A top priority for delegations headed to the upcoming ministerial session of the United Nations regional commission for West Asia will be to examine the impact of peace and security on socio-economic development in the Arab region.
The twenty-third ministerial session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) will be held from 9 to 12 May, in the Syrian capital of Damascus, and is scheduled to feature a roundtable where heads of each of the 13 delegations will discuss a paper on peace and security and their impact on social and economic development in the region.
The paper is based on a survey prepared by ESCWA on "International Peace and Security: An Arab Perspective," the result of a series of brainstorming meetings involving prominent Arab decision-makers and academics.
The agenda of the ministerial meeting also includes important issues such as cooperation with the Arab League and implementation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). It will also feature the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) on maritime transport cooperation in the Arab Mashreq.
At previous meetings, the Commission had identified certain links between peace and security and socio-economic development. Certain "soft threats," such as chronic hunger, pervasive disease, racism and illiteracy, endangered peace and security. Such threats were largely perceived to contribute to extremism and undermine socio-economic reform in the region.
On the regional level, the focus at previous meetings on this subject has been on rising rates of unemployment, especially among the young and educated, which exceeds 50 per cent in several Arab States. All these challenges, if neglected and allowed to boil over without resolution, could provide a fertile environment for militancy and threaten international peace and security.
As an organ of the UN system, ESCWA seeks to facilitate economic and social cooperation among the countries of the region to achieve regional integration. It also seeks to harmonize the policies of its member countries in various sectors, including water, energy, industry, agriculture and technology.
The Commission's membership comprises Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and Yemen, as well as the Palestinians.