of the Arab Spring.
“My country is going through a transitional phase and our experience and the success of our experience are extremely important,” he said. “The Tunisian people are trying to build a new humanitarian, civic, democratic, pluralistic country that protects human rights… A civic state that is not religious or military. The individuals who represent the people will be chosen by the people as their legitimate representatives.”
A member of the ruling Islamist Ennahda party, Larayedhwas interior minister in Tunisia’s first elected government after the revolution and was appointed as prime minister in March after a reshuffle provoked by clashes between leftist activists and the Islamist-led authorities.
Larayedhacknowledged these tensions saying the government was working to strengthen social peace and labour rights and he cited problems of inflation and regional wealth disparity – protests have often centred on deprived interior and southern regions of the North African state.
Larayedhsaid Tunisia’s Islamist vision included rights for all and that the ballot box would be the ultimate protection against the return of despotism. “Islam is a source of innovation, creativity and values. Tunisia will remain committed to its religion and openness. But we will not be a theocratic state. Tunisia will not discriminate against non-Muslims,” he said. “We want a democratic state because… elections are the most important tool to limit despotic practices.”
“Tunisia is on the right path despite the challenges. A constitution will be adopted soon that will create a civic state: the constitution has been presented for public discussion and legislative elections will be held by the end of the year,” Larayedhadded.
He also said the Islamist-led government was encouraging the private sector to stimulate the economy: “We are trying to strengthen it and encourage projects.”