As the United Nations enters its seventieth year, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) embarks on its fifth decade of work in the Arab region. Our role at ESCWA, however challenging in these tragic times, is to keep the long-term goals of development, integration and social justice alive and to create a prosperous and just future for all. The region has been shaken to the core. The casualty toll continues to mount and millions have been displaced and exiled. Aspirations for political and socioeconomic reform wither in the face of violence, hunger and displacement. Indeed, the very failure to fulfill those aspirations is what sparked the Arab uprisings. There will be no lasting peace so long as the demands of Arab peoples go unanswered.
I remain convinced that our region will emerge as a beacon of hope and tolerance. I believe you will find hope in the following pages, as I have done in our work throughout the region. Hope in rebuilding: ESCWA has developed expertise in “day after tomorrow” development planning, readying reconstruction and development road maps for post-conflict States. From Syria to Palestine, Libya to Yemen, our work with struggling States will pave the way for rebirth. Hope in coming together: ESCWA promotes regional integration for social development and economic growth. Ministers from the region saluted our landmark report on Arab integration and, at the twenty-eighth session of ESCWA, committed themselves to closer cooperation. Unity and shared prosperity must replace fragmentation and underdevelopment.
Above all, hope in greater justice. ESCWA secured political commitment to that goal in the form of the 2014 Tunis Declaration on Social Justice in the Arab Region. We maintain unwavering support for the Palestinian people, highlighting the grievous socioeconomic impact of occupation. We must take a stand for justice, recognizing that violence corrupts the perpetrator as much as it hurts the victim. The explorer Ibn Battuta once said: “Travel first leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” I have been awed to silence by the bravery, relentless effort and commitment to justice, freedom and dignity I have witnessed firsthand across our region. I would like to share our story of hope and promise in the pages that follow.