The objective of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), much as those of the other regional commissions, is to promote regional cooperation and socio-economic development in the region it covers, with a view to enhancing the well-being of its peoples. In taking up the functions of Executive Secretary of the Commission, my mission, as I see it, is to translate this solemn undertaking into tangible results in the light of present day conditions. As should be expected, these not only open up opportunities, but also arouse challenges for action.
Sustainable development is the ultimate objective of ESCWA. All activities should forge the instruments that will make it possible; well built up and used, these instruments can be considered the intermediate objectives of our activities. Below, I briefly outline aspects of how this can be achieved.
The promotion of economic cooperation between ESCWA Member States, hopefully resulting in a not distant future in progressive regional integration, looks like an instrument of priority. One way of helping to effectively achieve this goal is to examine the impediments that have stood in its way. It follows on it that ESCWA could make suggestions for dismantling these impediments. Successful experiences in other regions could be learned from, and their lessons adapted, so as to present to Member States ideas that would make integration beneficial and attractive to all of them.
Another instrument is that of the increased participation of the region in the global economy, with ever-improving terms and conditions. In other words, the ESCWA secretariat should help upgrade the location of its region in the structure of the world economy. This can only be done by expanding and diversifying their economies, and producing higher value-added goods and services. In the process, it should advise on avoiding the risks entailed in the current liberalization and globalization of the international economy. An example of specific activities in this respect is studying the implications for Member States of the World Trade Organization agreements. Another is the assistance that could be given to Member States in implementing the agreements and negotiating their accession to the organization.
Upgrading the location of the region in the structure of the world economy, at the beginning of the new century, can benefit from the enormous opportunities made possible by new technologies. Information and communications technology is a tool of particular significance in this regard. Conscious of the contribution it can make to development, the Commission and the United Nations system, in general, are taking initiatives, with a view to facilitate the access of the developing countries and their use of this technology. ESCWA intends to assist Member States in benefitting from these initiatives.
Of course, technologies, old and new, draw their importance from their application. It is our role to ensure they are beneficially applied to factors and processes of production in the different sectors of economic activity. …