Regional integration - the key to sustainable development in the Arab World

Jul 1, 2014

Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States. Photo: UNDP/Dylan Lowthian

 New York – Increased regional integration is needed if the Arab States are to accelerate progress towards the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and a post-2015 development framework with sustainability at its core, said Sima Bahous, Assistant Secretary-General and Director of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Regional Bureau for Arab States, in remarks at UN Headquarters in New York.
“There is a strong sense of shared purpose across the Arab States region, and regional integration is already strong,” said Bahous. “But there is room for growth, and we are hopeful that Member States will continue to seize opportunities to move together towards fuller sustainability.”

Bahous’ comments came on the margins of the High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development, an eight-day meeting bringing together delegates of UN Member States to galvanize support for sustainable development and review progress in implementing sustainable development commitments.

Convening as the world moves towards a post-2015 development framework, this year’s Forum will play an important role in sharpening discussions towards a future set of development goals that have sustainable development at the core.

The Forum builds on a global process of consultation that has been taking place under the auspices of the UN over the last two years, with a view to ensuring that all voices are heard as the international community moves towards a development framework to build on the successes of the MDGs rolled out in 2001 with a target year of 2015.

The Arab States region has made mixed progress towards the MDGs, making impressive strides on several targets such as enrollment rates in education. However progress is lagging on targets related to hunger, infant mortality and access to water, and overall achievement has lagged in the region’s least-developed countries and some middle-income countries. Recent crises and instability have reversed or stalled progress in countries such as Syria, its neighbors, and several countries undertaking difficult transitions.

Across the region UNDP is accelerating efforts to achieve the MDGs and also responding to the new needs of countries undertaking transition, as well as those seeking to find a path out of crisis and begin to move towards resilience. UNDP has also brought together stakeholders from civil society, the private sector and government in nine Arab countries, and at the regional level, to identify priorities for a post-2015 development framework.

Priorities that delegates have emphasized run the gamut of development concerns and highlight the special importance of advancing on a sustainable development agenda across the region that binds together the social, economic and environmental dimensions and rest upon fundamental principles of peace, justice and equity.

The importance of regional integration has also been underscored, with delegates highlighting that the powerful sense of solidarity that binds citizens across the Arab world should be met with expanding cooperation in particular to boost the chances of the poorest countries and communities across the region.

These priorities have informed global and regional deliberations and are likely to be strongly reflected in a post-2015 development framework.

In her remarks Bahous emphasized that UNDP is confident that the post-2015 framework will provide a robust reference for development efforts going forward, and signaled UNDP’s readiness to work with countries to implement the future framework and support national capacities to monitor progress.

Over 2014 UNDP is hosting seven national consultations on implementing the next development framework, with a view to hitting the ground running once a global agreement is achieved.

Bahous also highlighted that UNDP’s regional programmes and strategies on trade development, climate change, water governance, and women’s and youth empowerment can be key resources for countries in their quest for sustainable development.

Finally, Bahous underscored a key opportunity ahead in the Fourth Economic and Social Summit to be hosted by Tunisia in January, 2015. “The Summit provides an important forum for the linked advancement on sustainable development and regional integration,” she said, while committing the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States to work closely with the League of Arab States, the Government of Tunisia and other partners to ensure that the Summit is a success for progress across the Arab region.

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