SUN 21 - 10 - 2018
Date: Apr 24, 2018
Source: The Daily Star
Arab Forum for Sustainable Development opens
Mohamed Ali Alhakim

On Tuesday, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia, the United Nations’ regional arm that supports Arab countries in reaching crucial development goals, is welcoming a record number of participants at its headquarters in Beirut for its annual Arab Forum for Sustainable Development. Under the patronage of Lebanon’s Prime Minister Saad Hariri, over 250 representatives from government, civil society, the private sector, international and regional organizations and youth will come together in a space dedicated to fostering a culture of knowledge exchange and a spirit of collaboration and dialogue.

“As Arab countries move forward with the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, it is time for us to acknowledge that we cannot go on as we have before,” the Executive Secretary of ESCWA Mohamed Ali Alhakim said, warning that severe water shortages, effects of climate change and desertification, depleting oil reserves and barriers to renewable energy are all a call for the region to think differently.

“We need a new approach to the way we manage and use our natural resources,” he continued. “We need to acknowledge that what is good for the planet is good for our people. We need sustainable development for the common good.”

While there are many pressing issues to tackle especially given recent diplomatic escalations that fuel economic and social instability, AFSD 2018 opted to bring the links between natural resources and the common good as central issues to intergenerational justice to the forefront of the deliberations. The focus is also aligned with global discussions that will take place in July at the High-level Political Forum in New York.

This year’s theme: Natural Resources, Future Generations, and the Common Good is challenging the Forum’s main constituents, those in charge of horizontal development planning in Arab countries, to use the term “integrated sustainable development” not as a buzz word but to impart to it a sense of urgency and more importantly ethics.

“What appears as the right thing to do now is not necessarily right for the future,” Alhakim stressed. “Our way of thinking on how to use our environment and available resources has been adulterated, leading to policies that barely serve our current needs much less those of our children and grandchildren. Current practices are environmentally, and in many ways economically untenable and they are, fundamentally, unjust to those less advantaged today as well as to future generations.”

The three-day forum (April 24-26) will kick off with a segment dedicated to national experiences with a focus on voluntary national reviews. Participants will share experiences and lessons learned on countries’ response to the 2030 Agenda in terms of alignment and integration of policies, measurement systems, multistakeholder engagement and means of implementation. This segment also sets the scene through discussions on where the region stands in the third year of the 2030 Agenda.

This panel is one of nine panel discussions and a number of special sessions which include: Arab Civil Society Platform; Water and Sustainable Development Goals: an Arab perspective; Mainstreaming Gender’s Equality and Women’s Empowerment; Youth and the transformation towards sustainable Arab societies; Environment and Natural Resources; “Leaving No One Behind”; and Sustainable Energy.

Mohamed Ali Alhakim (Ph.D.) is under-secretary-general of the United Nations and executive secretary of the Beirut-based Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia. The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ESCWA.
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 24, 2018, on page 3.

The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the Arab Network for the Study of Democracy
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