Dr. Fawaz Akhras
British Syrian Society


Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Friends,

On behalf of the directors and members of the British Syrian Society it is my great pleasure to welcome you all to Damascus at the start of the second Banking and Financial Services Conference organized by the BSS.

It is encouraging to see so many familiar faces returning but also a growing number of new participants and members of the society, as we register one more important milestone in the calendar of events we have organized and sponsored since our inception three and a half years ago.

The last conference was conducted in an open and constructive manner and I look forward to having the same positive spirit at this event.

However, a lot has happened since we last met. Many new and many old factors beg consideration. When thinking about the Middle East, it is always against a backdrop of uncertainty.

Do people have different perceptions of the Middle East and in particular Syria? Of course they do. Do people have different solutions for Syria’s challenges? Of course they do. I hope that this conference provides us all with another platform to express and explore these varied viewpoints, with the common goal of working together for a brighter future for Syria and a better relationship with Britain.

Indeed, there is no shortage of pessimism and criticism in the Middle East. The future does appear difficult but I hope with more opportunities such as these, the challenges which confront us all can be dissected slowly and diligently until they are overcome.

Today I would like to talk to you about an important issue, which has always been close to my heart and is a critical component to any challenge and indeed any solution facing Syria or the wider Middle East as a whole. That is the issue of youth and developmental opportunity.

I feel that it is the duty of all who occupy a position of responsibility, both in the public and private sector, to ensure that our younger generations grow and develop so that they can face the challenges of the competitive world around them. This will only happen when knowledge and know-how is allowed to filter down to them in the form of graduate and post-graduate training. They do need it and they will embrace it and - just like our neighbour to the east - Syria will grow from it.

Whenever I discuss this issue, I find it interlinked to a common obstacle, which is the state of human resources in Syria. This is a problem and could in itself provide a limiting step in our development and growth. However, I am also encouraged and there have been positive signs for some time.

The Gulf States have over decades invited and benefited from the educated Syrian graduates. Over time we have become a net exporter of our talented youth. May be it is a case of ‘Made in Syria’ but moulded and developed for everyone else around the world.

As the rules and realities of globalization grip every nation, and the issue of outsourcing and the brain drain phenomena become commonplace, surely our priorities should lie in developing this talent for Syria first and foremost.

Investment should not be confined to projects, investing in people should take a priority. The development of the youth is of utmost importance to a healthy reform programme.

We have many successful Syrian, British and international professionals and business people attending this conference. So may I take this opportunity to ask you and indeed anyone who can, to try and commit more to the British Syrian Society? We are trying to create an internship and work experience programme within the framework of the society to help the youth gain from the experiences of many of you so that we can project the essence and preserve the dynamic integrity of our knowledge for it to reach future generations.

We are looking for organizations or individuals to offer week or month-long internships to help bridge the gap between our two countries and also help the youth of Syria and Britain develop professionally and culturally. The aim being that one day in the future, young graduates who have directly benefited from the BSS are able to pass this on to others and indeed help the Society to grow and touch more people.

We hope that with time and effort, tangible and significant differences can be achieved. If members or guests have any positive and constructive suggestions for furthering the BSS and its aims, please make sure that you share these with us during the conference.

Finally I would like to thank you all once again for participating in our activities at the BSS. A special thank you goes to all members of the Conference Organizing Committee both in London and Damascus and Zanoubia Communications for their hard work in getting us together in Damascus and for making this event possible. I wish you all a profitable conference and an enjoyable stay in Damascus.

Other Speeches

Plantium Sponsor:
Said Holdings Limited

Gold Sponsors:
BLOM Bank Group
Fouad Takla Company
Banque Bemo Saudi Fransi
Federation of Syrian Chambers of Commerce
Syria Gulf Bank / Syria Kuwait Insurance Company
Members of the KIPCO Group
MAS Economic Group
Syria Shell Petroleum Development B.V.

Silver Sponsors:
ASSIA Corporate
Al Baraka Group
Sham Bank
Inana Group
International Bank for Trade & Finance
Yazigi & Company
Arab Advertising Organization
Al Iqtissadiya





Bronze Sponsors:
Khwanda Group
The Arab Orient Insurance Company