Lack of freedom and development of women in the Moslem Arab world

Arab third-world levels of development
- every second woman illiterate

JORDAN TIMES 3 July 2002:"Arab world must work together to achieve self-sufficiency - UNDP report" By Dina Al Wakeel


"the findings identify...areas that are lacking, such as the freedom gap, the knowledge gap and the role of women in the Arab region."

"The report also lauds the concept of the Arab Free Trade Area, 'provided it lives up to its promise'. "


AMMAN - Arab countries have the potential to raise their people's living standards, but cannot attain self-sufficiency in the absence of inter-Arab economic integration and trade, according to a new UNDP report unveiled on Tuesday.

[IMRA: Actually titled Arab Human Development Report. Is "self-sufficiency" a prime objective?] "The slow pace of achievement" in the region is connected to the lack of cooperation between Arab countries, according to the report that assessed fundamental issues related to human development across the Arab world.

While substantial progress is reported in health and habitat in recent years, the findings identify other areas that are lacking, such as the freedom gap, the knowledge gap and the role of women in the Arab region. The reform of public administration, public sector institutions, the legal system and expanding knowledge by making the public's voice heard are basic requirements in upgrading key aspects of governance systems.

"Voice and accountability" is another unit of measurement in the study, and assesses "the extent to which the citizens of a country are able to participate in the selection of governments and monitor those in authority." In this category, Jordan ranked first among Arab countries.

Other deficits include high unemployment rates due to a lack of opportunities, and the consequent brain drain. In Jordan, the official unemployment rate stands at 14.9 per cent.

There are around one million Arab experts working abroad at a high skill level, said the UNDP's resident representative in Jordan, Ove Bjerregaard.

"Half the youths surveyed [for the report] have a vision of emigrating," said Bjerregaard at a meeting with the press here on Monday.

The status of women is also considered a major setback in the Arab world, as they do not fully participate economically and politically. Their participation in these realms is the lowest in the world in quantitative terms.

There are approximately 65 million illiterate adults in the region, most of whom are women. One of every two Arab women is illiterate, and in some countries women are denied the right to vote. Compared to 13 per cent in Latin America, women occupy 3.5 per cent of all seats in Arab parliaments

The gap in knowledge due to the high illiteracy rate and the deficiency in the educational system, according to the report, was measured in terms of scientific research and development. In 1996, expenditure on research in Arab countries was less than 0.5 per cent compared to 2.9 per cent in Japan in 1995.

Meanwhile, Arabs constitute five per cent of the world's population and only 0.5 of Internet users.

Despite the many flaws, the report reveals that the region has successfully managed to raise life expectancy by 15 years over the last three decades, and cut infant mortality rates by two-thirds.

Yet although fertility rates dropped significantly in several Arab countries, they remain higher than average, except for Tunisia.

Joint efforts to alleviate poverty were also fruitful, with a more even distribution of wealth noted in recent years.

The report refers to a paper on poverty in the World Bank's Middle East and North African countries (MENA) from 1970-2000. The paper showed that the MENA region is considered to have the "lowest incidence of extreme poverty, with less than 2.5 per cent of the population living on or below the $1 per day standard for dire poverty."

In terms of economic prospects, the report calls for increased cooperation between Arab states.

Social and economic unity can help solve the problem of small markets each country has and facilitate the opening of new markets such as the European one.

The report also lauds the concept of the Arab Free Trade Area "provided it lives up to its promise."

Despite the many agreements signed between Arab states since the 1950s, inter-Arab trade accounts for only around seven to ten per cent of total Arab trade, said the report.
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The Arab world is lagging behind; another insignificant League summit Wed Mar 29 2006 Volume 2 : Issue 1358
THE DAILY STAR (Lebanon) 28 Mar.'06
"Another year in the Arab world and another predictable summit" QUOTES FROM TEXT: "while the rest of the world has been making great strides ...the Arab world has been lagging behind" "Arab League summits ... a platform for the world's most autocratic leaders to issue rhetorical statements and offer no real solutions" "the Arab League has been institutionalizing its own insignificance"

FULL TEXT: Editorial
Each year, the Arab League summits look more and more folkloric. It is widely acknowledged that while the rest of the world has been making great strides toward development and democracy, the Arab world has been lagging behind. In fact, three consecutive reports from the United Nations Development Program have criticized Arab governments for their lack of progress on these fronts. The Arab League summits, which could serve as a venue for Arab leaders to address these issues, have instead served as little more than a platform for the world's most autocratic leaders to issue rhetorical statements and offer no real solutions to the pressing problems in the region. At year after year of fruitless summits, the Arab League has been institutionalizing its own insignificance.

At the summit in Tunis two years ago, Arab leaders promised to show a greater commitment to democratic reform, but this pledge has ushered in few changes. Many of the heads of state who are gathered for this year's summit in Khartoum are the same leaders who have been attending Arab League summits for decades. Moammar Gadhafi, who was the first president to arrive in Khartoum for this year's gathering, has been attending the summits for the past 36 years of his presidency. Four other presidents invited to the summit have attended meetings since they came to the helm of power in the 1980s. Even those who are new to power have mostly inherited their rule from family members whose faces we grew accustomed to seeing at every summit. These same leaders have been addressing the same issues with little show of progress. The question of Palestine, which has been on the agenda since the earliest meetings of the Arab League, is still an urgent and unresolved concern. Iraq has been on the summit's agenda since Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait in 1991, but the League's languid approach to the issue has changed very little, despite the recent escalation in violence there. The conflict in Darfur, where militias allied with the government of Sudan have waged a campaign of genocide against civilians for the past three years, has gone uncriticized. The meetings have become so predictable and irrelevant that this year, nine heads of state won't even bother to show up. The League's charter says that the organization will serve as a means through which member states can coordinate their political activities. But it also says the League will serve as a means for states to cooperate on economic and financial matters, including communications, visas, health services and social welfare. In the modern world, it is these issues that are of paramount concern to citizens. But unelected Arab leaders have shown little interest in discussing issues that are important to ordinary citizens, such as facilitating employment opportunitiesor making it easier to obtain work permits. Rather, the Arab League makes itself insignificant by repeatedly addressing things over which it has little or no influence. And until we can hold these leaders accountable, it is very unlikely that this pattern will change.


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