Gulf should join ‘Marshall Plan’ for Arab Spring states - Wadah Khanfar

Former Al Jazeera boss calls on US, Europe and GCC to assist countries in transition

"I am not calling for something idealistic, I am calling for something that is pragmatic and realistic.”

The Gulf should join the US and Europe in creating a ‘Marshall Plan’ to aid post-revolution countries that are moving towards democracy as a result of the Arab Spring, the former head of Al Jazeera has said.

Wadah Khanfar, who resigned from his position as director general of the Qatar-based network in September last year, said that such a plan – a reference to the US-funded scheme that rebuilt Europe after the Second World War - would be “very much appreciated by the public as a contribution to stabilising the Middle East economically and politically.”

“When I call for this idea, I am not calling for something idealistic, I am calling for something that is pragmatic and realistic,” he told Arabian Business.

“I think the Americans have a chance of enhancing their image in the region if they actually support these new economies, which is why I believe a partnership between America, Europe and the Gulf states in rebuilding Egypt, Tunisia, Libya and Yemen would be most welcome.”

Khanfar, who is now running the Doha-based Al Sharq Forum, said that a settled North Africa would minimise the inflow of immigrants to Europe, while boosting trading prospects during the two regions during a time of economic misery.

He also said that the move would be of interest to the US as the superpower bids to strengthen existing relationships to counterbalance the rise of China and Russia.

“America can see, at this point in time, the rise of the eastern bloc, which are defining new rules for the international game,” Khanfar added. “The issue of Syria is a great example of how Russia and China perceive either Western or pro-Western democracy invading the Arab world.”

For the Gulf, the former Al Jazeera director general said that Egypt and Yemen provide “strategic depth”, and stability in each of those countries is vital to the security of the GCC. Wider stability in the Arab Spring countries would also allow the Gulf to tap the wider region’s significant human resources.

Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen have all overthrown long-standing autocrats since the beginning of 2011. Parliamentary elections have since been held in Egypt and Tunisia, while a presidential election was held in Yemen last month. A presidential election will be conducted in Egypt in May.

Libya’s National Transitional Council (NTC) is finalising draft legislation that will allow the country to hold an election for a constituent assembly in June. 

Khanfar was speaking in advance of the Public Relations World Congress, where he is due to give a keynote speech.

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