First Arab States Regional South-South Development EXPO

Doha, February 18


In light of the rapid growth in diversity of development actors, particularly from the South, the international aid architecture is changing considerably. The contribution of South-South Cooperation to development is thus catching more and more attention in the international arena. South-South Cooperation is viewed as a valuable and essential complement to North-South Cooperation. It is in this context that triangular cooperation is gaining additional importance. For the countries in the Arab States Region going through the political transition it means broader opportunities for creating partnerships and coalitions among their development stakeholders. Serving as a potential bridge between the North-South and South-South Cooperation systems, triangular cooperation provides a unique learning opportunity for all actors involved. 


As the South’s shared challenges continue to obstruct its goals for advancement, South-South and triangular cooperation for development has never been more critical. In order to fully harness the vast number of available development solutions to help to address old and emerging development challenges, the Secretary-General, in his report to the sixty-second session of the General Assembly (A/62/295), called on the international development community, including the United Nations system, to help to scale up the impact of South-South cooperation by: (a) optimizing the use of South-South approaches in achieving the internationally agreed development goals, including the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs); (b) intensifying multilateral support for South-South initiatives to address common development challenges; (c) fostering inclusive partnerships for South-South cooperation, including triangular and public-private partnerships; (d) improving the coherence of United Nations system support for such cooperation; and (e) encouraging innovative financing for South-South and triangular cooperation.


As a practical response to this call, and inspired by the recent successes of the global South-South Development EXPOs organized annually since 2008, and the regional knowledge sharing events, such as the “Knowledge from the South” hosted by the Government of Panama in 2012, the Regional Bureau for Arab States through its Regional Centre in Cairo in close cooperation with the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, in its capacity as the General Assembly-mandated global and United Nations-wide facilitator of South-South and triangular cooperation, launches the first Arab State Regional South-South Development EXPO.                                                                                 


According to the Arab Development Challenges Report it could be concluded that the Arab States possess five critical resources, namely: human resources, renewable energy, exhaustible hydrocarbons, water, and agricultural land. Wisely-planned, inclusive development and utilization of the former two that are in great abundance, human resources and solar energy, combined with equitable and prudent distribution and use of the latter three that present tough and limiting constraints should be at the backbone of any policy that aims to realistically improve the lives of the Arab people.                                                                                 


The sustainable use of natural resources is perhaps the most serious long-term development challenge facing the Arab region. In addition to the problem of depletion in natural resources that serve as the income base for many of the Arab states, such as oil and gas, the wasteful consumption practices in combination with potentially increasing episodes of drought due to the climate change might pose a major water security challenge for the region. In all Arab countries with the exception of Iraq, Sudan and Lebanon, the per capita share of renewable water resources falls below the international water poverty line (one thousand cubic meters annually). In Yemen, the per capita share of water has actually reached 100 cubic meters annually, a tenth of the international water poverty line.                                                                                   


Another serious challenge for the region is that its rent-based economic prosperity has not correlated with the respective growth in decent employment opportunities, especially for young generation and women. Arab women in particular bear the brunt of unemployment and of vulnerable employment. The share of women working in non-agricultural jobs in extremely low. At less than 20%, it is the lowest amongst developing regions. What is of greater concern is that this share has remained relatively constant since the 1990s. This implies that out of every 100 Arab women, less than 20 work in the non-agricultural sector, and from those, according to the ILO, less than 10% have a decent job.


This means that only 2 out of every 100 Arab women have a decent job.

More populous Arab countries with higher concentration of human and income poverty face declining levels of natural resource rents and most of them have turned into net oil importers. Today's global trading context is more competitive than ever, which in combination with the rising levels of higher education across the region makes the challenge of creating decent jobs very difficult. The recent low average levels of rainfall and the spike in food prices increase vulnerability of the region by creating food insecurity and threatening the livelihood of population groups that farm the land.


Time factor is important. The aftermath of the Arab Spring, as well as its perceived underlying causes exemplify quite vividly the type of challenges our society at large has to face nowadays. It also shows that the time factor in addressing such existing and emerging challenges is becoming more and more important. Solutions have to be found and applied much faster today than they could have been yesterday. Arab Spring shows that untimely response due to misinterpretations, ignoring or masking problems, or offering half measures may cost far too much.