Arab region: Making sure that everyone counts

27 Jun 2013

imageWoman in Tunisia exercising her right to vote

Cairo - Population and development in the Arab region were issues discussed this week in Cairo, during a three-day conference that ended with a declaration highlighting the need to empower women, promote gender equality, and step up efforts to reach the Millennium Development Goals.

“The status of women is the measure of a nation,” said Sima Bahous, Regional Director of Arab States from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) at the opening of the event. “A truly developed and truly dignified nation cannot be one in which more than half of the population is marginalized. A nation that is stable and that is strong is one that is built by all people.”

The conference theme “Development and Population Dynamics in a Changing Arab World” focused on poverty and income disparities, social exclusion, addressing the needs of young people and the elderly. It is the second time Cairo hosts talks about linking population dynamics to positive change.

In 1994, the city welcomed the International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD), also staged by the UN. The event became a milestone in articulating a new vision about the relationships between population, development and individual well-being. “Nearly 20 years ago, here in Cairo, a light of hope was sparked for the millions of women and youth around the world who faced injustice, discrimination, inequality or violence,” Bahous said.

People as bridges to development


The challenges related to the status of women and girls were also in focus this week in Cairo, as well as ensuring universal access to sexual and reproductive health services and unmet needs of women for family planning.

“There really can be no peace, no prosperity, and no progress without the full and equal participation of women and youth. There will be no democracy when rights are denied, when opportunities are curtailed and when voices are silenced. And the time to act is now. The region is changing and stakeholders across the region have an unprecedented opportunity to move towards a brighter future,” Bahous added.

More than 350 people took part in this Arab dialogue, among them political leaders, members of the civil society, academia and leading development experts. The event was organised by the United Nations and the League of Arab States.