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Innovation as Driver of Sustainable Development Goals

Beirut, Lebanon

Under the overall umbrella of pushing forth the Sustainable Development Agenda, and precisely, innovation, in the Arab region, ESCWA gathered more than 60 experts from its member countries and from selected developed countries in its Beirut-based headquarters to discuss “Mechanisms to Advance Innovation for Inclusive Sustainable Development in the Arab Region.”
On 1 and 2 November, meeting participants examined and discussed the strategic options and mechanisms that are useful for bridging gaps in the innovation arena in the Arab region in order to advance innovation for inclusive sustainable development.
Representatives of government, research centres, academia, private sector and international and regional organizations sat together to examine ways of supporting the Arab region’s transition towards economies that cater for sustainable economic growth and improved employment.
 It is adamant, they found, that national and regional strategies on innovation be adopted to achieve comprehensive sustainable development that takes into account the socio-economic perspective. Work plans should also be put in place to implement said strategies, they recommended. Experts noted however the difficulties that may arise in the implementation of innovation policies, especially with the weak security status in some Arab countries.
Recommendations of the meeting also stressed the importance of cooperation among Arab countries (South-South cooperation) on policies concerning science, technology and innovation. The role Regional institutions working on these matters should also be reinvigorated, and Arab innovation initiatives should be launched to achieve sustainable development.
Other salient matters in the conclusions of the meeting were indicators, with participants emphasizing the need to put these in place to gauge the impact of innovation. The meeting also found the need to adjust tax policies, turning them to incentives for the private sector to innovate, and the need to support entrepreneurs by providing the right legal and regulatory environment for their work. Emphasis was also placed on the development of the educational, notably technical and vocational, system, which should be favourable to capacity-building.

Areas for innovation were also pointed out at the meeting, with the suggestion that innovation be directed towards renewable energy, food security, water management, education, productive sector and job creation. Participants agreed that new technologies such as cloud computing, 3D printing, internet of things, big data and social media should be rightly considered in the Arab region. Social innovation should also take its fair share of interest and support, participants found, taking into account the importance of inclusiveness and of lending support to bottom-up initiatives.
The meeting discussed the draft ESCWA study on "Innovation Policy for Inclusive Sustainable Development in the Arab Region". Analysis of participants’ comments will be used to enhance the final version of the study before it is published.