On the first Tuesday of May, 2023, I woke up with a feeling of anticipation. Looking out of the window of my hotel room, with the soon-to-be-hot sun only peeking out from the horizon across the desert landscape, I could sense the excitement of the two days to come.
It was the first day of the third Steering Committee meeting of the YEP MED project. I was in Aqaba, Jordan. All the project’s partners have travelled to the city – a breath-taking gateway to the Red Sea and to the entire region. The Aqaba Development Corporation has once again opened its doors to host yet another event from the European project. Here, on the banks of the Red Sea, where the Assyrian and Persian empires strived to build bridges between the different civilisations fighting for survival during ancient times, on that day partners from 8 different port communities from across the Mediterranean region met to work together to help establish Mediterranean excellence on the world stage.
As we all know, port authorities were not designed for projects like YEP MED. They were designed to build infrastructures, such as terminals, docks, piers, railways and roads among others. However, the world is currently undergoing a significant transition, and public administrations, training institutions and private companies must adapt to new realities and embrace a different understanding of their roles. It is crucial that we recognize the changing landscape around us and make the necessary adjustments to ensure that we focus our efforts to meet the needs of our evolving society. What does this mean, on a micro-level? We need to adopt new educational methodologies and technologies, promote sustainability, and be mindful of the impact our actions have on the environment and future generations. We need to adapt.
We must also work towards building more inclusive and equitable societies, where everyone has equal opportunities to thrive. This requires a shift in mindset and a willingness to challenge the status quo.
To achieve sustainable social development from the lenses of port authorities and logistics communities, we need to break through the barriers of self-defence mechanisms, resistance, ignorance, and inertia that exist within the status quo. We need to advance gender equality, provide decent employment, education, and attract talented young people. This requires us to change our culture and build new logistics port communities that possess collective intelligence capable of identifying threats and opportunities – and acting on them. We must understand the new world that we are entering, and be willing to share, commit, and cooperate without leaving anyone behind.
YEP MED has paved the way forward in this regard, particularly during the years of the COVID-19 pandemic when resources were scarce. We were fortunate. By that I do not mean lucky, as to be fortunate means to have worked hard and made the right choices to achieve one’s objectives. Luck implies that success was achieved without much effort or intention. The support and funds of the European Union through the ENI CBC MED Programme help unite the people of the Mediterranean – and this help has been indispensible. The MEDPorts Association and its training and employment committee also played a fundamental role in bringing us together and helping us move forward. I would like to express my gratitude to Philippe Guillamet and Jordi Torrent – from MEDPorts – for believing in our project. I would also like to thank Gerard Navarro and his team for their excellent work in proposing a project that received an outstanding score during the evaluation process. Finally, I would like to underline the work of the Arab Academy, the Valenciaport Foundation, and the Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Beirut and Mount Lebanon for their contributions, which helped make ours a high-quality project.
During our days in Aqaba, we reviewed the work that has been done under YEP MED during the 30 months since the project began. The data is encouraging – we can be optimistic without falling into complacency. Let us remember how we began – confined to our homes, in front of screens, with training centres closed down due to the global public health emergencies. But as often happens when work is part of the way we understand life, problems turned into opportunities. We have managed to train more than 3000 students from 7 countries, from which 45% were women. From that pool, 490 students went on to complete internships within their port communities, and from that pool, 350 secured employment. Moreover, we can also see new projects that point towards the future. The bonds that were made between us throughout this journey are strong and are guiding us towards new projects to help us collaborate together. Affections and personal relationships have been built, generating that collective intelligence that makes us better and allows us to improve our communities.
Let’s work together to develop the tools we have already set in motion and come up with new ideas for new adventures. We can use the MEDPorts Association as a launching pad, and we have other bodies and organizations that can help. We can start to build networks to keep us connected and evolving. We can continue to maximise our efforts, and utilize the knowledge, skills, and resources we have gained during this project.
This is the final stretch of YEP MED. Much like the ancient civilisations of the past, we can work together to build a talented, connected, and equitable Mediterranean.