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Source: Department of Public Information (DPI)
21 January 2013


Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York



Following is UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon’s message, delivered by Rima Khalaf, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), to the Third Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, in Riyadh on 21 January:

I am pleased to send greetings to all participants in the Third Summit Meeting on Arab Economic and Social Development. I thank Saudi Arabia for hosting.

In the last few years, Arab citizens have raised their voices to demand political change, democracy, economic and social development and an end to corruption. Today’s gathering is an opportunity to respond to their legitimate calls for progress, freedom and dignity.

I applaud many of the reforms that are under way in the region. I commend His Majesty King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia on his recent appointment of 30 women to the Shura Council. I welcome the adoption of a new constitution in Egypt and I reaffirm my support for the Tunisian authorities as they seek to build consensus in drafting a constitution. And I welcome progress in Libya and Yemen. The United Nations will remain steadfast in our support for Iraq.

Across the region, the challenge now is to deepen and broaden reform efforts. In particular, a new and more hopeful era for the Arab world demands that youth and women have opportunities to realize their aspirations. When Arab women enjoy their rights and realize their full potential, they will unleash enormous progress in their communities and countries. The United Nations and the League of Arab States have long worked together to improve conditions in the region. Our current joint efforts to find a peaceful end to the crisis in Syria are but one example. Our development partnership spans more than 40 years.

The region faces significant challenges. Growing unemployment and economic marginalization have fuelled discontent. We need major investments to create jobs and promote innovation. The Arab Joint Investment Treaty is a commendable step forward that will boost intra-Arab investment. Large segments of Arab societies have become increasingly vulnerable to poverty and marginalization. To address these longstanding inequalities, we need mechanisms that will increase political participation and strengthen social safety nets to protect and empower the poor.

At last year’s Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development, Arab countries joined the call for a holistic approach that safeguards the needs of future generations without limiting the ambitions of the present. Last month’s climate change conference in Doha was another step in the right direction. I count on you to keep pressing for progress on the Millennium Development Goals, and I look forward to your contributions to the global dialogue on the post-2015 development agenda.

Development in the Arab region has also been held back by protracted conflict, injustice and occupation. The stalemate in the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis is especially troubling. We must renew our collective engagement to resume meaningful negotiations that will realize Palestinian aspirations to live in freedom and dignity in an independent State of their own, side by side with Israel, in peace and security. The United Nations is fully committed to working with all international partners, in particular the Arab League and its follow-up Committee, and with the parties themselves. Achieving the two-State solution also requires the economic and financial viability of the Palestinian Authority. I count on the generous support of Arab donors to deliver the safety net promised last month.

The United Nations will continue to assist you in meeting the many diverse challenges ahead. Let us join forces to improve lives, enhance opportunities and advance equality through better national and local governance, decent work, sustainable growth and conflict prevention.

In this spirit, I wish you a most productive meeting.
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For information media • not an official record

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