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10/06/2013 - 09:11hs

Group studies relations between Arabs and Latin America

'New Generation Consulting', from Lebanon, brings together researchers and entrepreneurs to study political and social issues involving the two regions. The plan is to narrow ties with Brazilian organisations.

São Paulo - Two years ago, a group of researchers from different countries decided to join forces to form a centre for studies to examine relations between the countries of the Middle East and North Africa and the nations in Latin America. Thus arose New Generation Consulting, a think tank based in Lebanon that is seeking closer ties with Brazilian organisations.

Aurea Santos / ANBA

Al Khatib and Herrera seek support in Brazil

 "There is a very strong and great potential among the regions of the Arab world and Latin America in terms of diaspora, culture and trade. There are strong complementarities, but no one really focused on how to build bridges between the two regions," said the French-Chilean Janaina Herrera, managing director of the think tank. She and the Lebanese Issam Al Khatib, COO and technological consultant at the research centre, visited the headquarters of the Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce on Thursday (06) and were greeted by the organisation's director-general, Michel Alaby.

The New Generation Consulting has ten professionals in different areas, Economics, Anthropology, Political Science and Diplomacy, among others. The centre also has a network of supporters including entrepreneurs who help the project.

"The model of our initiative is to have an area for consultancy to businesses, chambers of commerce and foundations, and this money will fund independent research on the relations between the two regions," said Herrera. Projects that generate revenues need not be linked to the Arab world's relations with Latin America.

One of these financing projects was for Swiss NGO New Cities Foundation and the City of Rio de Janeiro. "It is a beautiful project in which we partnered with companies such as General Electric and Cisco to help on the theme of access to health care in Santa Marta, in Rio," she said.

In research on the Arab world, there are different focuses, highlighting political and social issues. "It is a moment of strong transformations in the Arab world and we are focussing much on understanding the deeper causes of this social and economic transformation. We work a lot with issues in Egypt and Syria, to understand what is happening there, which has consequences for the entire region, "said Herrera.

"We also work with themes such as the environment. We think this will determine strong trends for the future of the region and for trade. Furthermore, we also focus on social themes, like relations between women and Islam," she explained.

In Latin America, the think tank has collaborators in Brazil, Argentina and Chile. "These are the countries with which we have the strongest relations, but we are young. We are still in the development phase of our projects," said the managing director.

Herrera says she and Al Khatib are in Brazil for a month, doing research and working on business development, which includes the search for companies to support the research projects of the centre.

"The Arab Brazilian Chamber of Commerce is a dynamic, private player with a very important role in this strategic and regional approach among businessmen and researchers," said the executive about his visit to the organisation.

"We also visited the Fiesp (Federation of Industries of the State of São Paulo), where we met the foreign affairs director. They are preparing a delegation to Egypt, after the visit of [President Mohammed] Morsi. It was interesting to understand the Fiesp vision regarding these relations. We will also visit Mount Lebanon Club, we have contacts with the Arab Brazilian diaspora to understand a little what interest communities here," she said.

A visit to São Paulo will also generate research material for the study centre. "At the end of this month here in São Paulo, we will write a report about the research here and the meetings we had with all stakeholders, public and private, about the future of relations between Brazil and the Arab world," added Herrera.

*Translated by Mark Ament

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