Press Releases

    11 February 2004

    In Message to Arab League -- UN System Meeting, Secretary-General Says Reforms Urgently Needed to Generate Growth, Create Jobs

    NEW YORK, 10 February (UN Headquarters) -- Following is the message by Secretary-General Kofi Annan to the General Cooperation Meeting between the League of Arab States and the United Nations System, Cairo, 10-13 February, delivered by Mervat Tallawy, Executive Secretary, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia:

    I am delighted to convey my warmest regards to everyone who has gathered for this very important and timely meeting between the United Nations system and the League of Arab States.

    International and regional organizations in this part of the world operate in a highly challenging environment, contending with grave concerns ranging from war and political instability to socio-economic hardship and other key questions of peace and prosperity.

    Among the most pressing challenges facing the Arab world -- aside from the quest for peace and stability -- is the need for reform and job creation.  Unemployment rates in the Middle East and North Africa average 15 per cent.  And in a region where 60 per cent of the population is under the age of 30, rates of economic growth are too low to meet current labour demand.  Indeed, it is estimated that the governments of the region will have to create 100 million new jobs over the next 15 years.  Reforms are needed urgently to build the institutional capacity and legitimacy that will create those jobs, generate growth, forge new social contracts and, most of all, instill hope for a better future.

    There are a variety of steps that must be pursued if we are to succeed in this endeavour and, more broadly, reach the Millennium Development Goals.  Regional integration offers considerable promise.  Multilateral partnerships should also be strengthened.  And Arab States might wish to build on initial efforts to harmonize policies aimed at implementing the results of the major world conferences of the past decade.

    Cooperation with the United Nations must also be part of this picture.  Chapter VIII of the United Nations Charter envisages an important role for regional arrangements in resolving disputes among Member States.  At the time the Charter was written, more than half a century ago, such cooperation was quite understandably focused on cooperation in the field of peace and security.  Today, the scope of action and interest for regional organizations has expanded to encompass wide-ranging activities in the economic, social, educational, environmental and other realms.

    With that in mind, it is my sincere hope that this meeting will pave the way for strengthening the partnership between the United Nations and the League of Arab States.  Such cooperation can itself help to strengthen the capacity of both our organizations.  So I urge you to focus on identifying practical ways to expand our cooperation, within a common strategic vision that tackles the major challenges facing the region.  And I look forward to continuing to work closely with you to respond to the long-held yearnings of the region’s people for peace, justice, development and dignity.  In that spirit, please accept my best wishes for a fruitful meeting.

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