Conflicts in the Middle East and North Africa (Mena) region had resulted in economic losses exceeding $1tn, according to Abdallah al-Dardari, World Bank’s senior adviser on Reconstruction for the Mena region.
Speaking at a panel session during the US-Islamic World Forum in New York, al-Dardari, along with other resource persons, deliberated on the topic ‘Stabilisation in the Mena Region’.
The panel discussed the “dramatic developments” of the Arab Spring and its counter-revolutions, which have sparked a crisis of order in the Middle East. Decades in the making, it has both immediate and long-term consequences, said Bruce Jones, Brookings Institution vice president and director on foreign policy.
“In the near term, civil war, state-sponsored violence, transnational terrorism, and inter-state war are destroying the prospects for development, driving people from their homes, and fuelling transnational terrorism.
“But these conflicts may one day soon give way to opportunities for settlement and reconstruction for which regional and international actors should be prepared,” Jones pointed out.
“These wars are so serious that when we look at the situation globally, we discover that 90% of all people killed in war over the past five years have been killed in wars in the Mena
region,” he added.
On the scale of economic reconstruction in the Mena region and the scale of the challenges involved, al-Dardari said: “Economic losses in the region had exceeded $1tn; accumulated losses in GDP alone is almost $600bn in the region since 2011, and human losses exceed half a million deaths.”
He also emphasised that the region is facing “tremendous economic challenges.”
“Unemployment and poverty levels have increased dramatically. They are almost at the 80% level of the population in conflict countries in the region, so bringing back jobs for the young people to avoid a relapse in conflict is extremely important.
“But dealing with these challenges is not an issue of economics alone. In fact, economic theories don’t explain what happened in the region – it is way beyond economics,” he stressed.
Similarly, Arab Human Rights Fund’s former executive director Samar Haidar said “quality education for all and job creation are the answer” to addressing the issues affecting the youth in conflict-ridden areas in the region.
Citing a study on job creation, Haidar said by 2020, around 80mn jobs “should have created in the Arab region.”
“Governments can play a vital role in facilitating this process by creating more inclusive context and a more flexible regulatory framework, which can facilitate startups and create more jobs for the youth in the region,” she said.
“The Arab Spring ... should be an eye opener not only to governments but also to civil society actors and the human rights community itself. I think that we as human rights professionals should look inward and assess the work that had been done and what should be done differently.
“Stability is everyone’s responsibility because I think we should all adopt an inclusive and holistic approach,” she added.
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