Beirut-Amman, 30 May 2022 (ESCWA)-- The COVID-19 pandemic has further exacerbated existing inequalities in the Arab region along subnational, class and gender lines, and caused an unprecedented increase in its poverty rate, thus threatening social cohesion, economic prosperity and stability. In response to this worrisome situation, the Arab Forum for Equality kicked off today in Amman, Jordan, gathering a large number of ministers and senior officials, regional and international experts, academics, and representatives of UN agencies and media outlets.
The Forum, organized by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and Pathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies, is held under the theme “Towards inclusive youth employment in the Arab region”. It aims to establish a regional platform for Arab countries to periodically meet and discuss key issues related to inequality, and find practical solutions.
Opening statements were delivered by ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti and Former Jordanian Prime Minister Omar Razzaz. The Forum will conclude tomorrow, Tuesday 31 May, with the launch of “Josour” - an initiative advocated by Lebanese Superstar Elissa, which aims to reduce inequalities in the Arab region.
In her opening statement, Dashti pinpointed major aspects of inequality in the region, and dubbed it as a “ticking bomb” that might go off at any moment, destroying the social fabric and any optimism people may have in achieving change. She believed that people were ready to bear the difficult circumstances as long as they didn’t last long. She revealed that in a recent opinion poll conducted by ESCWA in ten Arab States shortly before the outbreak of the war in Ukraine, half of the respondents voiced their optimism about equality in the region. “This optimism means that they still expect Governments to work for change”, Dashti added.
Participants will discuss over two days the various forms and trends of inequality at the regional and global levels, social protections issues, youth unemployment, and the role of the private sector in this regard.
For his part, Razzaz noted that the concept of equality in the Arab region remained problematic at a time when nations around the world have made considerable progress in addressing inequality, and developed relevant policies in that regard. “There cannot be talk about equality unless there is work to achieve equal opportunities, equitable wealth distribution and adjustment of progressive sale taxation”, Razzaz stressed.
Discussions will build on the findings of a joint flagship report issued by ESCWA and Pathfinders entitled “Inequality in the region: A ticking bomb”, which presents a road map to address inequality in the region by providing practical policy solutions.
One of five United Nations regional commissions, ESCWA supports inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in Arab States, and works on enhancing regional integration.
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