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KFPE workshop insights: Promoting sustainable and equitable partnerships with the MENA region


3 June 2024. Today, Paeradigms participated in an insightful workshop during the annual conference of the Swiss Commission for Research Partnerships with Developing Countries (KFPE). This workshop, organised by Fariba Moghaddam from HES-SO Valais, Switzerland, was titled "Promoting sustainable and equitable partnerships with the MENA region". The KFPE serves as Switzerland's information hub for global research partnerships, promoting effective, equitable cooperation with low- and middle-income countries, thereby contributing to sustainable development and addressing local and global challenges.


Workshop overview

The workshop was designed to facilitate a rich exchange of ideas and discussions on promoting sustainable and equitable partnerships in the MENA region. It was divided into four key segments:

  1. Introduction to sustainable partnership

  2. Understanding the MENA region

  3. Challenges and opportunities

  4. Networking and collaboration opportunities


Key learnings and narratives

The power of equitable partnerships

The workshop opened with a compelling message about the transformative potential of equitable partnerships. “Equitable partnerships can mitigate conflict, enhance economic growth, and promote long-term peaceful collaboration,” the Prof. Fariba Moghaddam emphasised. This statement set the stage for understanding how strategic collaborations could significantly improve the socio-economic landscape of the MENA region.

One of the core discussions revolved around the economic potential of the region. Equitable partnerships were highlighted as essential for unlocking this potential by promoting sustainable practices such as renewable energy development and conservation efforts. The importance of social inclusion was also stressed. “By empowering vulnerable populations, especially women, we contribute to more stable and cohesive societies,” Fariba Moghaddam noted.


Understanding the MENA region

A detailed overview of the MENA region’s socio-economic and political landscape followed. The region’s diversity was underlined, ranging from oil-rich Gulf states to emerging markets. However, significant challenges persist, including high youth unemployment, particularly among women, and ongoing political instability and conflict. To provide context, the workshop featured a video tracing the historical and cultural significance of the region. The video, available here, detailed the rich legacies of the Nile, Tigris, and Euphrates rivers and addressed contemporary issues like regional rivalries and economic struggles. This background was crucial for understanding the context in which sustainable and equitable partnerships must operate.


Challenges and opportunities

The session on challenges and opportunities painted a realistic picture of the MENA region. On the one hand, the region boasts rich natural resources and a strategic geographical location that facilitates trade and cultural exchange. On the other, it faces significant obstacles such as political instability, socio-economic inequality, and environmental degradation. Real-life case studies showcased successful partnership models. One notable example was a renewable energy project that demonstrated how collaboration between Swiss institutions and MENA countries could yield substantial benefits. These case studies underscored the importance of innovative approaches to overcome the region’s challenges.

The picture shows examples of collaborative projects between Swiss universities and universities in the MENA region.


Networking and collaboration

The networking session presented by Prof. Naouel Abdellatif Mami from the University of Sétif 2 (Algeria) shared experiences and explored collaboration opportunities. Participants learned about various ongoing projects, including the development of digital education and research clusters and initiatives to donate and repurpose laboratory equipment for educational use in the MENA region.


Practical takeaways

The workshop underscored several practical lessons:

  • Effective communication: Regular, clear communication among partners is essential. Understanding cultural nuances and maintaining open lines of dialogue can prevent misunderstandings and foster stronger relationships.

  • Local engagement: It is crucial to involve local stakeholders in the planning and execution of initiatives. This ensures that projects meet local needs and have community buy-in, enhancing their sustainability.

  • Innovation and flexibility: Employing innovative solutions, such as remote research platforms and digital education tools, can help overcome resource constraints. Partnerships must remain flexible to adapt to changing circumstances and emerging challenges.

  • Resilience building: The MENA region’s challenges require resilience and adaptability. Sustainable partnerships must be designed to withstand and respond to socio-economic and environmental shifts.


Conclusion

The KFPE workshop provided invaluable insights into the importance of sustainable and equitable partnerships in the MENA region. But why does this matter? Because the future of global stability, economic growth, and environmental sustainability is interconnected. By fostering these partnerships, we are not just addressing immediate challenges; we are laying the groundwork for a more inclusive and resilient global community. Equitable partnerships are more than a strategic choice—they are a moral imperative. They promise not only to lift economies but also to uplift communities by promoting social inclusion, reducing conflict, and ensuring environmental sustainability.


Nina Volles

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