The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), with support from Saudi Arabia, held today a regional meeting, the first of its kind, gathering government representatives from Mauritania, Somalia, the Sudan and Yemen with regional and international donors, to launch the first regional dialogue on the new programme of action for Arab least developed countries (LDCs) up to 2030, which will be discussed in January 2022 at the Fifth United Nations Conference on the Least Developed Countries (LDC5).
The meeting comes at a time when Arab LDCs are still struggling in the face of crippling development challenges, despite aid from donor countries and entities, and assistance provided by the United Nations System, notably in the context of the Programme of Action for the Least Developed Countries for the Decade 2011-2020.
In his opening statement, Mr. Tarik Alami, Head of the Governance and Conflict Prevention Cluster of ESCWA, underlined that “this regional meeting, convened with representatives of the four countries and of regional and international partners, is aimed at discussing the main challenges and shocks that have burdened Arab LDCs and stalled their development in the previous decade, and at determining national priorities to focus on in 2021-2030. We will also discuss opportunities for conflict countries to transition towards peace and sustainable development.”
To inform the high-level dialogue, ESCWA, with support from Saudi Arabia, has prepared a report on “Arab LDCs: Development Challenges and Opportunities” and presented its findings. The report offers an analysis of the current situation in Arab LDCs and progress made in the past decade, and underlines the challenges stalling the development process and the opportunities for further progress. The report finally proposes mechanisms to tackle issues of structural nature in Arab LDCs, highlighting best practices for enhancing regional and international partnerships and fulfilling donor commitments, and putting forward recommendations to the international community and to Arab LDCs.
Alami also shed light on the development approach put forward by ESCWA in the report, affirming: “In contexts of armed conflict, all relief and humanitarian aid interventions must be guided by the relief-development-peace nexus. While the need for emergency humanitarian aid is indisputable, it is also imperative that aid be provided within a sustainable, long-term framework that paves the way for development investments and thus contributes to achieving peace.”
For his part, the General Supervisor of the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY), Ambassador Muhammed bin Saeed Al Jaber, stressed that “this meeting is an opportunity for Arab LDCs, regional and international development agencies, and donors of official development assistance (ODA), to lay the building blocks for the adoption of a new programme of action for the decade until 2030, based on best modern development practices and lessons learned and challenges faced in the past decade.” “By gathering the views of these countries, donor ESCWA members and specialized regional agencies on the previous Programme of Action, we hope to support Arab LDCs in improving their rankings among the world’s countries and achieving the Sustainable Development Goals,” he added.
The meeting offered an unprecedented opportunity to formulate a unified Arab position on the national and regional priorities that should be included in the upcoming programme of action for the least developed countries, bringing together Arab LDCs and main donors and development partners in an innovative platform. Among the issues raised were approaches to combat corruption and address poor governance; sectors that must be developed to bring about the necessary developmental shift in each country; macroeconomic policies required to ensure sustainability; social protection policies; and means to address the impact of climate change in the medium and long term. The meeting also provided a platform for donors to share their experiences and exchange views with other donors and aid recipients on the factors that limit aid efficiency and hamper achievement of the desired goals, such as poor coordination, weak absorptive capacity and conflicting priorities.
Underlining the importance of partnerships, Al Jaber further affirmed: “We, in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, by working with regional and international development partners, building effective international partnerships and strengthening ties with all leading development agencies, seek to achieve a unified and ambitious development vision, and to support Arab countries ranked as LDCs as per international indicators, as well as those affected by conflict, in realizing comprehensive and sustainable development.”
“This requires the adoption of an integrated approach to peacebuilding processes and humanitarian and development assistance, and of mechanisms for building resilience and addressing chronic and multifaceted challenges. Most importantly, we must help Arab LDCs in shifting to a path of inclusive sustainable development, increase financial aid, and improve social and economic assistance as needed,” Al Jaber concluded.
As part of its mandate to support socioeconomic development in its member States, ESCWA pays special attention to the unique perspective of Arab LDCs. It seeks to convey their voice and their priorities and visions of their development future to international forums. ESCWA also strives to partner with its member States in formulating new development programmes and identifying their needs in terms of capacity development interventions and investments in their human capital, and social and economic infrastructure.
One of five United Nations regional commissions, ESCWA supports inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in Arab States, and works on enhancing regional integration.
About the Saudi Development and Reconstruction Program for Yemen (SDRPY)
A specialized programme established by King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud in 2018, SDRPY is a continuation of development projects and programmes undertaken by the Kingdom for the benefit of Yemen in the past decades. SDRPY is aimed at unifying and integrating development efforts towards increased efficiency and effectiveness of grants and projects carried out by the Kingdom in Yemen as part of the international development cooperation system. SDRPY is also aimed at assisting the Yemeni Government in achieving economic recovery and social prosperity, and advancing comprehensive development. It contributes to developing infrastructure in Yemen, improving access to basic services, and providing job opportunities for Yemeni citizens, while building the capacities of the Yemeni Government, local authorities and social institutions in an effective and sustainable manner. SDRPY finally builds national, regional and international partnerships that mobilize and integrate efforts for development and reconstruction in all Yemeni governorates.
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