LETTER FROM THE EDITOR, JANUARY 2014

The beginning of a new year is always a time for reflection and the start of 2014 is no different to any other in that regard, even though the picture of the Middle East we reflect upon is a less than a happy one in many areas.

In Syria, refugees are living – and dying – on snow covered streets. In Gaza there is little or no electricity, the flooded streets run thick with raw sewage. In Iraq and Libya the carnage continues unabated.

Yet, in other states there is great optimism. Dubai will host the 2020 world Expo, while Qatar will be the home of the World Cup football tournament in 2022. Both these mega international events will attract a multitude of visitors and focus attention on the many positives emanating from the region. There are also green shoots of political and economic recovery in some of the ‘Arab Spring’ countries where it sometimes appeared chaos would continue into the next century, reminding us that however dire the situation, there is always hope.

The international community has been called upon to help solve some of the region’s woes but to date little hope has emerged from that quarter. A number of Arab thinkers have called on the regional community to intervene, not only by providing essential aid in terms of fuel and food, which some have already done, but also by opening their borders to the many thousands of impoverished refugees displaced by the various conflicts.

Arabs are generally known both for their generosity and their hospitality. If ever there was a time to demonstrate either, or both, it is surely now. The wealthier regional states have traditionally been the ones to dig deepest financially but every Arab country has something to offer, if it is only making sure the world’s attention remains focussed on the situation. This is not the time for relying on the West for help, the Arabs must set their own example; lead and the international community will follow. Shout loud enough and the world will hear.

Pat Lancaster

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