To define the sound venues of work, and set the priorities straight for the next decade, UN-ESCWA is holding a two-day expert group meeting (15-16 January 2008) on "Fostering Sustainable Development through Regional Integration in the Arab region: A Strategic vision for 2010 - 2020" at the Safir Hotel, Beirut, Lebanon.
The meeting is the second of its kind, as UN-ESCWA had already held a high-level expert group meeting on the "Role of UN-ESCWA in Serving its Member Countries to 2010" in January 2006. It is intended to consult the views of experts, intellectuals and officials on the diverse social and economic challenges facing the countries of the region and the region as a whole, as well as the opportunities that are to be grasped. It also focuses on the role of UN-ESCWA in servicing the needs of its member countries till the year 2020 in light of these challenges and opportunities.
Inaugurating the meeting, UN-ESCWA Executive-Secretary, Bader Omar Al Dafa said, "this meeting opens a new phase that extends until 2020". Focusing on the Regional Organization’s role as a medium between its member countries and the international community, Al Dafa said: "UN-ESCWA is a regional arm of the United Nations. It has a dual role: on one hand, it transfers international progress, and sound practices and experiences in sustainable development to member countries (while taking into consideration the cultural and civilizational specificities of the region to yield the highest possible benefit). On the other hand, UN-ESCWA strives to transmit the expectations and concerns of member countries to the international community, in the context of formulating an international agenda for development work".
The meeting is driven by UN-ESCWA's concern in building a sound partnership with its member countries and being a true medium and a partner in development, despite regional disorder and because of it. "Pursuing development efforts in an urgent and imperative must, because it is the only good way that alleviates negative repercussions of such (regional) conflicts, especially if it seeks to deal with the rooted causes of many diffused phenomena such as poverty, ignorance, youth unemployment, the marginalization of women, environmental degradation and other economic and social dilemmas," Al Dafa said.
The first day of the meeting covered the following topics:
- Challenges and Opportunities: Implementing the recommendations of the High-Level Expert Group Meeting on the Role of ESCWA in Servicing its member Countries to 2010 and future action by ESCWA.
- Key issues for the Arab region, including: a sustainable development vision for the Arab region till the year 2020; towards an actively productive Information Society in the Arab region; and socio-economic issues of concern to the Arab region: poverty, employment, youth, women, investment and economic diversification, monetary and financial policies.
Tomorrow's sessions will cover:
-The way forward: A strategic vision of the region till the year 2020; Environment and Climate change in the Arab Region; South-South Cooperation: how can the region benefit from other regions' rich experiences.