Arab States transitions must be locally led and driven, says UNDP chief

22 Jun 2011

imageUNDP Administrator Helen Clark speaks on a panel discussion co-sponsored with the Middle East Institute

Washington, D.C. — Reforms under way in Arab countries will succeed only if they are driven from within each country, but the international community can provide concrete support, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Administrator Helen Clark said today.

Throughout the region, protesters “have braved batons and bullets to express their deep desire for dignity, opportunity and protection of their human rights,” Helen Clark said, speaking on a panel co-sponsored by UNDP and the Washington D.C.-based nonprofit Middle East Institute.

“A number of factors have contributed to the groundswell of anger against both economic and political exclusion and the denial of basic freedoms,” she said, citing high unemployment, especially among Arab youth, as well as widespread poverty.

These were among the issues addressed by UNDP’s Arab Human Development Reports, launched a decade ago and cited frequently since countries in the region began transitioning seven months ago.

The most recent report on the region focused on widespread threats to human security, notably extremely high youth unemployment.
“While covering different topics in depth, the central message of the reports has been clear - that in the interests of human development in the broad sense, change was needed in the region,” Helen Clark said.

“That now opens up the prospect of building more inclusive economies, societies, and political systems and guaranteeing basic rights previously denied,” she said.

“In order for the reform processes now under way to succeed and be sustainable, they have to be led and driven by national actors. Yet the international community can support the process.”

Ongoing programmes

UNDP’s ongoing work in Egypt includes supporting multi-party national dialogue and helping to encourage young people to participate in the processes which will shape their future. It also includes promoting job creation, and mobilizing support for development of the human rights and anti-corruption architecture.

In Tunisia, UNDP is supporting the new electoral commission and the development of political parties, helping craft policy options to fight corruption, supporting an inclusive national dialogue, strengthening civil society, developing public works programmes and devising training schemes for young people.

UNDP has also been asked to assist with security sector reform in Tunisia, Helen Clark said.

The discussion, “After the Arab Spring: Toward Political and Economic Inclusion in the Arab World,” included Robert D. Hormats, U.S. Under Secretary of State for Economic, Energy, and Agricultural Affairs,