Sima Bahous: Remarks at the Launch of 2013 Arab Millennium Development Goals Report

Sep 23, 2013

Dr. Sima Bahous at launch of the Arab MDGs Report at the United Nations in New York with his Excellency Dr. Nabil Al-Araby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States and her Excellency Dr. Rima Khalaf, Executive Director of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

Opening Remarks of Sima Bahous,
Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of

Regional Bureau for Arab States, United Nations Development Programme

Chair, Arab States / Middle East and North Africa Regional United Nations Development Group

Launch of 2013 Arab Millennium Development Goals Report

United Nations, New York
23 September,  2013

Check against delivery

Your Excellency Dr. Nabil Al-Araby, Secretary-General of the League of Arab States,

Your Excellency Dr. Rima Khalaf, Executive Director of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia,

Your Excellencies Permanent Representatives of Arab and Partner Missions to the United Nations,

Friends and Colleagues,

It is an honor to welcome you to the launch of the 2013 Arab Millennium Development Goals Report.

At the outset I wish to thank the League of Arab States, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) and the Members of the Regional Coordination Mechanism and the Regional United Nations Development Group. It is by virtue of their leadership, mutual support and joint work that we can now launch this accurate and insightful report, amid such a dynamic and also difficult context. 

Special thanks are in order to ESCWA for their overall coordination of this important exercise.

As we know we produce this report together as a response to the request of the United Nations General Assembly (GA) for a periodic assessment of progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and as a timely input to the GA discussions on the MDGs which are starting here today. 

I believe we can all agree that we produce this report also out of conviction. Conviction that development is of fundamental importance for the future of the Arab region. And conviction to help foster a discussion that gives a chance for a brighter future to every person and every community in every one of our countries. 

As we meet today the region is going through a period of marked challenges.

Over two years ago a wave of change began to sweep the region, a wave that in the medium and longer terms represents the strongest opportunity the region has ever had to move towards more inclusive governance and development.

However the short term is proving difficult.

Those countries which have embarked upon transition are struggling to find their compass and are experiencing new strains and tensions. Amid the uncertainty social and economic indicators are rolling back and the time we most need them to go forward.

Unrest in Syria has taken a most tragic turn, with the hardening of a full-on conflict which has already taken the lives of 100,000 people and displaced millions from their homes. The protracted nature of this crisis is now pushing back development in Syria and neighboring countries and continues to threaten regional stability in the broadest of senses.

UNDP is currently conducting a study in Syria, Lebanon and Jordan to comprehend the effects of the conflict on development.  UNDP is also supporting livelihoods in Syria through quick-impact projects that generate income for communities through emergency employment in improving service delivery and repairing, community infrastructure. Many other UN agencies and partners are active in providing support as well.

At this time UNDP and the Regional United Nations Development Group are also scaling up support for Lebanon and Jordan through Host-Communities Support Programmes in both countries to help create jobs, achieve economic recovery, maintain social cohesion and strengthen conflict mitigation and conflict resolution mechanisms. But the greatest need is for a political solution in Syria that sees a transition to peace, inclusive participation and a resumption of development in that country while relieving the enormous burden from its neighbors.

Meanwhile old challenges remain unresolved. People in the Arab LDCs continue to lead lives of poverty, fragility and uncertainty.

And our Palestinian brothers and sisters continue to live under the indignities of illegal occupation – having through their own initiative achieved great progress on many MDG indicators, but still not enjoying their right to national self-determination.

This report of course does not offer political solutions to those challenges – that is not our task here today.

Instead it undertakes a deep diagnosis of development challenges and makes clear the deficits that stakeholders in every country will have to address if the aspirations of the Arab peoples are to be met and if the basis for sustainable peace, security and stability is to be achieved.

Of note is the report’s key message that governance and development can no longer be considered as separate or distinct tracts. Rather the way forward for the Arab region is to make balanced progress not only on governance but also in the economic, social and environmental dimensions of sustainable development.

The report also makes clear that the empowerment of women and youth is key to the region’s future.

These messages helps retain and indeed strengthen the link between the broad values of the Millennium Declaration and the more specific targets and indicators of the MDGs, a linkage which we all must keep in mind as we move towards any post-2015 framework and Sustainable Development Goals that build on the successes of the MDGs and the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference while also making refinements to capture a broader and even more relevant agenda.

It also resonates with the views of people in the Arab region who have participated in the online MyWorld Survey or participated in the national and regional post-2015 consultations convened by United Nations Country Teams and the United Nations Development Group across the Arab region.

These exercises have made clear that the world people want across the Arab region is one where there is more inclusive and higher quality social and economic opportunity, but also one in which governments are transparent, effective and responsive to their needs in the broadest sense.

Indeed in this way I would argue that not only is the quantitative analysis of this report extraordinarily useful.  Also the qualitative analysis and the vision proposed is insightful and relevant for the future of this region.

As the Arab region continues to chart its way forward, I am hopeful that the Arab MDGs Report will serve as a solid benchmark and will stimulate fresh thinking.

 As Chair of the Regional United Nations Development Group, I am pleased that the Regional UNDG has contributed along with our partners, and I am looking forward to the discussions this Report inspires.

It is an honor to invite to the floor her Excellency Dr. Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.

Thank you.

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