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ESCWA's report: Weak prospects for Arab complementarily within the present state of fragmentation


UN ESCWA launched in Tunis the day before yesterday its latest report entitled Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative.  The report provides a comprehensive and strategic vision on "Arab complementarity" and was put together by a collection of Arab and international consultants, intellectuals, and experts who concurred to concluded that there are little prospects for complementarily in the Arab region with the continued state of fragmentation between Arab countries.  The authors considered that Arab collective action should focus on the protection of common interests and securing national sovereignty.
The report reviews the main milestones of Arab complementarity in economics, politics, culture, and popular solidarity.  The report begins with a review of the main pillars of complementarity in the region and demonstrates through accurate and factual analysis that simple measures such as reducing transportation costs and increasing exchange of manual labour amongst Arab states can increase regional domestic product by more than USD 750 billions in a matter of just a few years and will also secure more than 6 million new jobs.  The report also reconfirms that the Arab populations still suffer from widespread poverty, unemployment and malnutrition in addition to endemic corruption and social injustice.  Indeed, one fifth of Arab populations still lives within the poverty line while one fourth of its youth and one fifth of its women remain unemployment, and that malnutrition now affects some 50 million Arab. The report also notes that some of the Arab civil societies are now ahead of their governments in terms of pan-Arab collaboration, particularly at the level of popular action and cross borders collaboration, that have surpassed in importance many of formal initiatives for cooperation  undertaken by Arab regional institutions. In many instances, regional networking was able to tackle and successfully overcame the still dispread official constraints on freedom of organisation in the region by largely using modern ICT.
The report also notes that aspirations for economic union was never achieved except through a largely unsuccessful regional trade agreement, amongst poorly productive economy, which largely served the flow of capital within the framework of specific economic activities which generate rapid and large profit margins.  As such, obstacles to the setting up of a unified common Arab market remain strong, also hindering the implementation of present agreements.
Within the same vein, the report goes through the concept of Human “Nahda” whilst noting its three main pillars namely safeguarding freedom and human dignity for all, creating a diversified productive infrastructure and encouraging a creative culture.  The report suggests a series of strategic guidelines for supporting regional collaboration towards and Arab Nahda based once more on three elements: political collaboration to support democratic good governance, strengthening economic complementarity by implementing present agreements and aiming to revive the project of Arab economic union, cultural and educational reform aiming at developing creativity among citizens so as to build vibrant knowledge societies.
In his address during the event, former Lebanese PM Najib Mikati noted that the key factors that have hindered Arab complementarity remain: the occupation of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel, oppression that hinders development, and the spread of extremism which has recently taken religious forms and which has grown because of the absence of freedom, rampant poverty, unemployment, poor education and a lack of justice.  He added that Lebanon is in dire need of Arab complementarity and solidarity from the other Arab countries
Source: Al-Nahar, Al-Safir, Al-Hayat 27 February 2014

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