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Under the patronage of the Ambassador of the Netherlands to Qatar, Silatech, a regional social organization that works on connecting Arab youth to jobs and expand economic opportunities, along with SPARK, an NGO that develops higher education and entrepreneurship so that young ambitious people are empowered to lead their post-conflict societies into prosperity, organized an Expert Meeting titled Entrepreneurship for Stability in the MENA Region.

The expert meeting, which took place at the residence of the Dutch Ambassador in Doha, witnessed participation of delegates from International Development Communities, NGOs, Private and Public Sector including academics and think tanks.

Commenting on the event, Her Excellency Yvette Burghgraef-van Eechoud, Dutch Ambassador to Qatar said: ‘I was honored to host in my residence a group of extraordinary people from the Middle-East and Africa to design economic opportunities for refugees and internally displaced persons. The group showed a very high level of commitment, expertise and trust. These are the basic ingredients for finding the right solutions for both refugees and the communities that are hosting them.’ H.E added: ‘The Netherlands proudly supports this partnership between Silatech and SPARK in their endeavor to provide some perspective and dignity to the many victims of humanitarian catastrophe in countries like Syria, Yemen, Somalia, Libya.’

The Expert Meeting addressed many topics regarding the current situation of refugees such as: innovative programs and policies can be introduced to enable refugees to carry out business activities whilst at the same time, not negatively impacting the host country economy; Employment and entrepreneurship programs and policies are the most appropriate and successful contributors to livelihood improvements in conflict-affected areas  and what can be done to ensure or create an enabling environment where some economic development and livelihood generating activities can take place in conflict-affected areas.

Mr Mohammed Al-Naimi, CEO of Silatech said: ‘Our vision is to have an Arab world in which young people are able to work and are engaged in the economic development of their societies came as a response to the challenge of unemployment in the region and led to the establishment of Silatech to connect Arab youth to economic opportunities and jobs through enterprise and employment and today this mission is even more required and needed…. as we all know, the region is experiencing unprecedented instability with ongoing conflicts and political upheaval affecting multiple countries for the past 5 Years.’ He added: ‘We hope this meeting is another step in a journey towards unlocking effective partnerships, programmatic interventions and policy recommendations that contribute to providing sustainable solutions to the complex issue at hand.’

Michel Richter, Co-Director of SPARK, also present at the event, comments: ‘Our programs for Syrian Refugees in Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan funded by the Dutch Government and Education Above All Foundation are an important step, but more needs to be done in terms of business development and job creation for this group.’ In doing so he emphasized the need to capitalize on the brain power and experience mobilized at the Expert Meeting. Richter stressed ‘there remains much to learn and gain in terms of what works and what does not work and urges for the development of concrete and practical initiatives that can be rapidly deployed. This requires the involvement of organizations present at the meeting such as the UNHCR, ILO, Qatar Red Crescent, International Medical Corps, Silatech and SPARK as well as relevant private sector and government actors.’

The attendees shared best practices from various types of employment and entrepreneurship initiatives that played a vital role in improving livelihoods which contributed to fostering social stability for refugees and others. One of the potential initiatives that had been explored in depth was the establishment of free economic zones that would facilitate Syrian investors and entrepreneurs to continue and start their businesses creating employment and business linkages involving both Syrian refugees and host communities.