In a statement at the United Nations General Assembly in New York, Najib Saab, Secretary General of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED), said that after all the wars and conflicts, Arabs will not be able to escape their duty of responsible care for natural resources, in order to ensure the continuation of life. He emphasized the need to include the principles of sustainable development and environmental stewardship in construction and reconstruction programs, instead of subsidies and localized aid.
Saab was addressing a high-level thematic debate called upon by the President of the United Nations General Assembly, on the implementation of UN sustainable development goals for the year 2030. Saab's statement tackled national responses to implement the SDGs.
Here is an excerpt of Saab's statement:
I would like to share with this assembly some observations on prospects and challenges facing the implementation of SDGs in Arab countries.
My first message is that we need to stop treating Arab countries as a monolith. Individual countries have distinctive needs and economic, political, and social contexts that must be recognized. Consequently, countries will have to identify their priority SDGs and develop national plans for their implementation.
My second message is that common challenges facing our region demand that implementation plans for achieving SDGs must be linked with (1) effective participation of non-state sectors, (2) job creation, (3) home-grown science capabilities, and (4) institutional and public policy capacity building.
I will direct my third message towards partnerships for development and the role of Arab funds. Besides the need for developed countries to meet their overdue assistance pledges, there is a pressing need to mobilize local resources through reforms in subsidies and tax regimes. Moreover, our region boasts ten development funds, which can play a leading role in assisting Arab countries to achieve the SDGs goals.
For my fourth message, I would like to call upon Arab governments to adopt a genuine cross-sectoral approach to sustainable development. This entails the integration of climate change considerations in the implementation of the SDGs, mainly based on the water-energy-food nexus.
My fifth message concerns a focus on the state of conflict in the region, and thus demands an approach that responds directly to the particular needs and priorities of areas suffering from armed conflicts and illegal military occupation. Beyond limiting action to ad-hoc measures, we would be wise to lay the foundation for integrating SDGs implementation in the anticipated rebuilding efforts.
On the bright side, and in spite of the turmoil, sustainable resource management is gaining stronger ground in various parts of the Arab region. Countries in the GCC have recently initiated bold policies to enhance water and energy efficiency, as demonstrated in the 2016 Saudi budget and measures in other countries to phase out subsidies. Moreover, appropriate policies have been attracting more private investments in renewable energy, as witnessed mainly in Morocco, UAE and Jordan.
To conclude, we believe that there is an urgent need to invest in people-centered development, which fosters integration of human rights, including the right to development, and the principles of genuine public participation, accountability, transparency, and non-discrimination, into the development agenda.