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Category archives for: ESCWA News

ESCWA Award for Gender Equality


The first ESCWA Award on Advancing Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women was presented by Ms. Rima Khalaf, United Nations Under-Secretary-General and Executive Secretary of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to three staff members. The award is delivered for the first time and constitutes a milestone for ESCWA, which is integrating gender perspectives in its plans, policies and programmes.

At a ceremony held on Friday 12 December 2014 at the United Nations House in Beirut, Ms. Khalaf handed out gold, silver and bronze awards to Ms. Nouhad Hayek of the Conference Services Section,  Ms. Neda Jaafar of the Statistics Division and Mr. Raydan Al-Saqqaf of the Social Development Division respectively, in recognition of their exceptional contributions to advancing gender equality and for playing an instrumental role in shaping the recent gender equality approach adopted by ESCWA.

Ms. Khalaf said that ESCWA must lead by example when working to shape regional policy in this priority area. She highlighted the pioneering role ESCWA is playing in piloting and implementing the strategic road map on gender equality and the empowerment of women, known as UN-SWAP (United Nations System-Wide Action Plan).

As ESCWA Senior UN-SWAP Coordinator, Ms. Mehrinaz El-Awady explained that the aim was to enable staff to better balance their work-life needs. She noted that this award was among several progressive steps recently taken, including the implementation of flexible working arrangements, mandatory gender training and systems to close the gender parity gap at ESCWA.

Arab Dignitaries and Senior Officials Take Part in ESCWA 28th Ministerial Session



On 17 September 2014, Arab ministers and senior regional and foreign officials took part today in the opening of the 28th ministerial session of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), a key regional event hosted by the Tunisian government, and held under the patronage of the President of the Republic, Mr. Moncef Al Marzouki. In the opening session, Arab and foreign diplomats and senior officials listened to statements that echoed Arab concerns and aspirations towards a better tomorrow guided by social justice.

Speakers were Ambassador of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to Tunis Salem Issa Al Zaabi, whose country chaired the 27th session of ESCWA; Minister of State of Foreign Affairs of Bahrain Ghanem al-Buainain, whose country is chairing the 28th session of ESCWA; UN Under-Secretary-General and ESCWA Executive Secretary Rima Khalaf; and Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs Al Mongi Hamdi.

The message of the UN Secretary-General to the event was read by ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary Nadim Khouri. Following the statements, the audience watched a documentary filmed on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of ESCWA, which showcased the most important events during these years.

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The ‘Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia’ Launched in Stockholm


escwastorywaterESCWA and the German Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources (BGR) launched the Inventory of Shared Water Resources in Western Asia on 3 september at the World Water Week in Stockholm. This publication is the first effort led by the United Nations to comprehensively identify and assess the state of transboundary surface and groundwater resources in the Middle East, and was prepared in close consultation with ESCWA member countries as well as regional and international experts.

“This unique publication in its groundbreaking information and distinctive preparation process that actively involved ESCWA member countries will provide new insights for future research on shared water resources in the region and will serve as a basis for continuing regional cooperation on water as well as other natural resources that are strategic for this region and often of shared nature,” indicated Roula Majdalani, director SDPD.

Boasting 60 new maps and over 200 figures, tables and boxes with recent, comprehensive data series, the Inventory provides an up-to-date view of the state and evolution of shared water resources in Western Asia. It thus constitutes a sound scientific basis for informing discussion and fostering dialogue on these precious resources that have become increasingly important to sustain development in an era of growing demand and dwindling supply.

One of the key findings of the Inventory is the largely neglected fact that water quality in the region is rapidly deteriorating and is eclipsed by concerns over quantity.The Inventory also points out that there are more shared water resources in Western Asia than was generally assumed and the lack of accurate data hampers joint water management. Another finding stresses that it is already too late to save some shared waters and countries need to cooperate more closely in order to sustain the shared resources that remain.

The Inventory is published on a dedicated website which allows users to browse contents and download individual chapters and maps, available at further inquiries, kindly contact

Arab High Level Forum on Sustainable Development

escwaapril2014On 2-4 April 2014, the Jordanian capital Amman hosted the “Arab High Level Forum on Sustainable Development” organized by ESCWA in cooperation with Ministries of Planning and International Cooperation and of Environment in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, the League of Arab States (LAS) and the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). The Forum, which was inaugurated by HRH Prince Hassan Bin Talal, gathered a crowd of government officials, officials from the United Nations and its specialized agencies, LAS specialized agencies, funding institutions and the civil society.

Topics of discussion among conferees included the ESCWA proposal underway on a set of sustainable development goals for the Arab Region. The proposal reflects the outcomes of consultations led by ESCWA on the subject, in addition to the key conclusions emanating from the various regional and national consultations on the post-2015 development agenda; the proposed Arab Strategic Framework for Sustainable Development that ESCWA and its partners are developing as an update of the Sustainable Development Initiative in the Arab Region, which provides a regional framework for coordinated action on sustainable development; the
Arab Regional Roadmap for Green Economy Investment; and progress made in the Arab region towards the millennium development goals and means of accelerating their achievement and sustaining gains in the future, as part of Arab regional preparations for the Annual Ministerial Review (AMR) in 2014.

On the sidelines of the Forum, ESCWA signed with the Global Green Growth Institute (GGGI) a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on green growth cooperation. Participants in the meeting defined the role of the Forum and how it relates to the regional institutional development framework, especially the biennial ESCWA Ministerial Session, and LAS. They stressed that continued occupation is an impediment to sustainable development, noting the need for international cooperation to achieve sustainable development, the need for reforms within the international framework that would enable developing countries to fulfill their ambitions, the need for reforms on the regional level, and the necessity of integrating all social groups in the development process and in policy formulation.

Participants made noteworthy contributions on governance, peace and security, the occupation obstacle, technology transfer and implementation, and disaster risks. They agreed on the necessity of not transforming the youth agenda into a tool for political pressure developing countries. They underlined the role of youth as an influencing agent both on and by sustainable development, and showed existing gaps in implementation methods, especially in the fields of technology and research and development.

Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative (ESCWA Publication)



For the Arab countries, integration is a development imperative. Around the world, even the greatest powers have opted to be part of larger regional entities in order to manage globalization and the competition it brings. Meanwhile, Arab countries – fragmented and divided – try to face individually external pressures, domestic challenges and emerging risks in a world growing more interconnected and complex each day. The isolation of individual Arab countries is all the more regrettable because Arabs share a common language, heritage, history and culture, and are linked by geographical proximity. No region that successfully integrated began with greater advantages.
Arab integration is not a new idea. It has been adopted as an official goal and attempted at different times since the 1950s. However, a history of division actively encouraged by outside forces, and an absence of clear political will and strategies, have almost always frustrated these efforts. As a result, Arab countries have missed several opportunities to join forces to promote development and national security, wasting the potential of integration to create a regional order that upholds the rights, freedoms and dignity of all its citizens. Taking its cue from the first aims of formal Arab cooperation over sixty years ago, the present report calls for a new Arab project of comprehensive integration. This ambitious initiative rests on three pillars: stronger political cooperation for good governance and effective external diplomacy; deeper economic integration to reap benefits for all Arab countries; and more extensive educational and cultural reform to root out lodged constraints and enable Arab knowledge societies to thrive.
An important goal is to unify the Arab space, creating one area where all Arab citizens enjoy full citizenship rights in a true nation of free will, creative knowledge, real power, continuous renewal and autonomy. The report argues that nothing less will answer the awakened call of the Arab people for justice, opportunities and freedom as heard during the recent wave of popular protests across the region. This historic awakening lends powerful impetus to Arab integration, which can deliver for the majority of Arabs those benefits denied them by its absence.
The report demonstrates that comprehensive integration, properly managed, can benefit all the Arab countries. It emphasizes, moreover, that an integrated Arab region will not close itself to the world but seek to consolidate relations with other regional groups and strengthen ties with other civilizations.



English Summary

Arabic Summary

French Summary

Full Report:

English | Arabic






Launching of the 2012-2013 Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the Arab Region

 2octoberescwaOn 1 October 2013, ESCWA Chief Economist and Director of the Economic Development and Globalization Division (EDGD) Abdallah Al Dardari held a press conference at the UN House, Beirut, to launch the “Survey of Economic and Social Developments in the Arab Region 2012-2013″. The Survey is an annual report prepared by ESCWA. Also participating in the conference was Lebanese Minister of Economy Nicolas Nahhas.

Laying out the main findings of the Survey, Al Dardari said “according to the ESCWA report, in spite of intensifying geopolitical tensions particularly in the Syrian Arab Republic, the Arab region’s GDP growth rate is estimated at 4.8 percent in 2012 owing to the growing oil revenues, which reached a historical high in that year. However, an expected gradual decline in crude oil prices due to the weakening demand would impact the region’s average growth forecasts: 4.4 percent for 2013 and 4.0 percent for 2014. The weak economic prospects are observed in all sub-regions. The pace of GCC countries’ economic recovery stabilizes. Political instability, social unrest and geopolitical tensions continue to affect Mashreq and Maghreb. Deteriorating external conditions such as globally rising funding cost, cause further burdens on Arab Least Developed Countries”.

On the status of Women in the Arab region, Al Dardari noted that “significant progress has been made for the past five years increasing women’s participation rate in the parliament in the Arab region from 9.1% by end of 2008 to 13.8% in 2013. Meanwhile, female unemployment in the Arab region remains the highest in the world, a rate double that of male unemployment with obvious female labor participation in the services sector”.

“The lack of confidence in intraregional business transactions resulted in the segmentation of economies in the region and the loss of regional leverage” he added, “which amplified the seriousness of unemployment throughout the Arab region”. “In addressing this pressing issue, the ESCWA report provides a package of short-term reforms to the labor market in order to enable the political actors in the Arab region to reach some sort of social truce that will trigger the structural reforms process. In addition to labour market-specific reform proposals, the ESCWA report emphasizes that the usage of regional leverage, in spirit of regional integration measures, could be effective on the unemployment issue.  The proposed measures include Social Value-added Tax (Social VAT) and the promotion of labor mobility within the Arab region and an employment insurance mechanism,” Al Dardari said.

In addition to this overall picture of the region’s state of economic and social development Al Dardari pointed out that “the ongoing Syrian Crisis is not only negatively affecting neighboring countries’ macroeconomic performances but also affecting the Arab region’s socio-economic development process”, re-emphasizing the importance of further regional integration efforts for the Arab region’s balanced and sustainable socio-economic development.


For his part, Lebanese Minister of Economy Nicolas Nahhas pointed out that the importance of the report stems from its focus on human potential as a basis for development and structural reforms, and an essential way to achive them. He expressed hope for the report to be examined within the Economic and Social Council of the League of Arab States.

He added that based on the study, what is needed at present is to adjust with the figures included in it, which point out the main weakness point, and considered that it would have been better to separate comparison between oil-producing and non oil-producing countries, making comparisons more aligned. He also said that it was necessary to address the issue of education within the job market, as there is an incompatibility between the educational system of Arab States and of Lebanon with the real needs of the job market.

Regional Consultation on International Migration and Development in the Arab Region 4 to 5 June, 2013 , Cairo

escwa27juneIn October 2013, the United Nations General Assembly will hold its second High-Level Dialogue on International Migration and Development, which will focus on the theme of “Identifying concrete measures to strengthen coherence and cooperation at all levels, with a view to enhancing the benefits of international migration for migrants and countries alike and its important links to development, while reducing its negative implications”. The United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and the League of Arab States (LAS), recognizing the importance and specific contribution of international migration for development in the Arab region, the potential benefits that Arab experiences can bring to the High-Level Dialogue’s deliberations and the consequent importance of ensuring Arab countries are able to make their voices heard at this important event, have decided to seize this opportunity to organize a two-day Regional Consultative Meeting (RCM) on International Migration and Development from 4-5 June 2013.

The RCM will be a two day-long participatory, consultative process, engaging Government officials from Arab countries to come to common understandings on current and future migration and development challenges and opportunities, and the actions required at the national, regional and global levels to maximize the benefits and minimize the potential negative impacts of migratory trends. Civil society actors, academics, and international organizations will provide expert support and help guide the discussions. An outcome statement will be agreed by participants at the RCM to be presented during the plenary session of the High-Level Dialogue in New York.



ESCWA Discusses Violence against Women and Girls: Eliminating it is not the Sole Responsibility of the State

ESCWA discusses violence against women

On 8 March 2013, ESCWA commemorated International Women’s Day in its Beirut headquarters, in the presence of UN officials, representatives of non-governmental organizations working on women’s rights, and a host of activists, media and academia. The Commission held a panel discussion to speak up against violence against women, consisting of ESCWA Deputy Executive Secretary Nadim Khoury, Senior ESCWA Economist Abdallah Al Dardari, Former Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Wafa Al Diqa Hamzeh, Deputy Director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at the International Centre for Transitional Justice Anne Massagee, and Director of KAFA Enough Violence and Exploitation Zoya Rouhana. Director of the ESCWA Centre for Women (ECW) Samira Atallah delivered the introductory statement of the meeting.

For her part, Atallah expressed her desolation that despite repeated cases of violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, early and forced marriage, honor killings, female genital mutilation, trafficking in persons, and discrimination in economic rights, this issue cannot be defined with precision in the region. The reasons behind this is the absence of comprehensive statistical studies, fear of social stigma, lack of trust in the legal protection system, and the lack of knowledge and awareness of available services. She said that the courage to face up to these violations against women takes source in the courage of women and girls, and in many cases of men who take a supporting stands and initiatives. The ECW Director underlined that the responsibility of eliminating violence against women is not that of the state alone, but it also lies within every member of the society, and every organization, whether governmental, semi-governmental, or non-governmental.

In her intervention, Rouhana laid out the principle of “due diligence” and the commitment of states in eliminating violence against women in times of peace. Al Dika Hamze highlighted the role of national machineries in empowering women in preventing and eliminating these violations, especially in rural areas and among the most marginalized groups.

In assertion of the important economic aspect of violence against women and girls, Dardari shed light on the economic repercussions of this case, especially since this issue is not taking its due right in full attention in the region.

Finally, Massagee dealt with issues related to protecting women during and in post-conflicts periods. Following these interventions, Fateh Azzam, Human Rights Expert and Former Regional Representative of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in the Middle East, moderated a panel discussions with the participants in terms of international human rights law.

Information Economy Report Launched at ESCWA, Said Facebook Users Reached 481 Million

By the end of 2011, online social network Facebook users reached 481 million, demanding an expansion in software industry, as mentioned in the Information Economy Report 2012 released by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). Entitled “The Software Industry and Developing Countries,” the Report was launched by ESCWA today 28 November 2012, at its Headquarters in Beirut.
ESCWA Director of Information and Communication Technology Division Haidar Fraihat gave an overview of UNCTAD’s 7th Report, which recommends that developing countries, with the burgeoning skills of their domestic software writers, should seek to expand the creation of software that meets local needs and capabilities as a means of increasing income and addressing broader economic and social development goals.
Highlighting the main findings of this year’s Report, First Information Technology Officer at ESCWA Rami Zaatari said that developing countries allocate a small percentage of their Information and Communications Technology (ICT) expenditures to software industry, whereby Egypt allocates 5.3 per cent, Jordan allocates 6.2 per cent, Kuwait allocates 12.3 per cent, Morocco allocates 3.4 per cent, Tunisia allocates 10.5 per cent, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) allocate 11.5 per cent. He also pointed out that India tops software exports in developing countries, followed by China, Philippines and Singapore; As for Arab countries, Morocco pays out the largest amount of USD 297 million as exporting costs of computers and information services per year, followed by Egypt that spends USD 171 million in this field.
Zaatari also added that the local demand for software industry is increasing through the worldwide expansion in three trends, including the use of smart mobile phones; broadband connectivity; and the free and open source software.
The Report states that global mobile application industry in 2011 accounts for USD 15 to 20 billion, set to rise to USD 38 billion by 2014; the mobile applications development is adapted to local needs, cultures and languages with a varied content including news, entertainment to patient care, and also government services applications. The use of smart phones in the Arab region is recording high percentages, with 57 per cent of the KSA population, 48 per cent of the Jordanian, and 37 per cent of the Lebanese population use these phones. The Report also emphasizes the roles of the international partners in this context, which are: capacity-building; training; application development; and strengthening legal and regulatory frameworks.

Zaatari also mentioned the main barriers facing the Software industry growth, which include: the limited access to venture capital; the lack of qualified human resources; the lack of government procurement; weak demand from private sector; high rates of software piracy; limited capabilities in software firms; inadequate protection of intellectual property rights; limited demand from export markets; and unfavorable general business climate. He added that the Report calls on governments to intervene through giving the private sector the incentives to invest in the software industry. Zaatari said that the governments are asked to secure an affordable information and communication technology infrastructure including a good broadband connectivity; to make use of the free open source software when available; to foster local software industry capabilities; and to strengthen the legal framework.

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