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Bringing Global Knowledge to a Local Audience: A Partnership for Capacity Building in the Arab World

February 20, 2014


  • The World Bank Group and the International Monetary Fund Center for Economics & Finance have joined forces to provide training for public officials from Arab League countries
  • In response to a clear demand, the partnership has focused beyond economics and finance to include human development sectors
  • The successful partnership is providing the Arab world with a forum for the sharing of global knowledge as well as South-South knowledge exchange

In 2012, the IMF –Middle East Center for Economics and Finance (CEF), located in Kuwait, and the World Bank Group (WB) joined forces to launch an integrated curriculum of training workshops and seminars. The aim was to combine the convening power of the CEF with the technical capacity and knowledge sharing power of the WB. These training activities are focused on building the capacity of public officials of Arab League countries. They promote  the formulation and implementation of effective economic, financial, and social policies across various sectors, based on lessons learned and experiences from across the world.

Now in its third year running, the CEF has provided training for a diverse range of public officials from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, mostly concentrating on areas of economics and finance. However, the joint program with the World Bank is allowing the program to expand to include human development sectors. This was in response to the breadth and diversity of socioeconomic topics that country officials have expressed an interest in being trained in. Commenting on this development, Mr. Philippe Karam, Acting Director of the  CEF, said: “We are happy to ramp up our learning opportunities to include topics that are now very high on the region’s priorities”.

As WB staff well know, Human Development is composed of three closely inter-related sectors: Education, Health, and Social Protection. It is vitally important to work across all three to achieve the World Bank’s twin goals of eliminating extreme poverty and boosting shared prosperity. The Education sector is responsible for delivering support to countries on K-12 programs, as well as a range of tertiary education programs, including higher education and technical and vocational training. The Health sector is responsible for delivering services to clients in policy areas including, but not limited to, the strengthening of health systems , maternal and child health, fairness and accountability, and universal health insurance/coverage. Last but not least,  the Social Protection sector is responsible for delivering services to clients in policy areas including social safety nets/social assistance systems, labor market assessment and reform, employment creation, youth employment, migration, social insurance (e.g. pensions and unemployment insurance), and cross-sectoral issues such as education-to-work transition, social services, and social accountability.

" We are happy to ramp up our learning opportunities to include topics that are now very high on the region’s priorities. "

Philippe Karam

Acting Director of the CEF


Six joint courses are planned in 2014 under the CEF/WB partnership, including topics on pension reform, social safety nets, education reform, labor market policies, and health. “These sectors are critical towards investing in countries’ human capital” said Ghassan Alkhoja, Human Development Coordinator for Kuwait. “It is also the cross-sectoral linkages between education, health, and social protection which can leverage investment in individual sectors towards the achievement of development goals”.

The first course offered in 2014 on Pension Reform, which took place early this month,  showed how this  successful partnership continues to bear fruit. The one-week capacity building program was designed as a customized regional version of the global annual WB Pension Core Course. Thirty six participants from 16 Arab countries were selected from a list of over 75 applicants that included technical staff and decision makers from Ministries and agencies in charge of the administration of Social Insurance Programs, Ministries of Finance, and related agencies. In addition to the global knowledge provided by this course, the sharing of South-South knowledge and experience was another powerful mechanism that enhanced participants’ learning.

“We are delighted with our partnership with the CEF in delivering such a substantive program, not only in human development, but in other sectors as well”, said Bassam Ramadan, World Bank Kuwait Country Manager. “Our strong presence in Kuwait has enabled us to establish this strong relationship and to utilize the strength of the IMF and the World Bank to bring knowledge and learning to the Arab World.”