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Cablegate: Oecd-Mena Ministerial Conference, November 23, Marrakesh

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UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 06 RABAT 000950

SIPDIS

PARIS FOR US MISSION TO OECD

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EFIN EAID ECON EINV SOCI MO
SUBJECT: OECD-MENA MINISTERIAL CONFERENCE, NOVEMBER 23, MARRAKESH

RABAT 00000950 001.3 OF 006


1. SUMMARY AND INTRODUCTION: The November 23 OECD-MENA Ministerial
Conference in Marrakesh, Morocco, brought government, business, and
civil society leaders together to debate policy responses to the
global economic crisis as well as government and business climate
reforms in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). The day
preceding the ministerial, Morocco also hosted the OECD/MENA
Business Forum and a Women Business Leaders Summit, which informed
the outcomes of the Ministerial Conference. The Ministerial adopted
a declaration outlining OECD and MENA partner countries' commitments
to take concrete actions to improve public governance and their
business climates. During the conference, Morocco signed the OECD
Declaration on International Investment and Multinational
Enterprises, the second MENA country to do so following Egypt.
Morocco also followed Egypt in assuming the co-presidency of the
OECD-MENA Initiative for the next three years, along with Belgium
and Spain. End Summary.

----------
BACKGROUND
----------

2. The Ministerial Conference in Marrakesh took place within the
framework of the OECD-MENA Initiative on Good Governance and
Investment for Development launched in 2005. The Initiative guides
OECD support to 18 MENA countries in efforts to improve their
investment climate and foster good governance. The Initiative's two
components, the Investment Program and the Governance Program,
integrate regional dialogue, peer review, definition of reform
priorities and assistance in implementation at the regional and
country-specific levels to improve government services to citizens
and maximize investment successes. Since 2005, Bahrain, Egypt,
Morocco, Tunisia and UAE (Dubai) have opened regional centers under
the OECD-MENA Initiative that focus on corporate governance and the
efficient allocation of public resources.

--------------
BUSINESS FORUM
--------------

3. The Conference events in Marrakesh opened with the OECD-MENA
Business Forum and the Women Business Leaders Summit, both held on
November 22. The Forum brought together CEOs, business leaders, and
high-level officials from OECD and MENA counties, including
representatives of international, regional and local business
women's associations. Participants reviewed the impact of the
global economic crisis on the region's financial sectors and
discussed ways for businesses and governments to identify and
implement lessons learned from crises. The Forum closed by adopting
a joint Business Statement.

RABAT 00000950 002.3 OF 006

-----------------------------
WOMEN BUSINESS LEADERS SUMMIT
-----------------------------

4. The OECD-MENA Women Business Leaders Summit reviewed progress
since the 2007 OECD-MENA Ministerial Declaration on Fostering
Women's Entrepreneurship in the MENA Region and produced a Draft
Action Plan on Fostering Women's Entrepreneurship in the MENA
Region. Summit participants exchanged experiences in overcoming
obstacles to entrepreneurship and shared recommendations to
governments on how to improve the climate for women's economic
participation.

--------------------------------------------- -
MOROCCO, MODEL FOR SOCIAL AND POLITICAL REFORM
--------------------------------------------- -

5. U.S. Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women's Issues Melanne
Verveer, a keynote speaker and panelist at the Women Business
Leaders Summit, praised Morocco as a model country in the MENA
region for its social and political reforms. Ambassador Verveer
lauded Morocco's support for women's rights, in particular the 2004
adoption of a new family code, and highlighted access to
microfinance as a contributor to improving women's economic status.
She mentioned the MENA Women Business Network supported by the
Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) and encouraged
participants to take part in the Global Entrepreneurship Summit,
announced by President Obama in his Cairo speech and to be held in
Washington in early 2010. She urged women entrepreneurs in the MENA
region to cooperate with each other via networks for exchanging
experiences and dialogue.

6. U.S. Permanent Representative to the OECD Ambassador Karen
Kornbluh chaired the Women Leaders Summit Networking Roundtable. In
opening the session, Ambassador Kornbluh noted that she had recently
chaired a MENA-OECD Working Group meeting on Fostering Women's
Entrepreneurship in the MENA region, and looked forward to further
discussion on seeking ways for women in the region to overcome
obstacles to entrepreneurship. Participants discussed regional
governments' roles in increasing female participation in the economy
as part of a strategy for job creation and economic growth. They
also addressed concrete measures that can be taken to eliminate
gender-specific obstacles to entrepreneurship and employment and
explored ways to advance the MENA-OECD Women's Business Network.


7. A separate session was dedicated to the MENA Forum on
Responsible Business Conduct, at which representatives of business,

RABAT 00000950 003.3 OF 006


government and civil society presented successful responsible
business experiences. A parallel session focused on the MENA
Commercial Law Strengthening project, implemented by the
International Advisory Group of the Arab Center for the Development
of the Rule of Law and Integrity (ACRLI) in cooperation with MEPI.

----------------
GOVERNANCE FORUM
----------------

8. At the OECD-MENA Governance Forum, policy makers, experts and
civil society representatives debated preconditions for economic
recovery and sustainable growth. The Forum focused on governments'
roles in anticipating and managing strategic challenges, such as the
financial crisis. Themes included balancing competing sectors'
interests in policy development, ensuring participation of women in
economic life, ensuring the integrity of increasing interactions
between the public and private sectors, and government communication
strategies.

-------------------
MINISTERIAL SESSION
-------------------

9. In the November 23 ministerial sessions, representatives of MENA
and OECD countries debated policy responses to the economic crisis,
including reinforcing partnerships between MENA and OECD countries
and within the MENA region itself, as well as reform strategies for
building stronger and fairer economies. Morocco's Minister Delegate
for Economic and General Affairs Nizar Baraka presided a panel on
Investment and Business Climate, drawing on the work of the Business
Forum and the Women Business Summit the previous day. Participants
presented key measures and reforms initiated to improve the
investment and business climate in their countries as well as
expected follow up actions from the MENA-OECD Investment Program.
Ministers launched a MENA-OECD Business Council to guide work with
the private sector, provide policymakers with recommendations on
reform priorities, strengthen the public-private dialogue, generate
new business opportunities and foster sector-specific contacts.

10. Ambassador Kornbluh noted the impressive strides MENA countries
had made in enabling growth and prosperity through economic reforms
meant to spark development and job creation. She added that the
OECD-MENA program was consistent with President Obama's Cairo speech
stressing partnership and responsibility. Kornbluh welcomed the
emphasis that the OECD-MENA Investment Program plans to place on
policy reforms to support entrepreneurship and skill-building,
especially for women and youth. She urged MENA countries to work to
keep markets open, warning against the dangers of protectionism.

RABAT 00000950 004.3 OF 006


Kornbluh reiterated the U.S. commitment to revitalizing multilateral
financial institutions to help tackle global poverty and act as
essential partners in times of financial stress. She praised the
OECD-MENA program's focus on encouraging partner countries to take
responsibility for their own reform agendas through collaboration
with their peers and business leaders. She indicated that the U.S.
was favorably disposed to continue financial support in 2010 for the
OECD-MENA Investment Program, and in that regard was considering
providing up to USD 1 million in funding to continue the good work
underway.

11. Other OECD member countries making interventions in the
Investment Business Climate Panel included Germany, Japan,
Netherlands, Sweden, Canada, Switzerland and Turkey. A consistent
theme was the need to advance reform efforts most likely to bring
about a stable business environment in the MENA region. These would
include measures leading to steady growth and investment and
generating employment, with particular emphasis on the growth
potential derived from greater women's entrepreneurship. The
Japanese delegate stressed her country's desire for its industry to
be able to expand further in the region once modern and uniform
investment regimes have been enacted and implemented. The Japanese
expressed a strong interest in facilitating the adoption of green
technology and helping develop human capital (managerial skills) in
future investment projects and hoped to create 15,000 new jobs --
with an expectation that a least half will be available to women.
Both Canada and Sweden, the other major OECD-MENA donor members,
were in agreement that the investment reforms and the business
climate development strategy should continue to develop women's
entrepreneurship.

-----------------------------------------
SUPPORTING GOOD GOVERNANCE IN MENA REGION
-----------------------------------------

12. Morocco's Minister-Delegate in Charge of Public Sector
Modernization Mohamed Abbou chaired a Public Governance Panel, a
forum for participants to exchange ideas on public governance in
order to strengthen partnerships for reform in the MENA region.
Panelists identified priorities, opportunities and the framework for
future regional cooperation and dialogue. EconOff, speaking for the
U.S., stated that good governance remains a high priority for U.S.
foreign and development policies. He reviewed U.S. financial
support to OECD's work on governance, emphasizing OECD's partnership
with the UNDP program on Governance in the Arab Region (UN POGAR).
He affirmed continued U.S. support to the OECD-MENA partnership and
its focus on the tools and policies to combat corruption.

---------------------

RABAT 00000950 005.3 OF 006


MARRAKESH DECLARATION
---------------------

13. The conference concluded with the adoption of the "Marrakesh
Declaration of the MENA-OECD Ministerial Conference on Policy
Responses to the Crisis." The declaration included commitments to
integrity and transparency in the public sector and to support for
freedom of investment, trade and private sector development. It
also underlined the need to increase the participation of women in
economic development and prosperity in the region. "This
declaration reflects the commitment of countries in the region to
continue reforms and to act together to overcome the effects of the
crisis," Baraka said. "In order to achieve our growth goals, we
have to work together and get back to basics, putting citizens at
the heart of our policies."

------------------------------
MOROCCO SIGNS OECD DECLARATION
------------------------------

14. On the margins of the ministerial, the Government of Morocco
signed the OECD's Declaration on International Investment and
Multinational Enterprises. Morocco is the second MENA country to
sign the declaration, following Egypt (in 2007). The declaration
commits Morocco to supporting an open environment for international
investors and encouraging responsible investment by multinational
companies as a means to promote prosperity and growth. By signing,
Morocco undertakes to treat foreign investors in the same way as
domestic investors and to promote responsible business conduct.
(Note: The Declaration's other 42 signatories include 30 OECD
countries plus Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Estonia, Israel,
Latvia, Lithuania, Morocco, Peru, Romania and Slovenia.)

15. Speaking at a press conference, OECD Secretary-General Angel
Gurria welcomed Morocco's action as proof of its efforts to develop
a more open and transparent investment regime and to ensure improved
business conditions for both domestic and foreign investors.
Minister Baraka stressed that Morocco sees its adherence not only as
a recognition of its investment policy achievements but also as a
roadmap for continuing reforms in line with OECD countries' best
practices and standards. Morocco will continue to hold a high
profile in the OECD-MENA Initiative for the next three years as it
serves as co-president, along with Spain and Belgium, replacing
Egypt in this role.

-----------------------
INFORMAL DONORS MEETING
-----------------------


RABAT 00000950 006.3 OF 006


16. An informal donors' session chaired by the OECD-MENA
Secretariat reviewed expenditures to date and solicited suggestions
on work ahead. The Swedish representative indicated that his
government's contributions to the OECD-MENA program are funded
through the end of 2010, but could not commit to additional funding
beyond that date pending his government's internal review of
assistance programs. Canada stated that funding for its governance
and investment programs is assured through 2011. Japan's commitment
was more open-ended; its representative said it will direct its
funding to the investment program and evaluate the results over
time. The U.S. explained that while we intend to seek funding for
2010, additional funding in 2011-12 will depend on the ability of
the program to show measurable deliverables, especially those
targeted to improving youth employment and women's entrepreneurship.


17. EEB, S/GWI and USOECD cleared this message.

JACKSON

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