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Development Account Projects

Strengthening national capacities for integrated, sustainable and inclusive population and development policies in the Arab region


Sustainable development requires the adoption of strong, integrated population and development policies that place human development at the centre of balanced economic growth. Effective population and development policies reflect demographic realities to ensure an adequate and efficient allocation of resources to improve the quality of life of specific sociodemographic groups, such as youth, the elderly and migrants. They also encourage development-friendly population trends by reducing rapid population growth and the consequent pressures on resources, social services and the environment.

Most Arab Governments have put population councils in place to act as the national machinery for designing and influencing population and social development policies. These agencies, reporting to line ministries, serve a dual role of coordination of implementation and reporting among government agencies on specific issues of population and social policy. However, Arab population councils face important shortfalls in terms of their capacities to fulfil their mandates and, in most cases, do not reach out to civil society actors and key stakeholders in social development.

In most countries of the Arab region, civil society actors already play an important role in service delivery, accessing marginalized and isolated communities and providing necessary social and economic support and services where the State is often unable to do so. Their day to day interaction with these communities offers them important insights into the challenges faced by different population groups and practical local knowledge necessary to find relevant solutions. However, civil society actors have no voice in policy development processes in the region and are only included in the planning for and monitoring and evaluation of population and development policies on an ad hoc basis, subject to the availability of resources and donor support. This lack of voice is due in large part to the absence of identified common priorities between civil society and policymakers, and the absence of institutionalized structures to host and foster Government-civil society dialogue. The result is policies whose impact can only be partial, as civil society actors’ complementary and specific knowledge and capacity to inform, implement and monitor, and evaluate population and sustainable development challenges are untapped.

Recognizing this shortcoming, in the Doha Declaration of the 2009 Arab Conference on Population and Development, the heads of the national population councils in Arab countries called upon Arab countries to enhance partnership with civil society at the national and regional levels. The United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), in its outcome document, also notes that creating an enabling environment for civil society’s engagement in sustainable development activities, including the implementation of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, is essential for their success.

Seizing the momentum for civil society engagement and for renewed national dialogue unleashed by the Arab Spring, the project will build on the conclusions of the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014 review process in the Arab States and its own bottom-up, gender-sensitive and participatory approach to forge sustainable partnerships between national population councils and civil society actors. The project will launch and support national policy dialogues in five countries members of ESCWA. The selection of these countries will be based on the findings of the ongoing assessments of progress towards the achievement of the Programme of Action of the International Conference on Population and Development, including the global survey being undertaken by UNFPA in collaboration with the regional commissions. They will include both least developed and middle-income countries, with a view to ensuring experience-sharing, peer-learning and intraregional cooperation. The policy dialogues will aim to identify national population and development priorities, and engage in a constructive, collaborative exercise to develop and implement integrated, inclusive and sustainable population and development policies, and monitor and evaluate their impact.

ESCWA will take the lead in this three-year project, strengthening the partnerships developed through the International Conference on Population and Development beyond 2014 review process with UNFPA, ECA and the League of Arab States. Moreover, the League of Arab States will facilitate contacts with the national population councils in the Arab countries.


To build the capacities of Arab national population councils and civil society actors to jointly integrate inclusive population priorities in development policies, including their monitoring and evaluation

Expected accomplishments:

  • Strengthened capacity of national population councils and civil society actors to identify key population and development priorities at the regional and national levels
  • Policy reform proposals in the area of population and development formulated and reflect close partnership and commitment of governmental and civil society actors to implement national action plans in the five target countries

Implementation status:

In progress.