An Expert Group Meeting on “Development Under Crisis Conditions” opened yesterday that is being hosted by UNESCWA in cooperation with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung Institute at the UN House, Beirut. The meeting, which is taking place from 27 to 28 June 2006, is enhancing development efforts in this often unstable region by bringing together expertise and stakeholders to address the causes and effects of conflict in the region. Participants sought to document best practices and discuss recommendations for future development efforts that cater towards mitigating and averting the repercussions of crises.
In the introductory panel, Mr. George Corm, former Lebanese Minister of Finance, shared his assessment of emerging challenges in Western Asia, which included externally-imposed definitions of terrorism and the internal rent-based economy, while Mr. Asaad Abukhalil, Professor of Politics at California State University, weighed in on future sources of conflict, such as disparities between the needs and challenges of governments and those of people and a disregard for economic inequality. Mr. Walid Khadouri, Chief Economic Editor at Al-Hayat Newspaper, discussed oil as both a source of conflict and a means for post-conflict development in the region.
A framework was developed for the discussion of development under crisis by Mr. Jamil Mattar, Mr. Osman Mahgoub El-Fiel of the Islamic Development Bank, and Mr. Oren Murphy and Mr. Atif Kubursi of UNESCWA. Panelists discussed the unexploited potential for economies of scale in Western Asia, the universal and region-specific causes of conflict, and the role of aid and development organizations in preventing conflict and mitigating its impacts.
Mr. Ray Jennings from the Woodrow Wilson Policy Institute shared his lessons learned from supporting community-based goal setting and project development in Kosovo. Mr. Roman Poeschke and Mr. Prey Joachim shared their program adjustments and continued challenges working with the German Technical Cooperation (GTZ) in the occupied Palestinian territory.
The final panel of the day on sustainable development experiences and best practices in Iraq featured Mr. Kamal Field Al-Basri, Chairman of the Iraq Institute for Economic Reform, Ms. Alia Al-Dallie, of UNDP-Iraq, Mr. Ali Sada, from Development Alternatives Incorporated, and Mrs. Basma Al-Kateeb, from Iraqi Al-Amal Association. Mr. Al-Basri spoke about the Iraqi government’s plans for decreasing fuel subsidies and monetizing the food basket. Currently, 12 trillion Iraqi dinars are spent each year on fuel subsidies, while only 4 trillion are spent on food subsidies, 2 trillion on health services, 2 trillion on education, and 0.5 trillion on public works. Ms. Al-Dallie stressed the challenges UNDP faces working remotely. Mrs. Al-Kateeb spoke of the hope that Iraqi NGOs feel despite continued insecurity. She highlighted civil society’s experiences during the Constitution Awareness Campaign, which was successful despite violence, and was especially beneficial to women.
The meeting will wrap up today with a session summarizing participants’ deliberations on both days and come out with conclusions and recommendations that will be subsequently communicated.