Latin America and the Arab world are two large and vital regions with booming economic growth and vibrant developing societies. They also have strong complementarities and mutual interests that remain largely untapped. The scope for increased bilateral relations between the two regions is vast.
Energy, food security and agriculture, renewable energy, environment, mining, information technology, and infrastructural development are among the most obvious sectors that would immediately benefit from increased commercial and investment ties between Latin American and Arab countries.
Greater initiatives for scientific research and development cooperation and projects would help build synergies in fields such as biotechnologies, natural resources governance, management and renewable energies. The development of Arab‐Latin American interchange and interaction in education, culture and the arts would foster a better mutual understanding of each region’s civilizations, languages and histories. In particular, extensive student exchange programs can lay the groundwork and create networks for the long-term development of ever-deeper levels of understanding and cooperation.
At the global level, a stronger partnership between the two regions can strengthen the constituency for sustainable development, climate change management, ensuring global and regional stability, promoting security, poverty reduction, and developing sound international financial policies and regulation. Working together, the Arab world and Latin America can strengthen their individual and collective voices on numerous issues of mutual concern in international organizations and multilateral forums.
Our aspiration is to reach a sustainable dynamism, for the economic and socio-cultural partnership between the countries of the Arab world, the Caribbean and Latin America built upon the achievement of mutual benefits for both regions’ societies.
Attaining these benefits requires these societies to recognize that they are united not only by the need to achieve their interests, but also by a body of common principles and values. These include, among others, the dialogue among civilizations, the tolerance and inclusive and cohesive societies.
The Rabat Center which has been recently established has as objective to develop appropriate mechanisms to promote dialogue and cooperation in a wide range of issues of mutual interest; and to do so, it will undertake research, programming and public policy analysis that engage both the business sector, governments, the media and institutions on key issues of common concern. To implement its mission effectively, the Center will:
- Promote trade and investment between the two regions.
- Facilitate the discussion and debate about topics and issues of interest.
- Provide a common space for academics and researchers from both regions in which they can work together and share their ideas and research for the development of innovative proposals.
- Serve as a conduit for student exchange between the regions to promote interaction with the hope of creating a network of young adults that will work together for mutual benefit.
- Organize seminars and conferences that address topics of common interest such as food security, agriculture, energy, infrastructure, and education.
- Advise and design effective solutions for both the government and private sector interested in engaging with the other region.
- Train young professionals from the public and private sectors interested in engaging with the other region.
- Foster partnerships with similar organizations and agencies from both regions to create a powerful network of institutions devoted to similar goals.
- Serve as a bridge between Latin Americans of Arab heritage and their countries of origin to reconnect them to their roots and develop an important basis for stronger ties between Latin America and the Arab World.
- Publications (books, reports, policy briefs, market research, and database)
- Workshops, seminars, and conferences
- Agreements between universities, museums, pro-export agencies, hospitals, etc.
Latin America, the Caribbean and the Arab world
The Arab World is a crucial, dynamic and rapidly changing region. It is the primary site of the most important global energy reserves, as well as huge capital resources and an extremely important influential culture. Much of its population of at least 350 million is young and upwardly mobile and is rapidly taking its place in the globalized economy and public sphere.
Latin America is equally important. Its extensive population, totaling over 550 million people, includes about 17 million of Arab origin, constituting the largest population of Arabs living outside the Middle East and North Africa. These Latin Americans of Arab descent have experienced tremendous success in multiple fields, particularly business, academics, and politics, indicating that they have been assimilated into the Latin American culture and societies. This experience strongly suggests that enhanced cooperation between the two regions is both achievable and desirable, and establishes an important basis for developing stronger economic, cultural, and political ties.
Many parts of the Arab World and Latin America have experienced economic growth despite the global financial crisis, and could strongly benefit from greater commercial, trade and business cooperation to work together to protect themselves and each other from domestic and international economic pressures.
The relations with Latin American countries have witnessed many positive developments over the past years. However, these relations have not reached up the political coordination level hoped, despite the existence of a political mechanism to discuss ways of cooperation in the fields of economy, culture, sciences, technology, tourism and other relevant areas. The Summit of Arab and Latin American countries, recently held in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, during the period 10 to 11 November 2015 marked a different vision in relations.
It was preceded with three others summits. The first was held in Brasilia, Brazil in 2005, and then Doha, Qatar hosted the second in 2009 followed by Lima, Peru in 2012.
The Riyadh Summit, as well as the three other summits, made important decisions. They all need to be followed up with an implementation procedure. The implementation will bring a qualitative and significant leap in the relations between Arab and Latin American countries in spite of the magnitude of common interest between them and in spite of the tremendous benefits that can be achieved by strengthening the bonds of cooperation between the two regions.
The Latin American experience in recent decades in dealing with rapid social, economic, and political changes can serve as a powerful basis for dialogue and cooperation with an Arab World currently undergoing significant transformations and advancements across the social, political and economic register.
The Latin American region, with 34 member states at the United Nations, can exercise tremendous influence if united behind certain causes, such as the resolution of the Palestinian/Arab-Israeli conflict based on international legitimacy. Nearly universal South American recognition of Palestine has been an important contribution to the international consensus for ending the conflict by creating a Palestinian state. With the support of many Latin American countries, the United Arab Emirates was able to win the bid for the headquarters for the International Renewable Energy.
From the Arab-Latin American Forum to the inauguration of CARLAC
In December 2012, the United Arab Emirates University (UAEU) and the Global Foundation for Democracy and Development (FUNGLODE) organized in Abu Dhabi the Arab-Latin American Forum, under the auspices of HH Sheikh Nahyan Mubarak Al Nahyan, UAE Minister of Higher Education and Scientific Research at that time.
The Abu Dhabi Forum was the fourth in a series of forums on enhancing relations between the Arab world and Latin America and the Caribbean. The first took place in July 2010 in the Dominican Republic. The second was held in San José, Costa Rica in 2011, and the third continued the project in Cartagena, Columbia.
Numerous prestigious Arab and Latin American personalities and organizations participated in these three forums, but the Abu Dhabi Forum brought the dialogue and project to the Middle East for the first time and constituted a major step forward in efforts to build a strengthened Arab-Latin American partnership.
Abu Dhabi Forum participants recommended the creation of a Council on Arab Relations with Latin America and the Caribbean (CARLAC) to conceptualize, direct and facilitate further development of Arab-Latin American cooperation. While there have been other important initiatives to promote cooperation between South America and the Arab world, CARLAC is unique in adding the Caribbean, Central America and Mexico to the regional dialogue and moving beyond the multilateral governmental register to involve the private sector and civil society in building a stronger partnership.
CARLAC is a non-governmental and non-partisan organization instituted to reinforce relations between the Arab World and Latin America and the Caribbean. The Declaration is took on the past Abu Dhabi Forum confirmed that the Council comprises some highly qualified leaders from both regions.
It drives to manage, control and execute the modalities and structures needed to carry out the vision and the agenda expressed at the Forum. It seeks to enhance appropriate and much-required methods to delve into a broad range of discourse and communal collaboration on a broad array of matters of mutual issues, as well as trade and commerce, investment, social development, higher education, and cultural exchange.
CARLAC held its inaugural meeting on the 21stand 22ndof February 2014 in the Dominican Republic. Almost all founding members of the Council attended the meeting, and CARLAC was honored to welcome his Excellency Dr. AbdullahGhobash, Minister of State of the United Arab Emirates, representing HE Sheikh Nahyan ben Mubarak Al Nahyan as the keynote speaker. Among the most important decisions taken was an agreement by the Council to establish two Centers for CARLAC, which will be the institutional mechanism for operationalizing and realizing the Council’s vision and agenda. The Council agreed that one of the Centers should be based in the Dominican Republic, and the other in Morocco.
Fields for greater cooperation between the Arab World and Latin America and the Caribbean:
EDUCATION & CULTURE
Education and culture exchange is a key factor in building strong relations between the two regions. Particular attention will be paid to the student exchange and languages training programs which are necessary for developing a new generation of Arabs and Latin Americans, conversant in each other’s languages and cultures that can be the building block for a sustained future of growing partnership and dialogue. The Council will organize programs in cooperation with universities of the two regions.
Food security is a serious concern for several Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf region and, since there is no long-term solutions have yet been found, food resources must be shared equitably. Nonetheless, Latin America and the Caribbean could be a major player in resolving these vital Arab food security concerns. With the rapid growth in populations and economies, the Arab World requires increasing supplies of food, water, and other necessities, providing important commercial and economic opportunities for Latin America and the Caribbean.
ENERGY AND RENEWABLE ENERGY
The Arab World can help meet growing energy requirements in Latin America and the Caribbean. Energy is clearly one of the key issues between the two regions. The strategies, research, coordination and other projects designed to promote trade in energy and the development of sustainable energy projects is among the key areas of interest to the Council.
INVESTMENT, TRADE, AND COMMERCE
Strengthening cooperation in the field of investment between the Arab and Latin American regions requires the creation of a banking institution. Such an investment bank would act as a platform for initiatives emerging from governments and private sector and help garner capital from investors to fund different projects. Investment banking will assist individuals, corporations, and governments in raising capital.
It will also provide opportunities for enhanced trade and commerce present themselves across the board to these rapidly growing and developing economic zones with complementary rather than competitive interests.
TOURISM & TRAVEL
The Middle East being part of the cradle of human civilizations and cultural heritage in the early centuries, witnessed the birth of monotheistic religions (Christianity, Judaism, and Islam) and a place of much modern economic and political significance; the Arab World remains a popular destination for travelers.
Ethnically, Middle East is tremendously mixed, and there are numerous considerable minorities, Armenians, Kurds and others, using their languages, traditions, and customs of their countries of origin. Every occupying army, from Alexander and the Romans through Genghis Khan to the colonial powers of the nineteenth century, has set descendants behind. UNESCO inscribed 70 sites in the World Heritage List. Three of the Seven Wonders of the World are located in the Arab region: the great Pyramid of Giza, the Lighthouse of Alexandria and the Gardens of Babylon.
From the years 2000 to 2010, the tourist figures in the Middle East increased two times, from 24.1 million to 6.3 million, as stated by UN World Travel Organization (UNWTO). It is a stage of growth that could not be met by any region in the world at the same point in time. Besides, it comes on a time that there are conflicts in Iraq and other instability in the region.
Beginning the year 2006, travel and tourism’s direct input to gross domestic product in Latin America has increased by 7 percent in real terms, more than twice the world average, to achieve an estimated $134 billion in 2011.
This figure, which is expected to increase by 2022 to 224 billion dollars, contains revenue generated by services relating to travel like accommodation and airlines, as well as food and leisure industries that accommodate tourists.
Brazil too is a tourism authority. The travel industry directly generated an assessed $84.6 billion to national gross domestic product with 5.4 million international travel guests.
Travel growth spending equates to more work. Across the region, the travel industry sector hires 5.6 million individuals directly and 15.2 million indirectly. That’s roughly 8 per cent of all employment. Expansion of employment at 3% as of 2006 has increased three times sooner than the world tourism average. By 2022, tourism is anticipated to generate 4 million new jobs in the region, half of which will be in Brazil due to its population and economic growth.
INNOVATION & TECHNOLOGY
New technologies and social media are considered to be the best way to share experiences and to include youth in the process of building stronger bi-regional relations. The Council will develop a program dedicated to young professional leaders’ networks between Latin America and the Arab world.
INFRASTRUCTURE & DEVELOPMENT
In cooperation with the working group and private sector, the Council will create a database of potential infrastructure and development projects in the two regions that need to be funded either publicly or privately, public-private partnerships.