Women, Youth and Climate in Focus at Arab Forum on Sustainable Development – IISD

The Arab Forum for Sustainable Development 2022 convened in Beirut, Lebanon to review progress towards the 2030 Agenda in the Arab region. Challenges facing women, youth, and displaced people were highlighted in opening statements and in the annual report on the region’s SDG progress. Discussions also pointed to Egypt’s hosting of the next Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC COP 27) as an opportunity to emphasize climate adaptation and financing for adaptation.

 

 

At the opening session on 15 March 2022, UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said COVID‑19 had reversed the Arab region’s first signs of progress towards the SDGs. In the region, the rich are getting richer while unemployment rates have risen to the highest levels worldwide — particularly among young people. The region also has the highest number of refugees and internally displaced people in the world. She indicated five priorities for the region:

 

Resilience for the pandemic, through vaccination equity and investing in primary health care, health surveillance, and local medical production

 

Investing in women and youth, building on the region’s investments in social protection during the pandemic. She noted the Secretary-General’s recommendations to achieve gender equality in this generation: repealing all gender-discriminatory laws; promoting gender parity in all spheres and at all levels of decision-making; facilitating women’s economic inclusion by providing access to jobs and opportunities; ensuring greater inclusion of younger women; and implementing an emergency response plan to prevent and end gender-based violence.

 

Support learning and reinvent education systems

 

Accelerate just, green transitions by urgently reducing emissions, building resilience against land degradation and other impacts of climate change, build more resilient and sustainable food systems. Mohammed said COP 27 can put climate adaptation and its financing front and center. Adaptation finance must double to at least USD 40 billion per year by 2025.

 

Invest in transitions from crisis and post-crisis settings: “only sustainable development offers long-term solutions to political and humanitarian challenges.”

 

The Arab region’s annual SDG review for 2022 also informed discussion at the Forum. The report addresses three themes for building back better from the COVID-19 crisis while advancing the 2030 Agenda in the Arab region: social protection, green economic recovery, and digital transformation. For each topic the reports identifies what countries in the region have done, what more they could do, and how regional cooperation can help.

 

The annual review also provides a statistical check-in on where the Arab region stands in terms of realizing the 17 SDGs. For example, on SDG 4 (quality education), the report notes that secondary school enrolment remains below the world’s average, but the region fares generally better than the world’s average in terms of equipping its schools with electricity, internet and drinking water.

 

On SDG 5 (gender equality), the authors report weak availability of data, which impedes the assessment of efforts to end discrimination, guarantee equal rights and access to resources, and eliminate violence against women and girls. It notes that the representation of women in elected local governments is steadily catching up with the world’s average, but no visible improvement can be seen in the rate of women in managerial positions, and rates of child marriage and female genital mutilation remain high.

 

On SDG 14 (life below water), the region has made significant progress in recognizing and protecting access rights for small-scale fisheries, exceeding the world’s average. But SDG 14 is among the least tracked Goals in the Arab region, with data largely lacking on the health of marine ecosystems and the implementation of sustainable fishing practices.

 

On SDG 17, it notes that the Arab region is not benefiting from global trade. Fluctuations in the share of global merchandise exports may be attributed to the fact that oil and gas constitute a major share of the region’s merchandise exports. The Arab region is above global averages in adopting statistical legislation that complies with global principles, and in developing fully-funded statistical plans. However, the region exhibits major data shortages in several SDG 17 priority areas, including finance and resource mobilization, technology, trade, partnerships, and data collection.

 

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