The International Development Journal interviews RBAS Regional Director about development assistance after the “Arab Spring"
“Opening windows for new stakeholders”
Ms. Sima Sami Bahous, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS), visited Japan to attend the Strategic Policy Dialogue with the Government of Japan in mid-November. Although Egypt is still in confusion after “the Arab Spring”, economic development has started under new regimes across the Middle East region. The International Development Journal (IJD) interviewed Ms. Bahous about development assistance after “the Arab Spring.”
Create Employment for Youth
Please inform us the current situation of democratic transition in Arab States following “the Arab Spring.”
A range of developments have been taking place to address the issues that were left behind from the old regimes such as “inclusive growth for all” and “establishment of transparent legal system”. Such democratization cannot be achieved overnight, but citizens and governments are engaged in the process with hope and confidence. “Democratization in Arab states” has different implications for different countries. Challenges and needed assistance differ greatly depending on the foundation and the level of democratization of each country. However, employment creation for the youth is a common and important issue across the region that has the highest youth unemployment rate in the world. UNDP has therefore attached importance to projects that create jobs and increase incomes.
Urgent Necessity to Consolidate Legal System
What kind of assistance do you expect from the Government of Japan in Arab States?
Good governance is one of our focus areas in Arab States and we expect the Government of Japan to support. Among various interventions, we expect Japan to provide technical assistance and advisory services for the establishment of electoral and legal systems.
Education and restoration of civil order are also important. We also expect Japan’s support to improve public health that has been a challenge even before the Arab Spring.
What kinds of changes have you observed in development assistance after the Arab Spring?
An increasing variety of actors began to participate in development assistance after the Arab Spring. There was a tendency that some elites controlled ODA in the past, but it is expected that an increasing number of stakeholders can participate in the process actively from now on.
The lack of transparency in the legal system has put restraints on new entry from the private sector activities as well as those by civil society agencies/NGOs. This can be dramatically improved in the process of democratization.
The basic goals of development assistance such as poverty reduction will be unchanged, but it is important to review the priorities and approaches of the projects reflecting the voices and hopes of citizens effectively as a result of democratization.
This article appeared in the International Development Journal, January 2013.