The need to develop competitive markets and to embrace consumer protection values was highlighted during a regional workshop to mark the inception phase of a programme on competition and consumer policies for the Middle East and North African (MENA) region in Agadir, Morocco on 27-29 July 2015.
The event, organized by UNCTAD in collaboration with the Moroccan Competition Council, was opened by its President, Mr Abdelali Belamour, who underlined the commitment of the council in working with other MENA countries on competition issues.
UNCTAD's Director of International Trade in Goods and Services, and Commodities, Guillermo Valles, also addressed the participants during the opening ceremony and presented UNCTAD's work on competition and consumer policies.
The workshop brought together representatives from seven beneficiary countries in the MENA region - Algeria, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Lebanon, Jordan and the occupied Palestinian territory - to discuss priority enforcement areas on competition and consumer protection at the national and regional levels. Around 80 participants from different sectors contributed to dialogue at the event.
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The workshop gave the representatives from beneficiary countries an opportunity to present their experiences of enforcing competition and consumer protection laws focusing on policy, the legal and institutional framework, advocacy, international cooperation, capacity building and challenges. Apart from competition and consumer protection practitioners, the workshop was attended by high ranking representatives from government ministries, sector regulators, gender representatives, academia, the private sector, consumer associations and the judiciary.
A special session on women was attended by all participants in a plenary format. Participants underscored the need to include women in all sectors of the economy and in particular in competition and consumer protection matters.
Indeed, Ambassador Soad Shalad, Deputy National Council of Women and Director of Women Business Development Center in Cairo, Egypt, said "the woman is half the population and she is the producer, the consumer and the entrepreneur and she is facing more problems of discrimination against her, not in laws but in customs and traditions that don't accept the role of women in society as equal". She proposed that activities devoted to women take place at both national and regional levels.
Information collected during the workshop will enable UNCTAD to prepare a comprehensive project inception report including, a work plan for regional activities in all areas discussed.
The workshop falls under the UNCTAD-MENA capacity building programme, funded by the government of Sweden, which is aimed at facilitating regional economic integration.