Free speech, education, women’s rights are keysArab Human Development Report released [Archives:2003/692/Local News]

December 8 2003

Mohammed Al-Qadhi
Yemen's release of the Second Arab Human Development Report: Building a Knowledge Society was held last Thursday.
The release of the report, which shines a light on progress in the Arab world, was co-sponsored by the UNDP and the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development.
In his speech, Dr. Abdulkareem al-Iryani, one of the report's readers, said that Arabs must be empowered by knowledge and skills to be able to join the new century with its challenges and needs.
He stressed that the Arab world needs to pursue freedom of speech and expression; overhaul its education to turn it into a knowledge producer rather a mere consumer, so it can improve its economic drive.
He also demanded that women in Arab countries be given more freedom and be empowered to carry out their roles in development.
He said that the launch and debate of such reports is of great significant as it informs the public and enhances the debate between the decision-makers and the public.
Iryani showed optimism that something can be done to face the social, economic and political challenges.
UNDP representative James Rawley also highlighted the importance of issuing such reports.
“Since the first report was launched, several Arab governments and institutions have taken significant steps towards grappling with the challenges it set out. In line with the first report's recommendations, several Arab countries crossed new thresholds, especially in terms of empowering women and enhancing their political participation,” he said.
He highlighted the report's comment that Arab countries will not be able to make much progress in the long term without acquiring both knowledge and the technological capacities that are the lifeblood of prosperity in the new millennium.
However, Rawley pointed out that the potential for developing knowledge capabilities of Arab countries is enormous. “Human capital in the Arab world, under more promising conditions, could offer a substantial base for an Arab knowledge renaissance,” he said.
“It is hoped that Arab countries will pay close attention to the methods for improving and accelerating the production, diffusion, and application of knowledge in all economic, social and political fields; and for raising the level of Arab human development,” he added, noting that over the next two years, further reports will examine other critical challenges facing the region-freedom.
Ahmad Sufan, Vice PM and Minister of Development and International Cooperation (DIC), said that the report should debated in each Arab state and that Yemen, through the Consultative Council, DIC and in cooperation with the UNDP would run a series of debate and discussions with a participation a number of Yemeni intellectuals so as to study and scrutinize the report which he said has even given the useful proposals.
The most important issues in the report were presented followed by debates and discussion on the part of the people who attended the event.
The report affirms that knowledge can help the region to expand the scope of human freedoms, enhance the capacity to guarantee those freedoms through good governance and achieve the higher moral human goals of justice and human dignity. It also underlines the importance of knowledge to Arab countries as a powerful driver of economic growth through higher productivity.
Its closing section puts forward a vision for creating knowledge-based societies in the Arab world based on five pillars: guaranteeing key freedoms; disseminating quality education; embedding science; shifting towards knowledge-based production; and developing an enlightened Arab knowledge model.