In preparation for the upcoming Arab Economic and Social Summit, the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) released a report entitled “Arab Integration: A 21st Century Development Imperative.” This report explains the real opportunities offered by Arab integration and the critical political, economic, social, and cultural developments needed to achieve it.

The Carnegie Middle East Center launched the report with former Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Sanioura and Rima Khalaf, executive secretary of ESCWA, who led a discussion on Arab integration and its future prospects in the light of ongoing political changes in the region.

On the Report

  • Lack of Regional Prosperity and Growth: Development in Arab countries has not led to regional prosperity and growth, said Khalaf. The integration report suggests three main pillars to achieve regional objectives: Arab political cooperation, economic integration and cultural reform. The report shows that the Arab region hosts 35 percent of the world’s refugees while containing less than 5 percent of its population, continued Khalaf. Furthermore, one-fifth of Arabs live under the poverty line, one-third are illiterate, and women’s involvement in society, including employment and political participation rates, are extremely low, Khalaf stated. 
     
  • Regional Perspectives: Sanioura stated that the accumulation of Arab failure on several levels has led to regional weakness and confessional conflicts. Economic integration is no longer simply an option but a must for achieving prosperity in the region, he continued. There cannot be regional advancement without first acknowledging that a democratic system, built on the values of freedom and justice, is a necessity, he added. Regional integration in itself is a way for the Arab population to reject autocratic regimes, distance itself from extremism, and promote social cohesion, said Sanioura.