Beirut, 9 April 2019 (ESCWA)--The Arab Forum for Sustainable Development (AFSD) today kicked off at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) headquarters in Beirut around the theme of empowering people and ensuring inclusiveness and equality in the Arab region.
The opening ceremony was attended by UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed, former Lebanese Minister Enaya Ezzeddine representing Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri, Parliament Member Bahia Hariri representing Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, League of Arab States (LAS) Secretary-General Ahmad Aboul Gheit, ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti, Iraqi Minister of Planning Noori al-Dulaimi, as well as a score of officials, experts, members of the diplomatic corps and other stakeholders from youth and civil society.
In her opening statement, Dashti underscored that Arab States’ voluntary national reviews reveal progress that calls for optimism as most States have adopted long-term development plans and more inclusive approaches.
“Our region is enriched with 100 million young people who are capable of advancing society and transforming our world, if given the opportunity to be more actively involved in the economy and in politics,” she said.
Dashti announced the recent launch of Young ESCWA initiative aiming to be an incubator for innovative solutions to improve the lives of people of the Arab region, including its youth and to push young staff of ESCWA to share their ideas for positive change.
“Our vision is to involve young people in internal reforms, aimed at revitalizing ESCWA, updating its working methods, and increasing its effectiveness and efficiency,” she said.
“I invite you to work together, tenaciously and determinedly, to ensure a safe and promising future where no one is left behind. I am aware that we face great challenges, but our determination is greater,” she concluded.
For his part, Aboul Gheit stressed the need to increase cooperation in all that serves the Arab region at the political, economic, social, and environmental levels and preparing suitable circumstances to grow the industrial sector which eventually leads to prosperity.
In the same context, Al Dulaimi highlighted the importance of enhancing intellectual property rights to support innovators, empowering women in the labour force, and the collective awareness of the significance of 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.
Speaking on the Agenda 2030, the UN Deputy Chief noted that 2019 is a defining year and that this region has a key role to play. She highlighted youth, economic growth, vast financial resources, digital infrastructure, innovative technologies and active private sector present boundless potential and opportunities.
She said that women now have greater access to leadership positions than ever before like Egypt, Morocco, and Lebanon, adding that the world is determined not to leave anyone behind. She underscored that conflict in the Arab region not only is an obstacle to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), but unfortunately, creates new ones.
However, Mohamed underlined that “we are not on track to deliver on the ambitions we set for ourselves. The data starting to emerge indicate that the world needs a significant step up in action and investment if we are to achieve the SDGs."
Speaking about the UN reform, she said: “Expect to see more cohesive, adaptable, and accountable UN country teams.”
Over 300 high-level representatives of Arab governments, regional intergovernmental organizations, civil society networks and organizations, parliamentarians, academic institutions and United Nations agencies working in the Arab region came together in a space of dialogue among different stakeholders dedicated to fostering a culture of knowledge exchange and a spirit of collaboration and dialogue.
The forum discussed on the first day global and regional progress including reviews of specific goals, discussed equality and the mechanisms needed to reduce inequality within countries. It also discussed in three special sessions inclusion, empowerment and equality as pathways to peace and development; advancing climate change in the Arab region; and ensuring engagement of adolescents and youth in the Arab region.
The Arab Forum for Sustainable Development is the primary regional mechanism for the follow-up and review on the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development. Its findings and recommendations, conveying key messages from the Arab region and its countries, are submitted to the High-Level Political Forum (HLPF).
In addition to the HLPF, which will take place in July, under the auspices of the Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), a UN SDG Summit will be held under the auspices of the UN General Assembly (GA) in September 2019 in New York.
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