Innovation Diplomacy in Action

Setting the Pace for Peace: The Abraham Accords have been a vehicle for innovation and technology to drive solutions to shared challenges in the region.

Aviva Steinberger is the Director of Innovation Diplomacy at Start-Up Nation Central, leveraging the power of innovation to build resilient, long-term regional ties and capitalize on collaborative business potential.

In March, I represented Start-Up Nation Central at N7 Initiative’s Conference on Agriculture, Food, and Water Security in Abu Dhabi. I spent the week there with 70 sector experts and new friends from Muslim countries across the region workshopping practical, actionable projects that address our shared challenges.

While I was there, my colleagues were in Manama, Bahrain, hosting the first bilateral innovation conference with more than 450 Bahrainis, a delegation of Israeli start-ups, and other GCC representatives showcasing innovations in health tech, water tech, fintech, and more. Another colleague of mine, also from Start-Up Nation Central was in Morocco planning a collaboration between Israel and Morocco’s water-tech sectors and discussing human capital exchanges. This is innovation diplomacy in action.

This week I was in Morocco for an exclusive event bringing together women business leaders from across the region for collaborative dialogue around shared, pressing challenges. This snapshot would have sounded like fiction 20 years ago, a pipe dream 10 years ago – impossible even three years ago.

The Abraham Accords set the stage for these opportunities and are arguably the most significant geopolitical event in the Middle East in the past 20 years. Some even call them tectonic.

The accords, a collection of trilateral normalization agreements signed nearly three years ago between the United States, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, and Bahrain with Morocco and Sudan joining shortly thereafter, have created a new normal of collaboration that is changing the dynamics of the region. And at the center of it is Innovation Diplomacy.

The Abraham Accords ushered in an era of peace and prosperity in the Middle East

THE VISION behind the accords was to bring peace and prosperity to the Middle East – and it has done that and more. In a short period of time, we have seen an 82% increase in trade year over year between Israel and Accords countries, free trade agreements signed (with another on the way), exchanges of delegations focused on innovation and tech collaboration, and dozens of MOUs (memorandums of understanding) outlining cross-border academic exchanges.

The Accords have been successful in building resilient relationships because it has been a vehicle for innovation diplomacy, enabling technology to drive solutions to shared challenges in the region and foster collaboration. Israel, the Start-Up Nation, has over 7,300 innovative companies and start-ups. The ecosystem is supported by accelerators, incubators, tech transfer offices, and government regulations and incentives.

Countries in the region are going through a transformation, investing billions of dollars into developing knowledge-based economies and their own entrepreneurial sectors. They acknowledge that the Israeli journey over the last three decades has been remarkable and presents opportunities for real gains in the region’s economy.

Furthermore, the climate tech sector in Israel is growing exponentially. Investments in water, energy, agriculture, and food security have risen consistently even in the face of global macroeconomic conditions, amounting to nearly USD 6 billion in 2022. The impacts of climate change do not follow geographic boundaries, and the MENA region is particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, with sandstorms, flooding, extreme heat, and drought becoming typical and threatening our access to clean water and food.

The Abraham Accords have created a new era of collaboration and innovation in the Middle East, ushering in cooperation and prosperity that was once unimaginable. The normalization of relations between Israel and Arab countries has created opportunities for collaboration in various sectors, including innovation for climate change solutions. The Start-Up Nation has played a significant role in this process, making it an essential partner for other countries in the region and laying the groundwork for innovation diplomacy.

As the region continues to invest in knowledge-based economies and entrepreneurship, the possibilities for collaboration and growth are endless. The Abraham Accords will continue to shape the future of the Middle East for years to come.

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