Under-Secretary-General of the United Nations
Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA)
to the Economic and Social Council of the League of Arab States
Mr. Hamad Bin Suleiman Al-Bazai, Deputy Minister of Finance of Saudi Arabia and Chair of the Economic and Social Council,
Mr. Badreddine Alali, Assistant Secretary-General for Social Affairs of the League of Arab States, representing the Secretary-General of the League,
Ladies and gentlemen,
I would like to begin by wishing Saudi Arabia every success in chairing the current session of the Economic and Social Council of the League of Arab States, and Mr. Al-Bazai the best of luck in his work.
It is our pleasure to participate in the current session, and to provide an overview of efforts by the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in propelling social and economic development in the Arab region.
Chair, ladies and gentlemen,
The principal goal of ESCWA, as the regional arm of the United Nations in the Arab region, is to support Arab countries in achieving sustainable and balanced development. We are therefore committed to actively participating in the work of your distinguished Council.
ESCWA is well aware of the serious development challenges facing our countries, and our region in general, including reducing poverty, enhancing food security, providing decent employment opportunities for young people, empowering women, developing integrated social policies, ensuring the sustainable management of natural resources, benefiting from technology as an engine for development, and securing sufficient resources to fund development efforts. We also recognize the mammoth challenges related to preserving State institutions in the Arab region, which threaten the development gains achieved so far. Our region has fallen victim to bloody conflicts and brutal attacks by extremists and terrorist groups, and continues to suffer under the longest-running military occupation of modern times: the Israeli occupation of Palestine and other Arab land.
Ladies and gentlemen,
We have ambitious ideas to support Arab countries in tackling those challenges in a practical and systematic manner. We hope that these ideas will be helpful in their solutions, undertaken in collaboration with the League of Arab States (the umbrella organization for joint Arab action) and specialized Arab organizations, by focusing on the following issues.
First, encourage efforts to revive Arab economic integration through new approaches that take into account the region’s current circumstances and its great potential.
Secondly, seriously work on presenting a new development model to Arab countries by studying best practices and experiences, especially those of South countries that have shared success stories that should be emulated - a model built on inclusive, equitable and just economic and social policies to ensure that development reflects our needs, culture and specificities.
Thirdly, support Arab countries’ efforts in meeting their international development commitments, especially the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. Through regional strategies, we are closely working with the secretariat of the League of Arab States to disseminate knowledge, provide expertise and technical support to member States, strengthen communication channels and dialogue platforms between all sustainable development stakeholders, and support partnerships and participation to achieve this ambitious Agenda and its 17 Goals. The Arab Forum on Sustainable Development, organized annually with the League of Arab States, provides a platform to discuss our countries’ accomplishments and concerns, and methods to expedite the Agenda’s implementation. We have established a unit at ESCWA to provide direct support to member States in implementing the 2030 Agenda.
Fourthly, financing for development issues are a priority in our work, given their fundamental role in realizing the 2030 vision. However, difficulties arise in maintaining current development financing patterns. ESCWA studies on financing for development show that considerable opportunities and capacity exist, which can be further exploited. For every dollar sent to the Arab region, around $3 flow out, rendering the region
a source for financing development in other regions. For every dollar received in foreign direct investment, $1.7 leave in the form of Arab foreign direct investment and foreign profits transferred abroad. For every dollar borrowed from abroad, the region repays double. This highlights the need for an integrated regional framework for financing development to identify innovative financing sources, on the one hand, and to renationalize Arab financing capacity to serve Arab sustainable development ambitions, on the other.
Fifthly, we pay special attention to the impact of conflict on development in the Arab region, formulate integrated plans for rebuilding and rehabilitating conflict-affected countries, and develop economic and social visions that take into account the effects of those conflicts. We are currently conducting several projects with conflict-affected countries, which we hope will form the basis of efforts to rebuild and to develop institutions and human capital once the conflicts end.
Sixthly, ESCWA continues to effectively work with the League of Arab States’ apparatuses and specialized ministerial councils to support their efforts in various development fields. We are prepared to provide the necessary technical assistance to ensure success in their work. There is great technical capacity in our region, which is not being optimally employed. Solutions are available for many of our development problems; they simply require the will to benefit from them and transform them into national policies and reforms. We will continue to work with the League’s apparatuses to bridge the gap between available knowledge and expertise, on the one hand, and how it is benefited from in practice and in decision-making, on the other.
Ladies and gentlemen,
In conclusion, I would like to stress our determination to periodically consult with your esteemed Council on providing all the required support to ensure its success, and on strengthening and broadening our cooperation with the League’s secretariat under the leadership of Mr. Ahmed Aboul Gheit and his support team.