Sima Bahous: Opening Remarks at the Meeting of Regional United Nations Development Group – Arab States/ MENA and Partner Countries

Nov 3, 2013

Opening Remarks by Sima Bahous

United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Assistant Administrator and Director of,

Regional Bureau for Arab States, United Nations Development Programme

Chair of the Arab States and Middle East and North Africa Regional United Nations Development Group

Meeting of Regional United Nations Development Group – Arab States/ MENA and Partner Countries

Amman, 3 November 2013


Dear Colleagues and Friends,

Thank you Your Excellency for these kind and encouraging remarks. We, at the UNDG, are most gratified by your presence with us today, and indeed by your strong support to the work we do, as One United Nations, in support of States and communities affected by the Syria crisis.

Members of the Arab States Regional United Nations Development Group met yesterday, together with colleagues from the World Bank, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency, and the Resident Coordinators for Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and of course Jordan. Enjoying the hospitality of Amman, we came together to discuss our approaches for supporting people, communities and States under stress as a result of the Syria conflict.

We must again, and again, acknowledge that the depth of the crisis, now in its third year, has strained our collective capacities to respond. But from this test comes strength and resilience. Today, as governments, as donors and as UN Agencies, we come together to work on a common convergence of the work we do for refugees, for humanitarian relief and in support of resilience and recovery. Critical in our collective thinking and action is to augment our support provided to countries impacted by the crisis to return to their development pathways.

In support of this approach, the Regional UNDG commissioned a study to capture the development impacts of the current crisis. Given the priority to focus immediately on the most affected countries, this study examined in depth the cases of Lebanon and Jordan. The Regional UNDG reviewed the first draft of this study yesterday.

Our knowledge base includes also the Economic and Social Impact Assessment on Lebanon, jointly launched in September by the World Bank and the United Nations. A second initiative is underway in Jordan, led by you and your staff in the Jordanian Ministry Planning and International Cooperation, Your Excellency, through the multi-sectoral needs assessment in which we are all participating in support of the Government of Jordan. This assessment will be completed by the middle of this month.

The evidence is clear: a development crisis is unfolding in the sub-region, with increased and deepening levels of poverty and vulnerabilities, and differentiated development capacity of governments institutions at central and local levels to cope.  

To support our collective development response, the Regional UNDG discussed yesterday a document on Resilience--Based Development Response. This approach will be presented in more detail this afternoon.


Dear Friends,

Allow me to summarize some of the elements of our discussion yesterday.

On the study on the impact of the Syrian crisis we have decided to expand our focus to include Iraq, and perhaps Egypt. We have also decided to include key development concepts, including foundation principles such as the rule of law, a rights- and gender-based approaches, social cohesion and youth. We will also look in greater detail into food security issues across the sub-region.

On the overall United Nations approach to the Syria crisis, we acknowledged that the needs of Syria and neighbouring countries are immense. We are seized by a sense of urgency. Needs span the spectrum of our work from humanitarian relief, to support for refugees and for the resilience of host countries. We highlighted the need to think and act beyond our traditional mandates, to strongly connect the humanitarian and development responses, and to ensure the strongest relevance and value of the operational concepts of emergency, fragility, resilience and recovery. 

We heard clear messages from our Resident Coordinators/Humanitarian Coordinators in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan. In dealing with the crisis in Syria and continuing to develop and make more robust resilience-based programmes, they have highlighted the direction of the UNCTs work and the collective challenges faced by the UN. It is there, at the country level, that we have the best opportunity to support the convergence of the humanitarian and development approaches.

It is this challenge with which I wish to conclude.

The magnitude of the challenge is so great, and the tasks so daunting, that we cannot think in terms of either/or, in development or humanitarian relief. We agreed that we need to approach this challenge as a collective framework, where refugee support, humanitarian relief and development resilience programmes are simultaneous, and mutually reinforcing. Within this common framework, we will work to present approaches that respond to the needs at the country level and that allow clear accountability for results and converge on supporting affected communities and societies.  We look to you, our friends and partners, to support us in going beyond our traditional approaches and giving this multi-faceted crisis the holistic response it deserves.

Thank you.

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