Under the auspices of Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi, the third edition of the Arab Sustainable Development Week started on Sunday in Cairo.
The forum, attended by Minister of Planning, Monitoring, and Administrative Reform, Hala El-Said, discussed the challenges facing the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the Middle East.
Ahmed Aboul Gheit, secretary general of the Arab League, said, “The Arab world is facing many obstacles such as mass protests which erupted in many countries.”
“The gap between the expectations of the people and reality is very big, these expectations are also increasing, making the government unable to achieve it. However, there is no alternative but to listen to the people’s demands,” he added.
He asserted that water shortage is the most dangerous issue in the Middle East, as Arab countries only have 10% of the world’s water resources.
Meanwhile, the Vice President of the World Bank Group, Mahmoud Mohieldin, said “to invest in the infrastructure is not only by building bridges and roads, but to also support digital transformation.”
Hala El-Said said that to ensure sustainable development, Arab countries need to invest in human resources by providing financing for development.
“The financial investment needed for developing human resources is $23bn per year, but we only receive $130m,” she added. “Population growth is a challenge. However, it becomes an advantage when we invest in people by providing education, health, and training on digital transformation and artificial intelligence,” she further added.
The SDGs are 17 goals set by the UN for the year 2030. The forum talked about sustainable development in the Arab region, by presenting the achievements fulfilled by some Arab countries.
Moreover, the Minister of Planning in Libya, Taher Al-Jahmi, and the Minister Planning in Yemen, Najib Mansour Al Auj, talked about the difficulties of achieving sustainable development amid their respective armed conflicts.
Al-Jahmi said, “Oil countries are difficult to achieve sustainable development because they rely on oil, a non-renewable source, for economic development,” adding, “Libya started to develop education and health as part of its sustainable development, but due to the ongoing internal war, these projects were stalled.”
For Yemen, Al Auj said that they were able to divert some of the funding assigned to humanitarian aid to begin the sustainable development in the agreed upon culture field.