At the beginning of January I was invited to give a presentation and participate in a panel discussion on Peak Oil. Maybe this is not such a huge surprise but what was surprising was that the invitation was to a symposium titled “Peak Oil: Challenges and Opportunities for GCC Countries” that is to be held in Doha, Qatar. The lead organiser of the meeting is the “Arabic and International Relations Forum” and “Qatar Environment and Energy Research Institute” that is part of the Qatar Foundation. At first, I did not know what nations were included in the GCC but a search revealed that GCC, the Gulf Cooperation Council, is a political and economic union of the Arab states bordering the Persian Gulf and located on or near the Arabian Peninsula, namely Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. I am very pleased that these nations are interested in Peak Oil. The following message naturally made the invitation even more interesting, “Part of the conference aim is really toward public awareness. So, Aljazeerah Mubasher will broadcast the whole symposium”. I have not yet seen the entire list of speakers but I know that Robert Hirsch, Mikael Höök and Anders Wijkman are invited to speak. Anders Wijkman is the new chair of the Club of Rome. It is interesting that the Middle East is now turning its attention to Peak Oil when so many others are saying that we do not need to be concerned.
The conference is to be held on 3-4 April and the symposium will have five sessions.
Youth Education & Unemployment
The levels of education in GCC countries are higher than their counterparts in the Arab world and other developing countries, but they cannot as yet meet market demands. Youth unemployment has become a major concern in the area as millions of ‘decent’ new jobs have to be created by the end of this decade. Even as serious is the challenge to create more equity in a largely inequitable society. One major question that presents itself here therefore is what kind of enterprises will bring forth more parity, economic democracy and social cohesion?
Scarcity of Resource
Freshwater and arable lands in the GCC region are getting more scarce. Sharing transboundary resources is leading to further conflicts. Continuous reliance on neighboring countries for food is becoming increasingly untenable and unsustainable. Like other developing countries moreover, the GCC region is vulnerable to climate change and a clear vision is needed to adapt and mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
Conflict and Peace in the Region
Two years on, the Arab Uprising continues and systematically changes the political landscape of the region. Uncertainties about the current political structures prevail and tensions amongst local communities intensify. The socio-political peace necessary for long-term and sustainable economic development is therefore more vital than ever for the region and the Arab world at large.
Economic Security (not Growth)
Economic growth has not really improved the well-being of odinary people in the region. If anything, it has rather increased their income and social disparity over the past few decades. Perhaps that is why, instead of economic growth, countries in the region should focus more on economic security and on the prosperity and well being of their citizens. Income security in particular, measured in terms of income protections and lower levels of income disparity, has become a key factor for citizens in the region.
Rentier state and its implications
The rentier system has multiple effects on the social and economic aspects of the society. Most of the studies about the concept of rentier state, argued that natural resources based economies play a role in weakening the chances for political participations, the role of women in the society, the value of labor and productivity, etc.
Of course, I will give you more information as the conference approaches.