UNDP and International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation unite to fight poverty in the Arab world

May 2, 2013

UNDP has helped establish small, women-run agricultural business cooperatives in rural Lebanon. Members of a cooperative in the village of Halloussiyeh produce a traditional kind of pomegranate molasses that is now distributed to local food shops and exported to the United kingdom

New York — The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Islamic Trade and Finance Corporation (ITFC) of the Islamic Development Bank agreed today to cooperate in the Arab States region on fighting poverty and creating jobs. 

The first area of joint work is an initiative to boost employment through trade reforms.
“This initiative comes at a very interesting time,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNDP Associate Administrator Rebeca Grynspan at today’s event in New York, which was also attended by Dr. Waleed Al-Wohaib, Chief Executive Officer of the Islamic Trade and Finance Corporation. “Today we find ourselves at a global turning point, with countries of the South increasingly driving global growth and making rapid progress on poverty reduction and job creation.”
According to UNDP’s 2013 Human Development Report, developing countries that participate in international trade – including trade with other emerging economies – make rapid progress on poverty reduction and job creation.
The newly-signed Aid for Trade Initiative for the Arab States will spearhead trade reforms in Arab countries in the Middle East and North Africa with the aim of bringing about pro-poor economic growth.

The Arab world’s struggle with unemployment is well-known: youth unemployment rates around 30 percent in some countries, and region-wide only one in every four women is active in the workforce. Less known is that much of this sluggishness is due to underperforming regional trade performance.
“UNDP’s priority in the Arab region is to help Arab countries find the path to sustainable human development, and employment generation is perhaps the most important step on that journey,” said UNDP Assistant Administrator Sima Bahous, who heads the organization’s regional bureau for the Arab States region.
The Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States was endorsed by the 3rd Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, held on January 21, 2013, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is funded by the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation -- a unit of the Islamic Development Bank Group -- as well as the Governments of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Sweden, and UNDP.

The initiative was developed as a response to a request of the World Trade Organization Arab Group in Geneva and came to fruition as result of collaboration between the ITFC, UNDP and specialized UN agencies including the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), the International Labour Organization (ILO), the UN Industrial Development Organization and the International Trade Centre (ITC), who will collaborate with UNDP on delivering specific results under the initiative. 

The initiative will also be undertaken in technical cooperation with the League of Arab States.

Contact information

In Cairo:  Noeman Alsayyad, Tel.: +20 2 2453 5603, noeman.alsayyad@undp.org
In New York:  Megan Cossey, Tel.: +1 212 906 5317, megan.cossey@undp.org

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