(MENAFN - Arab News) The third Arab Economic and Social Development Summit is an opportunity to respond to the legitimate calls for progress, freedom and dignity coming from the citizens of Arab countries, Ban Ki-moon, secretary-general of the United Nations, said in a message conveyed to the conference secretariat Tuesday.
The message was delivered by Rima Khalaf, executive secretary of UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia.
In his message, Ban commended the reforms that are taking place in the region. "I commend Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques King Abdullah on his recent appointment of 30 women to the Shoura Council. I welcome the adoption of a new constitution in Egypt, and I reaffirm my support for the Tunisian authorities as they seek to build consensus in drafting a constitution. And I welcome progress in Libya and Yemen. The United Nations will remain steadfast in our support for Iraq."
Across the region, he said, the challenge now is to deepen and broaden reform efforts. "In particular, a new and more hopeful era for the Arab world demands that youth and women have opportunities to realize their aspirations. When Arab women enjoy their rights and realize their full potential, they will unleash enormous progress in their communities and countries.
"The United Nations and the League of Arab States have long worked together to improve conditions in the region. Our current joint efforts to find a peaceful end to the crisis in Syria are but one example. Our development partnership spans more than 40 years," he said.
"The region faces significant challenges," the message continued. "Growing unemployment and economic marginalization have fueled discontent. We need major investments to create jobs and promote innovation. The Arab Joint Investment Treaty is a commendable step forward that will boost intra-Arab investment."
Large segments of Arab societies have become increasingly vulnerable to poverty and marginalization. To address these longstanding inequalities, he wrote: "We need mechanisms that will increase political participation and strengthen social safety nets to protect and empower the poor."
The secretary-general further said: "At last year's Rio20 Conference on Sustainable Development, Arab countries joined the call for a holistic approach that safeguards the needs of future generations without limiting the ambitions of the present. Last month's climate change conference in Doha was another step in the right direction. I count on you to keep pressing for progress on the Millennium Development Goals, and I look forward to your contributions to the global dialogue on the post-2015 development agenda.
"Development in the Arab region has also been held back by protracted conflict, injustice and occupation. The stalemate in the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis is especially troubling.