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Ready to collaborate with Arab states: UN official

The third Arab Economic and Social Development Summit is an opportune time for Arab leaders to address the legitimate demands and aspirations of their indigenous populations for equitable development, dignity and freedom, said Sima Bahous, UN assistant-secretary general and regional director of UNDP’s Bureau for Arab states.
On behalf of Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah, Crown Prince Salman, deputy premier and minister of defense addressed the attendees in a keynote speech at the inauguration ceremony in Riyadh yesterday.
“This is the first time that the Economic and Social Development Summit convenes since the region witnessed major transformations,” said Bahous, who represented the UNDP Administrator, Helen Clark at the summit.
Bahous expressed her appreciation to Saudi Arabia for hosting the summit at this critical juncture in the region’s development trajectory and reaffirmed UNDPs steadfast support to the Arab states in accelerating reform, advancing democratic governance, curbing poverty, and achieving sustainable socioeconomic development.
“As Tunisians and Egyptians celebrate the second anniversary of their revolutions, all Arabs hope that their leaders will adopt a new social contract of mutual accountability between the state and its citizens and implement a political-economy model that fosters inclusion and maximizes economic opportunities especially for the youth, women, minorities and marginalized factions of the community,” she added.
This region is continuing on a vitally important course of change, Bahous said, we should seize this opportunity to bring about broader and more sustainable development. She highlighted that the summit’s agenda addresses key development priorities, which are at the core of UNDP’s goals for the Arab region. These topics include strengthening investment to help curb poverty and create employment; means to develop sources of renewable energy over the next 2 decades; accelerating the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the post-2015 agenda; as well fighting non-communicable diseases.
“It is imperative that this summit puts in place effective means to follow through with the recommendations agreed,” stressed Bahous. “UNDP reaffirms its readiness to collaborate with the League of Arab States and all member countries to support the realization of this ambitious agenda”.
She lauded the Riyadh summit’s focus on accelerating the achievement of the UN’s MDGs by 2015 and in delineating the development priorities for the Arab countries beyond these goals.
Bahous also stressed that promoting and facilitating investment flows across all Arab nations is an important step toward regional economic integration. UNDP’s second Arab Development Challenges Report for 2011 maintained that reducing barriers in the movement of goods, services, labor and investment would help create a market for 350 million people. The report goes further to show that this would allow for specialization in production amongst Arab countries and would enable the region to build its productive potential to engage with the rest of the world.
UNDP’s Regional Director will also be holding bilateral meetings with several high-level Arab and Saudi officials to discuss UNDP’s cooperation with their governments on a series of initiatives, including some that are currently underway.
The UNDP is cooperating with Saudi Arabia in order to develop the institutional capacity of the Saudi Energy Efficiency Center, to make it a hub for developing new clean energy policies in the public and private spheres.
In addition the UNDP has been working with partners in the Kingdom to develop national strategies on issues such as water conservation, south-south cooperation, youth and female empowerment as well as the role of the Kingdom as a global development partner.

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