Sima Bahous: Remarks at the Arab Development Forum

Apr 10, 2013

Opening Session of Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant  Administrator and Director of Regional Bureau forArab States, United Nations Development Programme
Arab Development Forum – Priorities for the Post-2015 Development Agenda

Intercontinental Hotel
Amman, Jordan
10 April, 2013

Your Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah,

Your Excellency Ms. Helen Clark,

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My thanks go to Her Majesty Queen Rania Al Abdullah of Jordan for Her Royal Patronage and for Her presence in this important event.

Your Majesty’s active and distinguished participation on the Secretary-General’s High-Level Panel of Eminent Persons on the Post-2015 Development Agenda is testament to Your Majesty’s esteem and  vision, and Your Majesty’s commitment to dignity for all people – here in Jordan, in the Arab Region, and around the world.

I also thank Your Excellency Ms. Helen Clark, Chair of the United Nations Development Group for joining us not only today but for the other meetings we have held in Jordan this week. Your guidance and vision is key to our success.

I am very pleased to be here in Amman for the launch of the Arab Development Forum.

To all of those visiting, I am pleased to welcome you to Jordan, the country I am proud to call home.

I am pleased to be with Ahmad Al Hindawi, the UN Secretary General’s Envoy on Youth.

I welcome you as well, Dr. Omar Razzaz, Chair of the Board of Trustees the King Abdullah II Fund for Development.

I thank the Regional Directors and other representatives of UN Agencies for coming together so effectively to co-organize this event under the United Nations Development Group umbrella.

As Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called for, it is our shared duty to support an open, inclusive process towards an inspiring and globally-owned Post-2015 Development Agenda.

And I send a very warm welcome to all our participants from civil society coming from 18 Arab countries. Your perspectives are the foundations of our discussions, and your priorities will drive the outcomes of this consultation. Ahlan wa Sahlan.

The objective of this regional consultation is to assess development progress in the Arab region, and to consider priorities for the future.

We will discuss the priorities that delegates from civil society think the architects of the next global development framework, including Arab governments, should emphasize as they debate a development framework to build on and follow up on progress towards the Millennium Development Goals.

Our Forum represents the continuation of dialogue that has been underway in the Arab region since late last year.

Most directly, it benefits from and complements a regional consultation held last month here in Amman, also under the Patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania.

I am pleased that Dr. Omar Razzaz will brief us on the outcomes of that consultation.

I had the honor of participating in that inspirational consultation, and I would like to briefly highlight just two messages which will also help to frame our discussions.

One message relates to civil society. Delegates expressed clearly that development doesn’t happen by the actions of government alone. We all have the right, we all have the ability, to contribute to the world we want.

A related message is on the media. Media outlets have a powerful role in shaping social discourse in this region. The key now is to try to turn this power into a force for engaged development and sustainable human progress.

In response to these messages I am pleased to announce that, in consultation with the Office of Her Majesty, we will establish what we call the Arab Media for Development Network. The network will be a mechanism for building the capacity of media outlets to generate much more discussion on important development issues, with a view to enabling greater civil society engagement in advocating for development and monitoring progress. I am greatly looking forward to launching this initiative soon. And I am thankful for the inspiration of the delegates and of Her Majesty in triggering this idea.

I am also pleased to announce that Her Majesty has offered to extend her patronage to annual regional consultations to take stock of progress, assess new needs and exchange views on development with civil society from around the Arab region.  I thank Her Majesty for her generosity and I am pleased to offer the services of the United Nations Development Group to support this initiative.  

Our meeting today also builds on national consultations which our United Nations Country Teams have facilitated in nine Arab countries: Algeria, Djibouti, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, Morocco, Sudan, Yemen, and right here in Jordan. It also takes into account the findings of a regional consultation organized in Beirut this March by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, which we heard about this morning.

It comes as well as a sign of our commitment to regional cooperation. In this spirit I reaffirm the partnership between the Regional United Nations Development Group and the League of Arab States in the implementation of the Declaration of the Arab Development Summit, in Riyadh this January, which calls for regional cooperation towards the MDGs and the Post-2015 Agenda.

Our meeting is further informed by the views of over 10,000 people in the Arab Region who have participated thus far in the Millennium Campaign’s global My World Survey, the UN’s first open survey of people’s development priorities.

Altogether this is perhaps the largest and most significant process ever undertaken to find out what people want for their future. I am humbled to support this breakthrough in the Arab region.

Our event comes at an opportune moment. It is both a critical time for the global process towards a new development framework, and a decisive period in our own region.

As the world community seeks a path to inclusive, sustainable human development, people in the Arab region are searching for the road to dignity, opportunity and fairness. These are two sides of the same coin.

I suggest that our dialogue is not only a contribution to the next global framework. It also lays the foundation for a discourse on the future of our own region.

During this Forum we will discuss critical issues such as poverty, employment, quality education, health, sustainable development, and governance – all issues that the world is thinking about how best to reflect in a new development framework, and all issues that are at the heart of the challenges we know.

We will also discuss conflict and social cohesion, a matter of particular importance in the Arab world which has received less attention in the global-goals discourse. We must be clear in our view that peace, security, and freedom from violence are inalienable rights and are fundamental for development. The same goes for freedom from occupation, and the right to self-determination.

Indeed the agenda is rich, and we have much to discuss.

But let us agree then that this is cannot the culmination of our process.

It is only a step on the path to consensus the Arab societies are travelling today.

This is why I urge all of you to please take this conversation back to your countries. Let us work together to expand engagement with an ever-increasing set of stakeholders.

We all have a role, and we all have a voice, in creating the world we want.

I am happy to be here with you today, and I am looking forward to our discussions. Thank you.

To kick off the discussion let me please hand the floor to Helen Clark, a passionate development advocate and one of the leaders doing the most around the globe to support an inclusive, well-informed movement towards sustainable human development and the world we want.

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