New UN partnership to focus on trade reforms and poverty reduction in Arab countries

UNDP has helped establish small, women-run agricultural business cooperatives in rural Lebanon. Photo: UNDP

2 May 2013 – A new partnership announced today between the United Nations and the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation (ITFC) seeks to fight poverty and create jobs through trade reforms in the Middle East and North Africa.

“Today we find ourselves at a global turning point, with countries of the South increasingly driving global growth and making rapid progress on poverty reduction and job creation,” said the Associate Administrator of the UN Development Programme (UNDP), Rebeca Grynspan at an event in New York.

According to UNDP, youth unemployment rates in the Arab World are close to 30 per cent in some countries, and region-wide, only one in every four women is active in the workforce. The sluggishness of the economy is partly due to underperforming regional trade.

The ‘Aid for Trade Initiative for Arab States’ partnership seeks to spearhead trade reforms with the aim of bringing about economic growth to poor populations.

“UNDP’s priority in the region is to help Arab countries find the path to sustainable human development, and employment generation is perhaps the most important step on that journey,” said UNDP Assistant Administrator Sima Bahous, who heads the organization’s bureau for the Arab States region.

The initiative was endorsed by the 3rd Arab Economic and Social Development Summit, held in January in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. It is funded by the International Islamic Trade Finance Corporation – a unit of the Islamic Development Bank Group – as well as the Governments of Kuwait, Saudi Arabia and Sweden, and UNDP.

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