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
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.