Arab Forum for Sustainable Development, 2018 Skip to main content

Arab Forum for Sustainable Development, 2018

24 April 2018
Beirut, Lebanon

Statement by Mr. Mohamed Ali Alhakim
Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission
for Western Asia (ESCWA)
at the Arab High-level Forum on Sustainable Development 2018
United Nations House, Beirut
24-26 April 2018

Mr. Saad Hariri, Prime Minister of Lebanon, represented by Mr. Ghattas Khoury, Minister of Culture,
Mr. Aziz Rabbah, Minister of Energy, Mines and Sustainable Development, Morocco,
Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, represented by his adviser Ms. Nada al-Ajizi,
Mr. Louay Shabana, Vice-President of the United Nations Sustainable Development Group in the Arab Region,
Your Excellencies,
Dear colleagues,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I am pleased to welcome you, on behalf of ESCWA, at the United Nations House in Beirut, as we open the 2018 Arab Forum on Sustainable Development.
Allow me first to thank His Excellency Mr. Saad Al-Hariri, represented by his Excellency Mr. Ghattas Khoury, Minister of Culture, for the patronage of this major regional event, and through him to thank Lebanon for chairing the present Forum session.

I would also like to express our thanks to the Secretariat of the League of Arab States and our partners in the United Nations system for the efforts they exerted in preparing this important event.

I finally thank Morocco for having hosted and chaired the 2017 Forum, pioneered the development of a national vision and articulated action plans for development in line with the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Ladies and gentlemen,

We, at ESCWA, firmly believe that development is a universal right, which cannot be attained without global, regional and national cooperation. We are here today to discuss important issues of concern to the peoples of our region; and as we pursue better prospects for future generations, we hold this year’s Forum under the theme “Natural resources, future generations and the common good”.

People should be placed at the heart of development policymaking and planning. This especially applies to the sound management, sustainable use and equitable distribution of natural resources, and to leveraging natural resource revenues for inclusive and sustainable development financing.
Our dialogue focuses on the links between the governance of natural resources and the State’s responsibility in upholding human dignity and well-being, strengthening social resilience, reducing poverty and inequality, and realizing justice, especially for marginalized and vulnerable groups.

The link between natural resources and sustainable development is evident. Our member States have relied for many years on the exploitation of natural resources to support economic growth, finance social services and develop infrastructure. These resources are now depleting; some are subject to global market fluctuations and their exploitation exhausts both the environment and people.

Most of our water resources, for example, are shared across borders and are alarmingly threatened by overuse and the effects of climate change and desertification. With a growing population and large rural-urban migration flows, the Arab region is exposed to serious environmental and health hazards, which are exacerbated by conflict, war and occupation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

We are facing dire conditions today; nevertheless, the theme of this Forum brings tomorrow into the discussion. How can we achieve sustainability in the use and management of our natural resources for the common good? What role should we play to reach that goal? What capacities and opportunities do we have to initiate a transformative path, in line with our present and future needs and inspired by the spirit of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development?
Our commitment to the global Agenda and the SDGs reflects our awareness of the common good, our determination to end poverty and injustice, and our resolve to protect our planet and secure the future of the next generations. The holistic nature and complementarity of the SDGs require partnerships that encompass all components of society, reaching beyond all sorts of frontiers.

Our presence here, as representatives of Governments, parliaments, regional and international organizations, the civil society, the private sector, academia, research centres and the media, is guided by a true commitment to partnership as a choice and an imperative to achieve our common goal: the sustainable development of our region.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Despite the multiple challenges facing Arab countries, there has been remarkable progress that has placed our aspirations within our reach. As the 2030 Agenda enters its
third year, we cannot but value the efforts of Arab countries, each tackling different circumstances and priorities, in striving to achieve Sustainable Development Goals and targets. We commend those that have prepared, or are preparing, their voluntary national reviews of progress.

We particularly appreciate the steps taken by Lebanon in that regard. The Lebanese Prime Minister has formed a national committee comprising all parties involved in leading and coordinating national efforts to implement the 2030 Agenda and the SDGs.
Ladies and gentlemen,

Regional forums provide mechanisms for follow-up and review. They offer platforms to address common concerns and priorities, and explore regional solutions to regional development challenges.

ESCWA, mandated by its member States, has taken the lead in the organization of the Arab Forum on Sustainable Development. We spare no effort to strengthen cooperation with other United Nations entities working in the region. At this Forum, governmental and non-governmental entities, and regional and international organizations, together uphold their commitment to support national and regional development efforts through the provision of advice and expertise.
I look forward to a fruitful debate and to new lessons to be learned in the coming days. I also hope that our dialogue will yield key messages and recommendations that tackle our region’s priorities and voice its concerns to the world through the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development.

Our common goal will be our guide and inspiration: sustainable development that leaves no one behind, be it the peoples of today or those of the future.
I wish this meeting every success, hoping that our guests will enjoy a pleasant stay in this generous country.

Thank you.

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