Press Release

Review of the Millenium Development Goals on Agenda of UNESCWA 24th Ministerial Session

Beirut, 8 May 2006  (United Nations Information Service)--

Participants in the UNESCWA 24th Ministerial Session are due to discuss Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the UNESCWA Region based on a report prepared by UNESCWA in 2005 with the collaboration of several United Nations agencies in the region. The report was prepared in order to facilitate the review of follow-up action by policymakers aimed at achieving the MDGs by 2015.

The report on the “Millennium Development Goals in the Arab Region 2005” is a continuation of UNESCWA efforts to review progress made towards attaining the MDGs. The reports comes as part of efforts to implement Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) resolution 2005/50 and the Damascus Declaration made at the last ministerial session held in the Syrian capital in May 2005.

A careful review of the 2005 World Summit Outcome document revealed numerous issues concerning the development pattern of UNESCWA that are pertinent to the attainment of the MDGs, namely, unemployment, investment, domestic resource mobilization, human development, health, education and economic integration. This is particularly in light of a real gross domestic product (GDP) per capita in the UNESCWA region during the period 1990-2002 that only reached approximately 1%.

The Arab region faces serious challenges in achieving most of the MDGs. It is unlikely that the region as a whole will succeed in eradicating poverty and hunger, which is particularly due to the weak progress in the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) and the countries in conflict. Instability in the region brought by war and violent conflict damages infrastructure and production bases, discourages investments, depletes human capital and worsens the income distribution gap. Other key challenges in the region include the overexploitation of water resources, desertification, and the management of non-renewable energy sources. The sluggish economic performance has negatively impacted the progress of the region towards achieving the MDGs, given that it has resulted in rising unemployment rates and has constrained public expenditure on social services, especially in education and health.

UNESCWA stresses the importance of regional cooperation in the region, at a time when intraregional trade activities have remained relatively low and have not provided a major stimulus for economic growth in the region wherein trade accounted for a modest 8% of the total trade of UNESCWA member countries. One of the reasons for the low degree of economic integration in the Arab region is the lack of full commitment by member countries to such regional agreements as the Greater Arab Free Trade Area (GAFTA). Specific forms of regional development policy coordination need to be considered, such as a regional development fund. A special part of the report was dedicated to two areas witnessing instability and thus impacting negatively on achievement of the MDGs in countries of the region, particularly Iraq and the occupied Palestinian territory.

The report concludes with a policy framework geared specifically towards the attainment of the MDGs in the Arab region and elaborates on the importance of formulating integrated and comprehensive social and economic development strategies with policies that are in line with MDGs and that are pro-poor and pro-women at the local, national and regional levels. Furthermore, this policy framework highlights main developmental issues and challenges identified in the 2005 World Summit Outcome (General Assembly resolution 60/1) that are pertinent to the region.

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