The headquarters of the Union of Arab Chambers, "Adnan Al-Qassar Building for the Arab Economy", hosted the activities of the 15th scientific conference of Arab Society for Economic Research, entitled "Arab Development between the Current Challenges and the Prospects of the Fourth Industrial Revolution", which was organized by the Association in cooperation with the Arab Planning Institute and the Union of Arab Chambers, on 13 and 14 December 2019, with the participation of an elite of prominent Arab economists and intellectuals from various Arab countries.
Speaking at the opening of the conference's works, the Secretary-General of the Union of Arab Chambers, Dr. Khaled Hanafy praised holding the conference at the Union’s headquarters in Beirut, considering that “insisting on holding the conference in Lebanon and the presence of this elite of academics and economists from many Arab countries represents a strong message of support to Lebanon and the Lebanese by their brothers and siblings, especially in light of these circumstances and the challenges that Lebanon is going through." He added: "In light of the challenges it faces, the Arab world needs the efforts of all parties, including governments, businessmen, investors, and academics, in order to advance the economies of our Arab countries," considering that "There is no chance to achieve hopes, aspirations, and aspirations without planning, science and knowledge, and from this standpoint, care was taken to hold this conference, which includes scholars, specialists and the private sector, in order to develop ideas and visions that would help achieve the goals of sustainable development, and thus reduce the reality of unemployment and poverty in our Arab world.
Hanafy pointed out to "the importance of the role played by the Union of Arab Chambers as the real representative of the Arab private sector," saying that "the Arab private sector contributes 75 percent of the Arab gross domestic product, and contributes to creating about 75 percent of employment opportunities," stressing that "the Union, since its inception, called for joint Arab action, and it has made unremitting efforts in the necessity of the existence of the customs union and the common Arab market, and to this day it still adopts these visions, keeping pace with the challenges of the fourth industrial revolution and the second digital revolution, and the need to enhance the means of Arab economic integration, and facilitate the launching of the investment and smart business partnerships."
He also pointed out that "the Union of Arab Chambers through the presence of 16 joint Arab foreign chambers, represents the link between the Arab and foreign countries," revealing that the union, in cooperation with the Arab-Brazilian Chamber, is working on a huge logistical project to link the Arab world with the South American countries, aiming to strengthen the supply chains between the two sides.
For his part, the Chairman of the ASFER Board of Directors, Dr. Munir Al-Himesh, pointed out "the importance of holding the conference in Beirut, for the significant memories the association share with, in which important activities were launched for its activities, and in it the association finds a safe haven to launch its activities, especially when we find some obstacles in some Arab countries with regard to travel and transportation procedures."
He said: "after the arrangements were made three months ago for the conference, there were people advised that we search for another place because of what is happening in the streets and squares of Lebanon, but the board of directors was determined to go ahead with the arrangements for the conference in Beirut," as a message of support and love to Lebanon and the brotherly people of Lebanon.
Al-Himesh pointed out that "about a hundred years ago, the emir of the statement, Shakib Arslan, from here from Beirut launched his historical question: Why did the Arabs and Muslims delay and why did others progress? At the time, Prince Arslan found that the reasons for the delay lie in ignorance, incomplete science, moral corruption, cowardice, and abandonment of culture. Yes, this is true, but even if these causes can be removed, the underdevelopment will remain crouched on our chest for personal and external reasons, and perhaps the slogans that protesters raise in the streets of Lebanon and Iraq recently answer that, so from here, the internal and external factors cooperate and cannot be separated in any serious research for backwardness and progress."
He concluded: "Because of the events of the Arab streets and squares since 2011, it is no longer possible to deny some facts, as these events express unequivocally the disappointment of the people with their rulers and their economic and social system, which was deliberately neglected to the needs and aspirations of people in a free and dignified life. But this fact should not make us ignore the greatest truth, which is the aspirations of the rich industrial countries to seize the wealth of the Arab countries, especially oil and gas, in the absence of a progressive national project.”
The Secretary-General of the Arab Association for Economic Research, Dr. Ashraf Al-Arabi, delivered a speech on behalf of the Director General of the Arab Planning Institute, Dr. Badr Othman Malallah, where he presented a summary on the Institute (based in Kuwait), pointing out that the Institute plays a prominent role aimed at supporting then efforts and departments of economic development and social activities in Arab countries, through its activities and tasks that include building and developing national human capabilities, providing advisory services and institutional support, preparing general and specialized research and studies, seminars, conferences, cultural activities and development awareness, and issuing specialized reports, pamphlets and books specialized in development issues, all of which are aimed at contributing to the improved performance of the economic and social development, in the Arab countries.
A speech was made by the General Coordinator of the conference, Secretary General of the Arab Association for Economic Research, Dr. Ashraf Al-Arabi, in which he presented a summary of the conference's activities and sessions, stressing that "there is a close link between education, training, scientific research and the fourth industrial revolution", noting that "there is a need to conduct a careful analysis for the developmental thought and choosing what suits the Arab societies to be included in the development plans in line with society, pointing out that there is a need to focus on the role of technical education that can help in providing trained and qualified workers to use technology in industry.
Dr. Al-Arabi also said "at a time when the world is living the pillars of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, it must be noted that the share of the Arabs from the previous three industrial revolutions and their returns was not commensurate with the ingredients and potential of them."
He also emphasized that "the fourth industrial revolution represents a major shift in the launching of the digital economy and information technology and the associated innovations and products that have transformed people's lives and production with no preceded by any of the previous industrial revolutions," noting the importance of benefiting from the small ages of Arab societies and the predominance of youth in demographics and upgrading the human capital through education and health care for all. Today it is imperative to direct spending to skills training and knowledge of advanced knowledge through continuous learning systems. There is no point in education systems that do not prepare young people with advanced knowledge in a four-science, technology, engineering and mathematics."