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Regional Challenges,Youth Unemployment and the Millennium Development Goals Focus of UNESCWA Session Meetings


Ministerial delegates participating in the 24th Ministerial Session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA) called on member countries to make available up-to-date and precise national statistics on youth unemployment; and collect periodic data on all youth-related issues, including employment, education and health, from such sources as administrative records, population censuses, and household and specialized surveys, with a view to establishing national databases on the issues of employment and unemployment and their implications for youth, and for the purposes of monitoring and preparing national reports; and carry out studies on the factors involved in unemployment and its effects, with a view to devising the best possible policies to deal with it.

The Ministerial Session came to an end today at the UN House, Beirut, with the adoption of a number of resolutions that will be raised to the United Nations Economic and Social Council. It was held under the patronage of Lebanese House Speaker Nabih Berri from 8 to 11 May 2006. The opening ceremony was attended by a number of Lebanese ministers and parliament members; ministerial delegations from UNESCWA member countries; representatives from non-member countries in an observer capacity; representatives of the United Nations organizations, regional and international governmental and non-governmental organizations, donor bodies, as well as the diplomatic corps accredited to Lebanon.

The UNESCWA secretariat was requested, in cooperation and coordination with the relevant Arab and international organizations, to devise a mechanism for the establishment of a system to supply information on Arab labour markets, in order to balance supply and demand and find appropriate employment opportunities for youth. Member countries were urged to encourage the interchange of labour forces and, in particular, of well-qualified youth labour between the countries of the region, thereby helping to circulate financial resources within the region and develop the whole area.
With regard to social development, Session participants called upon the secretariat to organize an Arab forum for social policies, with the aim of increasing interest in integrated and effective social policies. Appreciating that women are more susceptible to the negative impact of war and armed conflict, participants affirmed the need for member countries and the secretariat to accord the exceptional needs of women living in unstable conditions the requisite importance in their plans and programmes. They called on the UNESCWA secretariat to study the situation of women in the member countries that suffer from occupation, war and conflict and to build their capacities in the field of conflict resolution and peace-building. The member countries were urged to increase the representation, participation and empowerment of women at all levels of decision-making and in conflict resolution and peace-building operations.

On the implementation of components of the Integrated Transport System in the Arab Mashreq (ITSAM), participants in the ministerial session called for practical steps to complete application of the plan of action for implementation of the Agreement on International Roads in the Arab Mashreq by the time specified and to begin putting into effect the plan of action for implementation of the Agreement on International Railways in the Arab Mashreq. They also urged member countries which have not yet appended a final signature to the Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation in the field of maritime transport in the Arab Mashreq, deposited an instrument of ratification thereto, or approved or acceded thereto, to do so at the earliest possible opportunity, thereby ensuring that the Memorandum enters into force.

A big part of the Session was dedicated to examining the New Challenges in the Region and their Impact on the Work of UNESCWA; Facing Youth Unemployment Problems in the UNESCWA Region; and Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals in the UNESCWA Region: the Damascus Declaration. An extended ministerial roundtable discussion was held following the opening ceremony. Delegates stressed the importance of political support for social strategies and policies and private sector participation in them. They suggested the adoption of a social contract between citizen and state along the lines of other countries that have already adopted such a contract. They pointed to the need for countries that export skilled labour in the Arab countries to make a major investment in training in order to create new Arab markets and safeguard the opportunities available to them. Delegates called on UNESCWA to be wary of generalizations and suggested solutions in reports as the situation differs in all the Arab countries.

On Youth Unemployment, a presentation was delivered by Mr. Samir Radwan, Managing Director of the Economic Research Forum, describing the state of unemployment in the Arab countries and means of addressing them. He focused on the differing impact of unemployment from one Arab economy to the other. During talks on Achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in the UNESCWA Region: the Damascus Declaration, a presentation was delivered by Mr. Ahmed Hussein, UNESCWA Social Statistics Team Leader and Regional Coordinator for the Development of National Gender Statistics Programmes in the Arab Countries. “Given that there have been major gains in the Arab countries with respect to many MDGs,” he said, “this progress differs from one country to the other, one region to the other, and even one Goal to the other. The least developed Arab countries are facing enormous challenges on the road to achieving the MDGs, particularly in financing, basic services and infrastructure.
At the conclusion of the Session, participants decided to hold the 25th Ministerial Session in Beirut in 2008.