Following are UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohamed’s remarks at the High-Level Political Forum side event on peace and security and the Sustainable Development Goals in the Arab States region, in New York today:
I deeply appreciate the opportunity to address you today, not least because of the special affinity I hold for the Arab States region. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development recognizes clearly that there can be no sustainable development without peace, and no peace without sustainable development. This is also enshrined in the twin resolutions on sustaining peace.
Yet, globally, deaths in conflict, forced displacement and violent extremism are on the rise. And, as the 2016 United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Arab Human Development Report underscored, the Middle East and North Africa regions have been particularly vulnerable.
Arab countries are home to only 5 per cent of the world’s population, but, in 2014, they witnessed 45 per cent of the world’s terrorist incidents, 68 per cent of its battle-related deaths, 47 per cent of its internally displaced, and 58 per cent of its refugees. The same report predicts that, by 2020, “almost 3 out of 4 Arabs could be ‘living in countries vulnerable’ to violent conflict.”
Several of these crises are long-standing. In Palestine, for example, 50 years of occupation have fuelled recurring cycles of violence and retribution. Ending the occupation through a viable two-State solution is the only way to build enduring peace. Other conflicts have been triggered by the upheavals of 2011, with their roots in decades of development deficit, failed social contracts and too many people left behind.
The tensions, conflict, violent extremism and instability we witness in many Arab States are not only taking a tragic toll on lives and livelihoods; they are holding the region back, and in some cases, reversing decades of development. They are standing in the way of progress against the economic, political, social, human rights and environmental inequalities which remain a fact for far too many people in Arab countries. They hamper efforts to bring down unemployment rates, which remain the highest in the world, especially for youth. And they impede progress for women’s political, economic and social participation, which is far too low.
In brief, the Arab States region today needs peace to lay the foundation for sustainable development — and inclusive, rights-based sustainable development — to maintain enduring peace.
This year’s High-Level Political Forum coincides with the second year of implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. I commend the four Arab countries that have offered voluntary reports thus far — Egypt, Jordan, Morocco and Qatar. I hope in future years we will hear from more Arab countries on their progress, their challenges and the support they need.
For our part, all United Nations agencies, funds and programmes are working closely to help Member States achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, with special attention to countries in crisis. We are coordinating ever more effectively and are motivated to continue to improve our service to Member States.
The United Nations development system is going through an ambitious reform, championed by the Secretary-General, which will strengthen our effectiveness. In some Arab States, as around the world, a major focus of this intensified effort involves strengthening the nexus between humanitarian and development assistance, as called for at the World Humanitarian Summit and made operational in the Secretary General’s New Way of Working.
The United Nations Development Programme-United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees partnership in the Regional Refugee and Resilience Plan has been a pioneer in this regard, and offers lessons for adapting around the region and indeed the world.
Strengthening our work, our coordination and our efficiency at this nexus is an imperative. We cannot solve the challenges of the present with the tools of the past. The challenges ahead are profound. We count on Member States for support. Success will require a bolder approach to financing and partnerships. Nothing will be achieved without engaging all actors and developing inclusive solutions.
We salute the regional actors who have provided generous support for humanitarian and development aid in the region and beyond. And we thank the international community, which has expressed solidarity and supported resilience when it has never been more needed.
Across the United Nations, even in the most difficult of circumstances, we are committed to supporting planning for and implementing the Sustainable Development Goals and putting the 2030 Agenda at the heart of prevention, early recovery and resilience efforts. And, as highlighted in the Agenda for Humanity, we urge more investment in development in fragile contexts, to address root causes and to seek to prevent crises from occurring in the first place.
Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals in the Middle East and North Africa region will require the best engagement of all actors. This event can help strengthen the platform for cooperation that emphasizes the fundamental interlinkages between the peace and security agenda and the Sustainable Development Goals, and addresses the humanitarian-development nexus.
As we discuss let us allow a cautious optimism. We have seen important moments of progress in recent weeks, for example the Iraqi Government’s reclaiming of Mosul, and the ceasefire in south-western Syria. And we know that in every country in crisis in the region, there are many pockets of peace that go unreported.
In every country in these regions, women, men and young people are working hard to bring an end to conflicts they did not start, and they do not want. It is up to us to do everything we can to ensure that once peace is achieved, it can be sustained. And that once prosperity is pursued, it brings a dividend in enduring peace.
I wish you a fruitful discussion that can help strengthen our shared agenda, and bring us closer to a long-needed future of peace, prosperity and sustainable development in the Arab States.