The Mediterranean Development Forum (MDF) partnership is dedicated to empowering civil society to participate in shaping public policy; improving the extent and quality of research on economic and social policy issues; and creating networks of development actors in the region. Since 1997, it has promoted Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region socio-economic activities, culminating in a roughly biennial Forum.
In the fifth programme cycle, beginning in May 2004, the MDF partnership of MENA think-tanks, the United Nations Development Programme and the World Bank Group is taking a new approach to addressing development challenges in the region.
MDF5 hopes to bring energy to the initiative by forging new partnerships, particularly with foundations. It has initiated discussions with a number of foundations, including the Ford Foundation, which it hopes will become an advisory board member. MDF5 is also more action-oriented than the other MDFs. With the overall theme of ‘Reforms in the MENA Region’, it will share best practice on exactly how to make reforms happen, rather than being simply a discussion forum. Four thematic programmes have been initiated: on judicial and legal reform, local governance reform and community empowerment, institutional reform for private sector development, and a cross-cutting theme on gender. Two others – on trade reforms, and SMEs, entrepreneurship and the investment climate – will likely follow shortly.
Each programme will include a number of open regional policy dialogues with an audience including civil society and policymakers. Through these, the MDF partners hope to form communities of practitioners to work on the challenge of reform in the thematic areas. MDF5 will culminate in a forum for representatives of government, the private sector, media and civil society from across the MENA region around December 2005, to highlight the outcomes of the programmes.