Magazine article UN Chronicle

The MDGs in the Western Asian Region; Regional Cooperation and Policies Needed to Promote Development

Magazine article UN Chronicle

The MDGs in the Western Asian Region; Regional Cooperation and Policies Needed to Promote Development

Article excerpt

As the world marks the midpoint between the adoption of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 and the target date for their achievement in 2015, an assessment of the Arab region's progress on these is both timely and essential. As a whole, the region has made significant progress in some areas, including education and disease control, yet several factors have constrained the achievement of the MDGs.

The relatively poor economic performance in the 1990s and early 2000s, the inadequate financing of social policies and the increased political tensions and conflicts have all hindered progress. Achieving the MDGs in the Arab world, at the regional, subregional and national levels, requires concerted efforts and full commitment by Governments and civil society organizations. Efforts are needed to create well-functioning and transparent institutions and to establish both youth-and gender-friendly policy frameworks, which ensure that young men and women are not only beneficiaries but also active agents of development.

The Arab region has been characterized by sharp disparities between the different subregions,(*) particularly between the highincome States of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Arab least developed countries (LDCs). These disparities are not only great in terms of the level of development, but also in terms of progress made towards the achievement of the MDGs. Indeed, while the GCC countries, as well as several States in the Maghreb and Mashreq subregions, are on-track to achieve most of the MDG targets, the Arab LDCs and conflict-ridden Iraq and palestine face many critical challenges. For these countries to meet the MDG targets by 2015, national and international development efforts must be stepped up.

Based on data for 12 Arab countries, representing 74 per cent of the region's total population, the proportion of the population living below the national poverty line has remained unchanged, at approximately 23 per cent, between the periods 1995-1999 and 2000-2005. Poverty rates declined from 11 to 9 per cent in the Maghreb and from 46 to 45 per cent in the Arab LDCs, but increased from 18 to 19 per cent in the Mashreq, excluding Iraq, where conflict has resulted in the periods 1995-1999 and 2000-2005. Poverty rates declined from 11 to 9 per cent in the Maghreb and from 46 to 45 per cent in the Arab LDCs, but increased from 18 to 19 per cent in the Mashreq, excluding Iraq, where conflict has resulted inapproximately one third of the population living in poverty. Similarly, due to the ongoing conflict in Palestine, poverty rates have soared to 50 per cent. Individual country data indicate wide disparities in the proportion of underweight children under five years of age. It is estimated that 46 per cent of under-five children in Yemen in 2003 were underweight, whereas in Lebanon it was only 3.3 per cent. Furthermore, labour power is the main and, in most cases, the only income-earning asset for the poor. As such, the very high rates of unemployment, widespread underemployment and a low employment-to-population ratio, which continue to characterize labour markets in most Arab countries, are particularly problematic.

Youth Literacy Rate in the Arab Region

(percentage)

                      1990  2005

Mashreq countries     64.0  87.3
Maghreb countries     69.8  83.8
GCC countries         87.6  95.9
Arab LDCs             58.1  69.6
Arab region           66.6  83.4
Developing regions *  80.9  85.0

Source: UNESCO Institute for Statistics (UIS).
* Data refer to 1990 and 2000-2004.

In the field of education, all Arab subregions have achieved substantial progress since 1990, yet the Arab LDCs are still far from ensuring universal primary education. In 2005, one in two children were not enrolled in primary school. In fact, two thirds of the estimated 7.5 million out-of-school children in the region live in the six Arab LDCs. Furthermore, even though, on average, young people have achieved a relatively high level of education, this has not led to improved employment opportunities. …

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