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Empowering Women Crucial to Reducing Arab Poverty

Empowerment of Women ‘Crucial’ to Reducing Poverty in Arab Region -- Annan

New York, May 8 2006 1:00PM

Calling the 16 per cent poverty rate and the 13 per cent unemployment rate of Arab countries “alarming,” United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said today that action is required on many fronts to meet those challenges – but the empowerment of women is crucial.

“The crises in the occupied Palestinian territory, Iraq and in other parts of the region tend to overshadow other pressing challenges,” Mr. Annan told the ministerial session of the UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) in Beirut, delivered by Mervat Tellawy, Executive Secretary of that body, which aims to strengthen regional cooperation in development issues.

“But the rate of poverty in the Arab region did not undergo a significant change between 1990 and 2000,” he said, also warning that that there was a steady rise in the number of skilled workers and professionals leaving the region indefinitely.

“Addressing these urgent challenges will require action across many fronts, but the empowerment of women will be crucial,” he said, calling attention to the upcoming publication of the next Arab Human Development Report, which will survey the challenges facing women in the Arab region, while also highlighting their critical achievements in the legal, social, political and cultural fields.

On the issue of UN reform, Mr. Annan noted that ESCWA itself has achieved success in recent years, including by establishing a Technology Centre which will seek to increase national and regional capacity to absorb technology, as well as a Unit for Emerging and Conflict Related Issues which aims to reduce the impact of conflict and instability on socio-economic development in Western Asia.

ENDS

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