As leaders from all segments of global society convene in Jordan in May for the World Economic Forum's 2005 Extraordinary Meeting, two initiatives launched by the Forum are demonstrating the dynamic role that business can play as a catalyst in bridging longstanding economic and social divides within the Middle East and Islamic world and also between that world and the West.
Both the Jordan Education Initiative and the West-Islamic World Dialogue are initiatives of the World Economic Forum's Global Institute for Partnership and Governance. The Institute recognizes that business has a role to play in tackling the world's most pressing problems through engagement in public-private partnerships. It provides a conducive environment for leaders from varying backgrounds to engage in collaborative problem-solving.
The Jordan Education Initiative
Business leaders at the World Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2003 proposed the creation of a public-private partnership model to improve education in a developing country using new approaches to accelerate reform, build capacity and mobilize industry. The group selected Jordan for the pilot of an ambitious project to transform public education across the kingdom and impart the skills demanded by the 21st century knowledge economy.
The Jordan Education Initiative (www.weforum.org/jei) will involve 100 participating "Discovery Schools," directly impacting 50,000 students and 2,300 teachers. Already being rolled out in schools across Jordan, it focuses primarily on K-12 education using a novel "blended learning" approach that weaves together e-content with traditional teaching. The math curriculum has already gone live, with ICT, science, Arabic and English to be launched shortly. Additional focus areas include lifelong learning and development of the local IT industry.
Over the past two years, 45 organizations -- including 17 global corporations, 17 local firms and 11 governmental and nongovernmental organizations -- have made more than $15 million in direct investment in the initiative. The Jordan project is recognized as one of the world's largest successful working models of public-private sector partnership in the area of education, and efforts are underway to replicate it in other developing countries beginning in 2005.
"We have learned a great deal from the experience in Jordan -- creating the model, finding out what works, and what changes are required. Now we are ready to take this program to other countries where even more people can benefit," said Tae Yoo, Vice President for Corporate Affairs of Cisco Systems, one of the founding partners of the initiative. "Cisco Systems is enthusiastic about the success of the program and the way it is facilitating social and economic stability in the region."
West-Islamic World Dialogue: The C-100
The World Economic Forum's West-Islamic World Dialogue serves as a unique global community to promote understanding and cooperation between Western countries and those with predominantly Muslim populations. Formally launched at the Forum's annual meeting in January 2004, the initiative convenes a council of 100 (C-100) senior political, religious, business, media and opinion leaders.
In the wake of the September 11 attacks in the United States, many organizations are engaged in building Islamic-Western cooperation; C-100 is distinguished by its ability to rely on the particular strengths of the business community as a powerful agent of positive change. C-100 provides a platform for members to generate new collaborations or mobilize additional support for existing projects that strengthen intercultural relations between the West and the Muslim world. The Council seeks to promote Islamic-Western cooperative projects that aim for highly leveraged impact across multiple countries.
Ten new projects were presented to the C-100 at the Forum's annual meeting at Davos; among those approved was a proposal for the world's first Reconciliation Reality TV program, to be broadcast in Europe, the US, and the Arab World. Exploring diverse cultural norms, the program would feature participants who face challenges that require cooperation for them to prevail. C-100 is in discussion with TV broadcasters about the show, which would offer opportunities for audience interaction through text messaging and Internet-based dialogue about the show.
The C-100 will also use the Forum's meetings in Jordan in May 2005 to raise awareness of another of its projects, which aims to alleviate the crisis facing charities and development organizations in the Muslim world. Concerns that charitable giving might be redirected to terrorists has caused a substantial drop in donations from individuals and foundations worldwide. C-100 convened a broad cross-section of stakeholders at Davos during the 2005 Annual Meeting to address these concerns.
The action agenda that emerged from Davos works on a number of fronts to bolster confidence in financial accountability and transparency for donors and charitable organizations. C-100 will work with Western and Muslim non-governmental organizations to establish shared standards for humanitarian and development activities; assist financial institutions to develop criteria for handling questionable funding streams; and engage Western government agencies to make anti-terrorism legislation more transparent.
C-100 plans to kick off a wide-ranging media campaign at the Forum's 2005 meeting in Jordan to focus attention on the problem, highlight workable solutions under development, and the mutual benefits to the West and the Muslim world that collaborative action will make possible.