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Clinton's 2020 vision of the Arab world

Former US president outlines two futures facing the Arab world, with focus on the positive route.

In an address to leaders at the Arab Strategy Forum, in Dubai, former US President, Bill Clinton, outlined his vision of what he believed the Arab world could look like in the year 2020.

He told an audience of distinguished Arab leaders, including Dubai crown prince, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, that there were in fact two routes into the future - one positive, the other negative.

However, his speech concentrated on the positive route, paying particular note to economic issues. "Arab nations need to diversify their economies away from oil dependency," he told the packed audience.

A key element of his speech centred on the theme of interdependence. He said that all nations must realise their interdependence on local and regional neighbours and should focus on building stronger ties with them, but that this was especially true in the Middle East region.

Following a similar address from Sheikh Mohammed, Clinton added that other Arab nations should follow the excellent examples set by the nations such as Qatar and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), in growing diverse, dynamic, world-class economies.

Moreover, he said there was much to be gained in the coming years from focusing on young people. He added that he was impressed by the initiatives and achievements of the recently established Young Arab Leaders (YAL) group, and called on both Arab and non-Arabic government leaders to give them more support.

Entreprenuerialism would also drive forward the vision, he said, urging Arab nations to encourage young people into business by simplifying the process of setting up businesses, getting access to finance and encouraging stronger trade and cultural links with neighbouring countries.

And he called for Arab countries to put more young business minds in positions of influence, to help drive forward the vision of a future where the Arabic population could play a greater role on the global stage.

The negative option, he said, was for conflict to continue and instability to grow.

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