Arab third-world levels
- every second woman illiterate
JORDAN TIMES 3 July 2002:"Arab world must work together to achieve
self-sufficiency - UNDP report" By Dina Al Wakeel
QUOTES FROM TEXT:
"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
[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
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
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
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
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.