ESCWA Press Releases 2003

17 April 2003
15 April 2003
14 April 2003
10 April 2003
3 April 2003































ESCWA Opens Twenty-Second Ministerial Session


Beirut, 14 April 2003 (United Nations Information Service) --The twenty-second ministerial session of the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) opened today at the United Nations House in Beirut in the presence of President Emile Lahoud of Lebanon; former Lebanese Prime Ministers Selim El-Hoss and Rashid El-Solh; the Lebanese ministers; and the chairpersons of the fifteen parliamentary committees.

Representing ESCWA Member States were: Jordanian Minister of Planning Ibrahim Awadallah, United Arab Emirates Minister of Planning Hamid bin Ahmad Al-Muallah, Bahraini Minister of Labour and Social Affairs Majid bin Mohsen Al-Alawi, Syrain Minister of Transport Makram Obaid, Palestinian Minister of Transport Mitri Abu-Aitah, Egyptian Minister of State for Administrative Development Mohammed Zaki Abu-Amer, Secretary-General of the Ministry of Economy in Oman Mohammed bin Nasser Al-Kusaybi, Kuwaiti Deputy Minister of Planning Sarah Ahamd Al-Duwaysan, Yemeni Deputy Minister of Planning and Development Abdel-Rahman Mohammed Tartoum, Ambassasor of Saudi Arabia to Lebanon Fouad Sadek El-Mufti, Ambassador of Qatar to Lebanon Abdallah bin Mohammed Al-Khater and Ambassador Antoine Shedid, Head of the Department of International Organizations in the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Arab and foreign ambassadors accredited to Lebanon also attended the event, which was covered live by the main six Lebanese TV stations: Tele-Liban, the Lebanese Broadcasting Corporation International (LBCI), Future Television (FTV), the National Broadcasting Network (NBN), New Television (NTV) and Al-Manar TV.

Speakers at the opening session were: Lebanese Foreign Minister Mahmoud Hammoud, who opened the session in his capacity as chairperson of the twenty-first session, and ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy who delivered a message addressed to the session by United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan before delivering the statement of ESCWA.

In his statement, Minister Hammoud said Lebanon, which suffered from the Israeli challenge to the international legitimacy decisions by ignoring Security Council Resolution 425 for more than 22 years, had never lost confidence in the United Nations.

"Lebanon is proud of his strong relationship with the United Nations. The country has contributed to the foundation of this organization as well as to the drafting of the Human Rights Declaration," he noted.

Hammoud, who praised the efforts of ESCWA and its Executive Secretary, observed that solid political cooperation between states would not be possible without economic and social cooperation. "Therefore," he said, "Lebanon sees your session of utmost importance during the current delicate circumstances."

In his message, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the 22nd session of ESCWA took place against a backdrop of turmoil and uncertainty. "Indeed," he noted, "over the years, the consequences of war and civil strife have diverted the resources and energies of many ESCWA members away from their development objectives, and those of ESCWA itself away from its intended role." He observed that instead of helping the region to reap the fruits of peace and the dividends of development, ESCWA had to contend with addressing the aftermath of war.

Annan considered that the session’s agenda item on the effects of instability on socio-economic development in the region was most timely. "Beyond assessing the devastating toll that conflict and instability take on a country’s human, physical and financial resources, and beyond addressing post-conflict reconstruction and rehabilitation, I hope you will discuss ways to explore the root causes of conflict, which is the only way to build the foundations of enduring peace," he noted. "For the roots of conflict often lie in questions of governance, inequitable socio-economic development and uneven distribution of resources. It is here that the role of the United Nations, including that of ESCWA, can be especially valuable," he concluded.

Addressing the session, ESCWA Executive Secretary Mervat Tallawy said, "the wars and disputes that have prevailed in the Arab region for more than 50 years, affecting Palestine, Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, Egypt, Kuwait, and now Iraq, have had an obvious impact on the peoples of the region and on the development processes of their countries."

Tallawy noted that the countries of the Arab region lied at the heart of the ancient world and that they had historical links with and had contributed to the cultures of other geographical regions and, in particular, Europe. "It is, therefore, in the interests of all that stability should reign in this region," she said.

"In the past decade," she noted "war may be held directly responsible for losses amounting to some US$ 600 billion from the gross domestic product of the countries of the region. It is expected that, as a result of the war against Iraq, those losses will increase to $1,000 billion. In terms of lost employment opportunities, those losses represent between 4 and 5 million job opportunities, a figure that is expected to rise from 6 to 7 million as a result of the war against Iraq."

Addressing Member States delegates, Tallawy said, "given this situation ESCWA was forced to reconsider its orientations and program of work. It was you, the member countries, who at the last session took the decision that the work of ESCWA should focus on one main objective, namely, regional integration, and that its activities should accordingly focus on a limited number of priorities in order to serve that objective. Pursuant to that decision, the following four fields were chosen as being of central importance for the countries of the region: water, globalization, social policies and technology."

Tallawy cited the main points of the restructuring process of ESCWA, which was undertaken in the light of the Member States priorities, and underlined the main activities that have been added on the Commission’s agenda, including, among others, the local community development program and cooperation with the private sector.

Concerning regional integration, Tallawy said that ESCWA took action to develop the integrated transport system in the Arab Mashreq. She also noted that the Agreement on International Roads in the Arab Mashreq was adopted at the last session. "During the current session," she added, "the Agreement on International Railways in the Arab Mashreq will be adopted. At the twenty-third session, an agreement on maritime routes will be adopted."

Speaking of the support and importance, which the presence of the Lebanese President gave to the session, Tallawy concluded her opening statement by saluting "those who are calling for peace, who embody the determination of the international community to adhere to international rules and laws, and who are making every possible effort to bring peace on all fronts."

Following the opening ceremony, President Lahoud, Minister Hammoud and Ms. Tallawy received Member States delegates and dignitaries who attended the ceremony in the VIP lounge of the UN House.

Before turning to the first agenda item, the representative of Egypt, Minister Mohammed Zaki Abu-Amer was elected as Chairperson of the session, the representatives of Qatar and Syria, Ambassador Abdallah bin Mohammed Al-Khater and Minister Makram Obaid, as Deputy chairpersons and the representative of Palestine, Minister Mitri Abu-Aitah, as Rapporteur.