It is an honour for me to chair the 17th meeting of the Regional Coordination Mechanism in the Arab region. It is also a great pleasure to be back in Beirut and Lebanon, a country close to my heart through the years.
It is almost two years to the day that dramatic political change was unleashed in this region, starting in Tunisia and later encompassing Egypt, Libya, Yemen and Syria.
Countries across the Arab world and beyond have been affected, inspired and altered by the events taking place. There has been tremendous suffering as well -- and in some cases profound uncertainty and fear about what lies ahead.
My first message to you today is that these unfolding events have many lessons for our work.
I am struck by the courage and tenacity displayed by ordinary people -- showing once again the significance of the people-centred approach to development. The people are agents of choice and change, not recipients of help or reasons for problems.
Let us recognize as well the sheer breadth of change they are demanding from governments. Young women and men throughout the region have voiced, with great force, their dismay at unemployment and jobless economic growth. Farmers and workers have shown us the stark and multi-dimensional nature of poverty.
The Arab uprisings have forced clarity and urgency on many key aspects of development. Our challenge now is to respond effectively to these imperatives.
My second message to you is this: as the Arab world shapes a new political landscape for the region, now is also the time to set a new course of development.
The Rio+20 conference earlier this year reaffirmed the need for inclusive and sustainable development.
Member States agreed to establish a set of Sustainable Development Goals, with time-bound targets to end poverty and hunger while preserving the environment.
The Rio conference also underscored the importance of greater roles for women, non-governmental organizations, small-scale food producers, the private sector, and the academic and scientific communities.
This past September’s high-level meeting of the General Assembly on the rule of law adopted an important, forward-looking declaration that gives us another potentially strong tool for building key foundations of development. This can be done through honest institutions, effective public services, independent judiciaries and trustworthy security sectors.
The Regional Coordination Mechanism has a role to play in taking these outcomes and understandings forward.
You can support global, regional and national strategies to establish or reinforce the building blocks of sustainable development, such as energy, water, transport, food and nutrition.
You can direct our focus on the Millennium Development Goals, which we must do as the 2015 deadline approaches.
And you can start discussing an Arab and regional perspective on the post-2015 development agenda.
The articulation of a new framework for the period beyond 2015 is the prerogative of the Member States. But it is the UN system’s responsibility to help Member States by giving the best that we have to offer in terms of information and best practices in the field.
The international community needs to arrive at a single, cohesive development agenda for post-2015, with sustainable development at its core and reflecting the key principles of human rights, equality and sustainability. Let me emphasize that sustainable development is about the three well-known dimensions -- economic, social and environmental -- and the links between them.
Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia and other partners are helping to crystallize the views of Arab countries. We must support the efforts to make sure that Arab voices are clearly heard and that the region’s priorities are considered.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
My third message today concerns the United Nations itself: we must strengthen our impact on the ground, in people’s lives.
The political changes in the Arab world have shown how closely inter-related this region is -- politically, culturally, socially and economically. No Arab country stands unaffected by the winds of changes in the region. No approaches or strategies can be put forward today without taking into account regional players and regional realities.
It is therefore essential for United Nations entities and regional institutions to come together at meetings like this to think and act jointly and regionally.
Globally, we hear a strong call for convergence among different development agendas, and a strong call to streamline our efforts. The Secretary-General has put in place a multi-layered process to include all actors in this agenda. It is important that our work on the post-2015 agenda and on the outcome of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development feed into each other, and is inclusive and inclusive and representative.
Such a coherence is needed also at the regional level. And we need to do it together. The UN and the Regional Commissions have a strong role to play by bringing all relevant actors together.
In that spirit, I congratulate Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia on the new membership of Libya, Morocco and Tunisia. This is a very important step. It will help promote closer ties among the countries and agencies of the region and better synergy with our key regional partner, the League of Arab States.
The Regional Coordination Mechanism is an important vehicle for cooperation and action.
It can ensure policy coherence and consolidate multiple efforts.
It gives us space to think collectively, craft a regional vision and set joint strategic and substantive goals to guide our work on the ground.
Like any mechanism, it is as effective as we make it. Let us use it wisely and in an innovative way.
I look forward to a productive meeting at this crucial moment for the region.