The COVID-19 pandemic has triggered a shift on the level of the society and its organizations. We are offered an opportunity to build forward better based on the lessons learned. In this framework, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum Knowledge Foundation (MBRF), under the umbrella of the Knowledge Project, organized an online forum from 1 until 3 September 2020.

Stemming from UNDP and MBRF common vision and continuous effort to disseminate knowledge and develop the skills of the youth of the Arab States region, the forum created a space for virtual dialogues and discussion on various knowledge issues and opportunities, aiming to accelerate the steps toward knowledge societies. 

The 3-day forum brought together 21 speakers and more than 3,000 participants from the Arab region and beyond, including policymakers, scholars, UN agencies and private sector representatives, youth, and students. It tackled three main topics: 1. COVID-19 and the digital transformation accelerator, which touched on the digital landscape and divide in the Arab region, and the role of politics and economy in accelerating digital transformation; 2. building an equitable and inclusive shared future, with the speakers discussing a comprehensive sustainable global strategy, the opportunities we can benefit from through financial inclusion, and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) lessons learnt for a decade of action; 3. the linkages between knowledge creation, economic growth and the well-being of a society, discussing how mental health is an important contributor to achieving human development in the Arab region. 

“This pandemic struck at a time when the SDGs were gaining momentum and many countries were making good progress. As SDGs losses are being counted due to COVID-19, it is our duty to keep up that momentum and help the communities we serve to go back on track.” Sarah Poole, UNDP Regional Director a.i. for Arab States added during the opening session.

Furthermore, the forum included talks with experts, on: the knowledge year equivalence, which is the model on the knowledge society trajectory between past, present and future; knowledge navigation and finding knowledge alliances; and crowdfunding your business, which addressed the secret to crowdfunding and to make any project stand out.

Besides the informative and timely discussions, a new initiative was launched by the Knowledge Project, which consisted of a series of hands-on workshops and training aimed at equipping the youth in the Arab region with some of the skills required for their future. Accordingly, the participants of the forum had the opportunity to attend a workshop from data to knowledge over the 3 days, which provided them with knowledge and skills to extracting, organizing, visualizing, and communicating data.

The Forum is one of the initiatives the project carried on during the pandemic. With the outbreak of COVID-19 and consequently the lockdown and travel ban, the Knowledge Project continued to disseminate its Knowledge Products online and organized a series of webinars to reflect on the socio-economic impact of COVID-19 on the Arab region, including the economic crisis, the impact on education systems, the role of the knowledge economy and society post COVID-19 and human development perspectives. 

Watch the recordings of the live discussions here.