Secretary-General of the Arab League (AL) Ahmed Aboul-Gheit said that despite the obstacles faced by the Arab world due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Arab world still can implement the 2030 sustainable development goals (SDGs).
His remarks came during the opening session of the fourth edition of the Arab Week for Sustainable Development that is titled ‘Together for a Sustainable Recovery’, in partnership with the Egyptian Ministry of Planning and Economic Development, the United Nations, the World Bank, and the European Union.
This year’s edition aims to mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic.
Aboul-Gheit asserted that to achieve this goal, the region needs a quick, coordinated, and comprehensive response based on Arab solidarity to support the economies of the most fragile and affected countries.
“After two years since the emergence of the pandemic, which was a heavy burden and a severe test for all of humanity, we do not accurately understand the economic and social consequences of this pandemic, the initial indicators available to us are negative and worrying,” he said.
He pointed out that at the Arab level, the Unified Arab Economic Report for 2021 that was recently issued by the AL’s states confirmed that the total output in Arab countries at current prices recorded a contraction of 11.5% compared to 2019, and the loss in GDP is estimated at over $220 billion for 2020.
The report adds that this decline was never witnessed by Arab countries, even in the wake of the global financial crisis of 2009, explaining that this decline has increased the complexity of challenges that the Arab region was facing before the pandemic and even contributed to worsening conditions in countries that suffer from conflicts.
The report noted that the deterioration of sustainable development indicators due to the pandemic does not need a statement, as the disparities between and within countries have increased and the inequality gap has widened, as the numbers of multidimensional poverty and unemployment have risen and the food gap has increased, and that these conditions constitute a favourable climate for the return of social scourges such as child labour, violence, and lack of gender equality.
The secretary-general then renewed his call to all international partners and financial institutions to increase allocations to the Arab region so that it can fulfil its obligations before 2030.
He also affirmed that investing in sustainable projects, encouraging environmental initiatives, and supporting small and medium-sized enterprises working in the field of technological innovation would address the effects of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.