Last month saw the cream of the world’s leaders, businesspeople, economists and experts meet at the World Economic Forum in Davos to discuss today’s most pressing issues. And they are plentiful as they are urgent: poverty, climate change, trade barriers, famine and disease, to name a few.
But as the world works together against malaria, the digital divide and melting polar ice caps, the Middle East continues to be mired in its own set of anxieties – anxieties compounded by the vaulting ambition of President George W. Bush, whose presidency has been garnished with equal dollops of steely determination and colossal hubris.
Back in 2005, the Middle East’s leaders put impressive store in the issues that plague our planet, but the conflicts America’s influence in the Middle East has directly and indirectly fomented, have not only put real developmental issues (à la those discussed at Davos) on hold, they have stripped an entire region of its focus. It is as if the whole notion of development has fallen off the region’s agenda. We are lagging behind in our global priorities, and this will inevitably be reflected in our societies.
Nowhere has this been more evident that in Lebanon over the past month. While world and industry leaders held dialogues at the Swiss resort, laying the groundwork for progress and cooperation, in the streets of Beirut, old wounds were opened amid senseless violence.
So even as Fuad Seniora returned from Paris with $7.6 billion, there was only muted applause. We are all well aware that if the funds are used for a quick fix, with no meaningful attempt to ease internal pressure and seek to remove Lebanon from the regional political dynamic, it will only be a matter of time before another Lebanese delegation takes the begging bowl to Paris.
If that happens, there may be no one left to tango with.