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The Report

in Brief

United Nations

Regional Bureau
for Arab States
Copyright © 2009
By the United Nations Development Programme,
Regional Bureau for Arab States (RBAS),
1 UN Plaza, New York, New York, 10017, USA

Web: www.undp.org/rbas and www.arab-hdr.org

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced,

stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means,
electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without
prior permission of UNDP/RBAS.

Layout and Production: Alarm SARL, Beirut, Lebanon

The analysis and policy recommendations of this Report do not necessarily reflect
the views of the United Nations Development Programme, its Executive Board
Members or UN Member States. The Report is the work of an independent team of
authors sponsored by the Regional Bureau for Arab States, UNDP.
The report
in brief
This is the fifth volume in the series of Arab Human Development Reports sponsored
by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and independently
authored by intellectuals and scholars from Arab countries.
Like its predecessors, this Report provides eminent Arab thinkers a platform
from which to articulate a comprehensive analysis of their own contemporary
milieu. It is not a conventional report produced by the United Nations. Rather,
it is an independent publication that gives a voice to a representative group of
Arab intellectuals whose sober and self-critical appraisals might not otherwise
be heard in the particular circumstances of the region. The views of the authors
are supplemented by an opinion poll conducted in four Arab countries—Kuwait,
Lebanon, Morocco and the Occupied Palestinian Territory—that represent a range
of political and cultural contexts for the Report’s analyses. A special Youth Forum
This Report is convened for the Report also provides insights from young Arabs.
an independent Inspired by UNDP’s 1994 global Human Development Report on human security,
publication the present study takes up that subject as it concerns the Arab countries.1 Its
starting point is that, seven years after the publication of the first Arab Human
Development Report, the region’s fault lines as traced in that analysis may have
deepened.2 The question thus arises: why have obstacles to human development
in the region proved so stubborn?
This new Report proposes that the answers lie in the fragility of the region’s
political, social, economic and environmental structures, in its lack of people-
centred development policies and in its vulnerability to outside intervention.
Together, these characteristics undermine human security—the kind of material
and moral foundation that secures lives, livelihoods and an acceptable quality of
life for the majority. Human security is a prerequisite for human development, and
its widespread absence in Arab countries has held back their progress.

Human insecurity at the global

and regional levels

The world order that followed the end of threats such as pandemics, the drug trade
Widespread the Cold War has proved to be tumultu- and human trafficking have all laid siege
absence of human ous. External and internal challenges to to traditional notions of security. Within
the integrity of states have multiplied. countries, spreading poverty, unemploy-
security in Arab
From without, environmental pollution, ment, civil wars, sectarian and ethnic
countries has held international terrorism, large population conflicts and authoritarian repression
back their progress movements, a melting global financial have exposed the limits of many states
system and the rise of other cross-border in guaranteeing their citizens’ rights and
freedoms. While preserving the integrity egorization of threats to human security
of states remains the highest consideration originally posited by UNDP and defines
of national security, a newer concern with human security as “the liberation of human
protecting the lives of the people who beings from those intense, extensive, pro-
reside in them has overtaken that preoc- longed, and comprehensive threats to which
cupation. The concept of human security, their lives and freedom are vulnerable”. Its
which complements that of national secu- chapters focus on:
rity, brings this change in perspective into • Pressures on environmental resources
focus. • The performance of the state in guaran-
In the Arab region, human insecu- teeing or undermining human security
rity—pervasive, often intense and with • The personal insecurity of vulnerable
consequences affecting large numbers of groups
people—inhibits human development. • Economic vulnerability, poverty and
Human security It is revealed in the impacts of military unemployment
focuses on occupation and armed conflict in Iraq, • Food security and nutrition
enabling peoples Sudan, Somalia and Occupied Palestinian • Health and human security
Territory. It is found in countries that enjoy • The systemic insecurity of occupation
to contain or avert relative stability where the authoritarian and foreign military intervention
threats to their state, buttressed by flawed constitutions
lives, livelihoods and unjust laws, often denies citizens their Human security can be measured on
and human dignity rights. Human insecurity is heightened by both an objective and subjective level,
swift climatic changes, which threaten the and in quantitative and qualitative terms.
livelihoods, income and access to food and The Report takes the view that no single
water of millions of Arabs in future. It is composite index of human security would
reflected in the economic vulnerability of be valid, reliable or sufficiently sensitive
one-fifth of the people in some Arab states, to varying levels of human security and
and more than half in others, whose lives to different circumstances in the region.
are impoverished and cut short by hunger Rather, it affirms the relevance of discrete
and want. Human insecurity is palpable quantitative indicators and opinion surveys
and present in the alienation of the region’s at the level of the region, its sub-regions
rising cohort of unemployed youth and and country groups.
in the predicaments of its subordinated
women, and dispossessed refugees.
Seven dimensions of threat

The concept 1. People and their insecure

Human security is the “rearguard of
human development”. Whereas human The Arab region faces growing challenges
development is concerned with expanding to the security of its population from
The region the individual’s capabilities and opportu- environmental stresses. Potential conflicts
faces growing nities, human security focuses on enabling originating in competition for dwindling
peoples to contain or avert threats to their natural resources may heavily strain rela-
challenges to
lives, livelihoods and human dignity. The tions among communities, populations
the security of its two concepts look at the human condition and states, Arab or non-Arab. These chal-
population from from different ends of a continuum, sum- lenges will result from population and
environmental marized by Amartya Sen as “expansion demographic pressures, the overexploita-
stresses with equity” (human development) and tion of land, water shortages, desertifica-
“downturn with security” (human secu- tion, pollution, and climate change.
rity). The intellectual frameworks they
provide are co-extensive and mutually Population pressures: according to UN
reinforcing. Moreover, human security estimates, the Arab countries will be
is related to human rights inasmuch as home to some 395 million people by 2015
respect for people’s basic rights creates (compared to about 317 million in 2007,
conditions favourable to human security. and 150 million in 1980). In a region
Beginning with these insights, the where water and arable land are shrinking,
Report adopts the comprehensive cat- population growth at these rates while

2 Arab Human Development Report 2009

falling, will still put intense pressures on amounts in the agriculture, industry and
the carrying capacity of Arab countries’ tourism sectors.
lands and further threaten environmental
sustainability. Desertification is a peril in the region. It is
formally defined under the United Nations
Urban growth poses particular challenges. Convention to Combat Desertification
An accelerating drift to cities and towns is (UNCCD) as “land degradation in arid,
straining already-overstretched infrastruc- semi-arid, and dry sub-humid areas result-
ture and creating overcrowded, unhealthy ing from various factors, including climatic
and insecure living conditions in many variations and human activities.” A UN
Arab centres. In 1970, 38 per cent of the Environment Programme study estimates
Arab population was urban. By 2005 this that desert has swallowed up more than
had grown to 55 per cent, and it is likely to two-thirds of total land area of the region
surpass 60 per cent by 2020. (9.76 million square kilometres of desert, Stressed
or 68.4 per cent of the total land area). The groundwater
Demographic pressures: the most evident highest ratio of desert to total land area is systems are often
and challenging aspect of the region’s in the Arabian Peninsula (nine-tenths or
the only source
demographic profile is its ‘youth bulge’. 89.6 per cent). This is followed by North
Young people are the fastest growing Africa (over three-fourths of the land or of fresh water
segment of Arab countries’ populations. 77.7 per cent), the Nile Valley and the in the region
Some 60 per cent of the population is Horn of Africa (less than a half or 44.5 per
under 25 years old, making this one of the cent) and the Mashreq (35.6 per cent).
most youthful regions in the world, with Ongoing desertification threatens about
a median age of 22 years compared to a 2.87 million square kilometres or a fifth of
global average of 28. the total area of the Arab countries.

Water scarcity: Total available surface Water pollution in Arab countries has
water resources in the Arab countries are grown into a serious challenge. It is mainly
estimated at 277 billion cubic meters per attributed to the increasing use of chemi-
year3, only 43 per cent of which originates cal fertilizers, pesticides, and horticultural
within the Arab countries. Surface water and veterinary medical treatments whose
resources shared with neighbouring long-lasting traces find their way into the
countries outside the region account for water. The lack of access to sufficient clean
approximately 57 per cent of its total water water threatens human security in many
requirements. Years of effort have yielded ways. It can lead to the spread of disease
the establishment of formal agreements among children, such as dysentery, and
(such as the Nile Basin Initiative) on the affect school attendance and academic
management of shared water resources. achievement. It deprives women of long
However, most are partial, ineffective and hours of the day which they could devote Desert has
inequitable in terms of the full spectrum to personal and income-generating activi- swallowed up more
of riparian rights. At the regional and ties rather than fetching water for their than two-thirds
interregional levels, cooperation on water families. In addition, water scarcity and
of total land area
usage and management is heavily affected pollution threaten agricultural and food
by prevailing political tensions and ongo- production and precipitate domestic rival-
of the region
ing conflicts. ries over scarce water resources.
On the other hand, levels of air pol-
Stressed groundwater systems are often lution in Arab countries, in general, are
the only source of fresh water in the among the lowest in the world. In 2004,
region, yet reserves in renewable aquifers carbon dioxide emissions did not exceed
are being withdrawn faster than they can 1,348.4 metric tons, compared to 12,162.9
be replenished. Transboundary conflicts, metric tons in middle-income countries
poor distribution and heavy use, especially and 13,318.6 metric tons in the OECD
of ground resources, characterize water countries. However, Arab countries have
use in much of the Arab countries. This relatively low carbon dioxide emission
leads to a lack of clean water for much of rates mainly because most have not pro-
the population and the waste of significant gressed very far with industrialisation.

The report in brief 3

Even so, carbon dioxide emissions in North 2. The State and its insecure people
Africa and the Middle East are increasing
at a faster rate than any other region in In terms of levels of human security among
the world, except for South Asia (driven citizens, is the Arab State part of the solu-
by India) and East Asia (driven by China). tion or problem? To answer that question,
From 1990 to 2004 the average annual the Report compares the performance of
rate of growth was 4.5 per cent, which the Arab states with the norms associated
means that carbon dioxide emissions had with good governance. It analyzes whether
nearly doubled over that period. the former win the acceptance of their
citizens, uphold and guarantee their rights
Climate change: the Arab region is one of to life and freedom and protect them from
those least responsible for the direct cre- aggression. Its analysis is based on four
ation of the greenhouse effect. According criteria: 1) the acceptability of the state
Large and to the global Human Development Report to its own citizens; 2) state compliance
frequent shortfalls (HDR) 2008 and world development with international charters pertaining to
can turn the state indices for 2007, the region’s share of car- human rights; 3) how the state utilizes
bon dioxide emissions, which contribute its monopoly of the means of force and
into a threat to to this phenomenon, was no more than coercion; 4) how far institutional checks
human security 4.7 per cent—lower than any other region and balances prevent abuses of power. The
except Sub-Saharan Africa. However, the Report concludes that large and frequent
region is also the nearest to becoming a shortfalls in these areas often combine
direct victim of climate change, which to turn the state into a threat to human
will affect it in the following ways: a) security, instead of its chief support.
water shortages; b) reduced agricultural
production; c) large population transfers Identity, diversity and citizenship
to foreign countries (environmental refu- States are artificial creations. The borders
gees); d) lower levels of economic activity; of many Arab states reflect this fact, often
e) threats to national security. enclosing diverse ethnic, religious and
linguistic groups that were incorporated
Global warming: according to the UNDP as minorities in the post-colonial era.
Global Human Development Report Few Arab states saw a smooth transition
2007/2008, Egypt, Lebanon, Sudan, and towards inclusion in their post-indepen-
the countries of North Africa could be dence phases. Rather, a strong nationalis-
those in the region most affected by cli- tic trend developed with the objective of
mate change.4 An increase in the Earth’s masking the diversity of the population
temperature by three or four degrees and subduing its cultural, linguistic and
would raise the sea level by approximately religious heterogeneity under command
one metre, creating 6 million refugees in structures. The majority of states failed
Most states Egypt, with 4,500 square kilometres of to introduce democratic governance and
failed to introduce agricultural land in the Delta flooded. Even institutions of representation that ensure
institutions of if the sea level rises by only one-half metre, inclusion, the equal distribution of wealth
it could create two million refugees and among various groups, and respect for cul-
representation cause more than $35 billion in economic tural diversity.
losses. In the Kordofan region of Sudan, One result of this is that identity-
an increase in temperature of 1,5 degrees based groups in some Arab countries have
centigrade between 2030 and 2060 would sought to free themselves from the captiv-
reduce average rainfall by 5 per cent, lead- ity of the nation-state in whose shadow
ing to a general drop in agricultural pro- they live. This rejection of the legitimacy
duction and a decrease in the production of the kind of state which the modern
of maize by 70 per cent of current levels. Arab countries inherited and perpetuated
An increase of 1.2 degrees centigrade by has been accompanied by conflicts that
2020 would reduce available water in threaten human security and to which
Lebanon by 15 per cent and in some areas some states have responded by imposing
of Morocco by over 10 per cent. authoritarian controls.

4 Arab Human Development Report 2009

In western political history, the norma- death penalty, which more than half the
tive concept that has contributed most to countries of the world have abolished and
the management of ethnic, cultural and which the United Nations condemns, is
linguistic diversity is that of citizenship. applied liberally in several Arab countries,
Arab states are undergoing a similar which do not limit it to the most serious
political evolution rather slowly and, crimes or exclude its imposition in cases
consequently, few sustain a level of civic of political crime.
consciousness that makes it possible for
citizens themselves to resolve their differ- Constitutional failings
ences peacefully without state action. State constitutions do not adhere in
Observation confirms that, in the Arab several key respects to the international
countries, ethnic, religious, sectarian, and norms implicit in the charters to which
linguistic differences can be associated Arab countries have acceded. This gravely
with persistent group struggles, especially compromises levels of human security Ethnic, religious,
in countries where the population is not in the countries concerned. Many Arab sectarian,
homogenous. In countries such as Somalia, countries’ constitutions adopt ideological and linguistic
Sudan, Lebanon, and Iraq, ethnic, reli- or doctrinal formulas that empty stipula-
gious and tribal loyalties have become the tions of general rights and freedoms of any
differences can
axis along which communities have been content and which allow individual rights be associated
mobilized to press for inclusion or separa- to be violated in the name of the official with persistent
tion. This mobilization has been destruc- ideology or faith. Others deal ambigu- group struggles
tive and destabilizing, undercutting both ously with freedom of opinion and of
human security and the integrity of states. expression, tending to restrict rather than
Tragically, these conflicts have engendered to permit. Arab countries’ constitutions
the largest volume of human casualties in also routinely delegate the definition of
the Arab countries. rights to state regulation. In doing so, they
The Report argues that identity, per se, allow freedoms and individual rights to be
is not necessarily the cause of a conflict or violated at the point when the latter are
even the main source of tension between translated into ordinary law. While Arab
different groups in the region. Clashes laws and constitutions generally do not
that appear on the surface to stem from mandate discrimination between citizens
identity in fact often originate in skewed on the basis of language, religion, doc-
access to political power or wealth, in a trine, or confession, discrimination against
lack of channels for representative politi- women is quite evident on the law books
cal participation, and in the suppression of several states.
of cultural and linguistic diversity. Most
commonly, such conflicts start with the Legal restrictions
exploitation by political leaders, for their Across the Arab region, six countries con-
own ideological ends, of loyalty ties among tinue to prohibit the formation of politi-
groups who share feelings of exclusion, cal parties. In many other cases, varying
deprivation and discrimination. degrees of repression and restrictions
on the establishment and functioning of
Adherence to international charters political parties, particularly opposition
Most Arab states have acceded to the parties, effectively amount to their pro-
Many Arab
major international charters pertaining hibition. With one exception, all Arab countries allow
to human rights which stipulate both countries support the right to form civil freedoms and
the right to life and the right to freedom. associations. However, most legal systems individual rights
Accession and ratification entail an obliga- and regulations governing and regulating to be violated
tion on the concerned Arab states to bring the civil society sector involve a wide and
national legislation and practices in line escalating array of restrictive measures
with these conventions, an obligation that that hinder the exercise of that right.
is however more honoured in the breach Civil society groups face restrictions on
than the observance. At the regional level, their formation and ability to operate. The
the norms on human rights adopted by groups themselves, or their boards, can
states and reflected in the Arab Charter be summarily dissolved by the state. And
on Human Rights (2004) are inconsistent their affiliations and sources of funding
with international standards. Indeed, the are subject to tight controls.

The report in brief 5

National security measures some Arab countries have struggled in
Many Arab states have undergone order to give some substance to judicial
extraordinarily long periods of martial independence, but their efforts are under-
law or emergency rule, transforming taken in a very challenging environment.
interim measures into a permanent way
of conducting political life. Declarations State-enforced security
of emergency are often simply a pretext Human security is reinforced when the
to suspend basic rights and exempt rul- state is the sole wielder of the instru-
ers from any constitutional limitations, ments of coercion and uses them to carry
however weak. Post-9-11, most Arab out its commitment to respect people’s
countries passed anti-terror laws based on rights, those of citizens and non-citizens
a wide and unspecific definition of “terror- alike. When other groups gain control of
ism”. These moves have given government instruments of force, the outcomes sel-
Anti-terror laws security agencies sweeping powers which, dom favour security for citizens. The state
have given although effective in some contexts, can authorities in some Arab countries have
form a threat to basic freedoms in oth- proved unable to impose security while
ers. Such laws allow undefined periods of confronting armed groups and others have
security agencies pre-trial detention and multiply instances suffered from the armed violence in which
sweeping powers where the death penalty may be applied. some of their citizens, or those of other
They also curb freedom of expression and Arab states, have been caught.
increase police powers of search, eaves- On the other hand, while many Arabs
dropping and arrest. In some cases, these live under various ‘un-freedoms’ which
laws increase the use of military courts. In effectively deny them voice and represen-
general, these laws have failed to find the tation, and while the threat of state-initi-
required balance between the security of ated violence against them is ever-present,
society and that of the individual. the region offers a degree of protection
State-sponsored violations of citizens’ from crime not found in other develop-
rights to life and freedom are committed ing regions. Barring the cases of foreign
through the practices of torture and illegal occupation and civil war, a relatively low
detention. Between 2006 and 2008, the incidence of conventional violent crime
Arab Organization for Human Rights remains the norm for the Arab countries.
(AOHR) found examples of the official Statistics from 2002 indicate that, at that
practice of torture in eight Arab states. In time, the region had the lowest police-
the same period, the AOHR reported on recorded homicide and assault rate, not
the more widespread practice of illegal only among all regions of the South, but
detention in eleven countries of the region. also in both the developing and developed
Obstructions of justice Executive branches and security and
Independent judiciaries form a major part armed forces that are not subject to public
of any state system of checks and balances. oversight present grave potential threats
Threats to judicial independence in the to human security. All Arab heads of state
Arab states come not from constitutions, wield absolute authority, answering to
which generally uphold the principle, but none. They maintain their hold on power
from the executive branch. All Arab jus- by leaving the state’s security apparatus
tice systems suffer in one form or another an extremely wide margin for manoeuvre,
Many Arabs live from blows to their independence that at the expense of citizens’ freedoms and
under various stem from executive domination of both fundamental rights. Arab security agen-
the legislative and judicial branches. In cies operate with impunity because they
addition, judicial independence is being are instrumental to the head of state and
undermined by the spread of state security account to him alone. Their powers are
courts and military courts, which repre- buttressed by executive interference with
sent a negation of the principles of natural the independence of the judiciary, by the
justice and detract from guarantees of a dominance (in most states) of an unchang-
fair trial. The result is a considerable gap ing ruling party over the legislature, and
between constitutional texts and actual by the muzzling of the media.
legal practice in protecting the personal Going by the preceding criteria, the
security of the Arab citizen. Judges in relationship between the state and human

6 Arab Human Development Report 2009

security in the region is not straight- institutions and based on the forfeiture of
forward. While the state is expected to freedoms. But for some groups of people
guarantee human security, it has been, in beyond mainstream society—abused
several Arab countries, a source of threat and subordinated women, the victims of
undermining both international charters human trafficking, child soldiers, refugees
and national constitutional provisions. The and internally displaced persons—no per-
Report holds up the nature and extent of sonal security exists at all.
state failures behind the crisis in Darfur,
which provide an archetypal illustration Violence against women
of how state performance impacts human Many Arab women are still bound by
security. Establishing the rule of law and patriarchal patterns of kinship, legalised
good governance in the Arab countries discrimination, social subordination The relationship
remains a precondition for the foundation and ingrained male dominance. Because between the
of the legitimate state and the protection women find themselves in a lowly posi- state and human
of human security. tion in relation to decision-making within
security in the
the family, their situation continuously
Calls for state reform exposes them to forms of family and
region is not
Recent state-sponsored reform initiatives institutionalised violence. Arab women, straightforward
aimed at enhancing citizens’ rights have like many of their peers in other regions,
been welcomed yet found to be ineffec- sustain both direct and indirect violence.
tual in changing the dictated nature of the In the first category, they suffer forms of
Arab social contract or the structural basis physical assault, from beating to rape and
of power in the region. The path to reform murder. In the second, they are victims
in the region has been laid out most clearly of cultural and social practices that cause
by its increasingly active and vocal civil material harm to women, such as female
society. The latter’s demands focus on: genital mutilation (FGM) and child mar-
• Respect for the right to self-determina- riage. Although some states have banned
tion of all people. the practice of FGM, it continues to be
• Adherence to the principles of human widespread in many countries because
rights, and rejection of all prevarication traditional beliefs favour it. Influential fig-
based on cultural particularism and the ures aligned with conservative political or
manipulation of national sentiment. social forces also speak out in its defence.
• Public tolerance of different religions Arab countries have yet to adopt laws
and schools of thought. prohibiting child marriage before the age
• Sound parliamentary systems. of majority, namely, eighteen years of age.
• The incorporation in Arab constitu- Yet studies indicate that early marriage and No personal
tions of guarantees of political, intel- teenage pregnancies threaten the health of security exists for
lectual, and party political pluralism, mothers and children, and increase female some groups of
with political parties based on the vulnerability to violence. Early marriages
people beyond
principle of citizenship often lead to divorce, family breakdown
and poor child-rearing. They commonly
mainstream society
Specific calls by citizens for change encourage early childbearing and high
include: an end to martial law; the aboli- fertility, which carry marked health risks
tion of emergency laws and courts; a halt to for very young mothers and their infants.
the practice of torture; the reform of Arab Although early marriage is on the decline
countries’ legislations that is incompatible in the Arab countries, the numbers of
with freedom of thought and expression; teenage girls who are married remains
and the full establishment and practice of significant in some countries. Based on the
the rule of law. most recent available data in the period
1987-2006, UNICEF estimates that the
proportions of women aged 20-24 that
3. The vulnerability of those lost were married by the age of 18 were 45 per
from sight cent in Somalia, 37 per cent in Yemen and
Mauritania, 30 per cent in Comoros, and
The personal security of citizens in Arab 27 per cent in Sudan. These proportions
countries is compromised by legal loop- were 10 per cent in Tunisia, 5 per cent in
holes, overseen and regulated by coercive Djibouti, and 2 per cent in Algeria.

The report in brief 7

It is difficult to gauge the prevalence of targeted by the use of sexual violence as “a
violence against women in Arab societies. tactic of war”.
The subject is taboo in a male-oriented
culture of denial. Much of this violence Human trafficking
is inflicted unseen in the home, on wives, Human trafficking is a multi-billion dollar
sisters and mothers. The under-reporting transnational industry that is spreading
of offences is widespread. Marriage laws across the Arab countries. In the region,
contribute to the problem since most of this underground business has certain
them confirm a husband’s custodial rights clear traits. One is that the Arab states
It is difficult over a wife. The consecration of male play various roles and sometimes multiple
to gauge the supremacy within the family culminates roles. They can be destinations for the
prevalence of in Personal Status laws since, under these trade, they may act as a transit point for
laws, most women in Arab countries do such commerce, or they may be a source of
violence against
not have the right to ask for divorce or to persons being trafficked. As destinations,
women in Arab oppose polygamy. Steps to reform personal they receive trafficked persons from vari-
societies status laws have been taken, especially ous regions of the world: Southeast Asia,
in the Maghreb countries, and more are South Asia, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor,
required. Central Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.
So-called ‘honour crimes’ are the For men, the trade entails forced labour
most notorious form of violence against under dehumanizing conditions and with-
women in several Arab societies. Here too, out respect for labour rights. For women,
under-reporting makes the prevalence of it usually means domestic service often
such crimes difficult to establish, but the indistinguishable from slavery, or sexual
practice is known to continue. The punish- exploitation; and, for children, it leads to
ment for women can be as severe as death, employment as beggars, itinerant vendors
especially if the prohibited act results in or camel jockeys, or to sexual abuse. For all
pregnancy. In some Arab countries the law victims, bondage through trafficking spells
stands on the side of those who perpetrate a life of permanent abject insecurity.
such crimes by reducing penalties. Children are easy prey to practices
Rape is considered to be a more com- ruinous to their security. Not only do such
mon form of violence against women practices impair their liberty, they expose
than incidents reported to the police, them to extreme harm, ranging from
or covered by the press, may suggest. In psychological stunting and physical injury,
Arab countries, where laws on rape are to death. The cruellest of such practices is
either equivocal or actively biased against the recruitment of children for war. Two
women, and where family and society join different forms of children’s involvement
to deny occurrences, preserve the image in military activities are found in the Arab
of virginity and downplay the crime, few countries. The first is that in Sudan and
cases come before the courts. Thus, one of Somalia, where the recruitment of child
Arab countries the most violent, intrusive and traumatic soldiers is widely reported. The second is
are the site of threats to women’s personal safety contin- that in the region’s other conflict zones—
ues while society averts its eyes. the Occupied Palestinian Territory and
both the world’s
War-time assaults on women take place Iraq—where children, voluntarily or under
longest-standing in a context of lawlessness, displacement coercion, play support roles, while suffer-
refugee question and armed clashes such as those in Iraq, ing disproportionately under the armed
and its latest Sudan (Darfur) and Somalia where gender conflicts in these areas.
such problem roles are polarized. In these theatres of
conflict, men often compensate for their The plight of refugees and internally
own insecurities and loss of dominance displaced persons
through intensified aggression against The Arab countries are the site of both
women. In June 2008, the UN Security the world’s longest-standing refugee ques-
Council unanimously adopted Resolution tion, that of the Palestinians, and its latest
1820 demanding the “immediate and such problem, in Darfur. Propelled to flee
complete cessation by all parties to armed by conditions of grave insecurity—at a
conflict of all acts of sexual violence minimum, loss of work and income, and at
against civilians”. The resolution noted worst loss of life at the hands of occupying
that women and girls are particularly armies or rival militias—refugees continue

8 Arab Human Development Report 2009

to live with the insecurities associated income levels and their growth patterns;
with their status. They are at the mercy employment options; poverty; and social
of conditions in camps or political and protection. It underlines the erratic course
economic events in their host countries, of oil-led growth in the Arab countries, the
which could suddenly turn against them. fragility of the economic model associated
The refugee experience may never end, for with it, and changing trends in intrare-
a person may die a refugee and pass this gional spillovers from oil producing coun-
status on to a second generation. tries. It also identifies policy gaps that have
While statistics on refugees are often consequences for the economic security of
difficult to verify, it is estimated that the millions of people: acute unemployment Alleviating
Arab countries contain approximately and persisting income poverty. the insecurity
7.5 million refugees, in the form of those of vulnerable
registered by the UN High Commission Economic vulnerability
groups starts
for Refugees (UNHCR) and the UN One clear sign of the vulnerability of
Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), for Arab economic growth is its high volatil-
with recognizing
the year 2008. This share represents 46.8 ity. Tied to capricious oil markets, the the injustices
per cent of the 16 million global refugees region’s economic security has been—and they suffer
registered under UNHCR and UNRWA remains—hostage to exogenous trends.
for 2008. The largest number of these Rocky ups-and-downs in the Arab coun-
refugees, mostly Palestinians and Iraqis, is tries, from high growth in the 1970s to
found in Jordan, Syria, and the Occupied economic stagnation through the 1980s
Palestinian Territory. and back to extraordinary growth in the
Internally displaced persons (IDPs) in early 2000s, directly reflect the turbulent
the region are more widespread geographi- cycles of the oil market. Steep drops in
cally than refugees, whom they outnumber oil income during the 1980s had major
at an estimated total of about 9.8 million. impacts on oil producing countries (Saudi
Most are to be found in six Arab states— Arabia, for example, saw its GDP halved
Sudan, Iraq, Somalia, Lebanon, Syria and between 1981 and 1987 in current prices).
Yemen—with Sudan alone accounting for A number of other countries experienced
up to 5.8 million. IDPs share many of the negative economic growth, of which
insecurities of refugees: loss of livelihoods, the hardest hit was Kuwait, where GDP
status, families, roots and, sometimes, life declined by around 18 per cent in 1981
itself. and 1982. The shocks were transmitted
The Report concludes that what the to non-oil Arab economies whose receipts
state and society do not see, they cannot from remittances fell away. Jordan and
protect. Alleviating the insecurity of the Yemen both had negative growth in some
region’s most vulnerable groups starts with years.
recognition of the fact and extent of the For nearly two and half decades after
injustices they suffer, and of the political, 1980, the region witnessed hardly any eco-
social and developmental roots of their nomic growth. World Bank data show that The fabled oil
exclusion. real GDP per capita in the Arab countries wealth of the Arab
grew by a mere 6.4 per cent over the entire
countries presents
24 year period from 1980 to 2004 (i.e. by
4. Volatile growth, high less than 0.5 per cent annually).
a misleading
unemployment and persisting Oil-led growth has created weak picture of their
poverty structural foundations in Arab economies. economic situation
Many Arab countries are turning into
The fabled oil wealth of the Arab coun- increasingly import oriented and service-
tries presents a misleading picture of based economies. The types of services
their economic situation, one that masks found in most Arab countries fall at the
the structural weaknesses of many Arab low end of the value adding chain, contrib-
economies and the resulting insecurity of ute little to local knowledge development
countries and citizens alike. The Report and lock countries into inferior positions
discusses economic security in terms of in global markets. This trend has grown
the dimensions originally identified by at the expense of Arab agriculture, manu-
UNDP’s 1994 Human Development facturing and industrial production. The
Report on human security: real per capita structural fragility of Arab economies as

The report in brief 9

a result of oil-led growth is reflected in a offset much of these flows. Second, worker
conspicuous decline in the share of non-oil remittances from the oil states have been
productive sectors (agriculture and manu- hit by the practice of ‘job nationalization’;
facturing) to GDP in all Arab countries and third, non-oil countries are incurring
except the high-income countries. Overall, higher energy costs through rising oil
the Arab countries were less industrialized import bills and expensive fuel subsidies.
in 2007 than in 1970, almost four decades
previously. The spectre of unemployment
In the region’s most recent episode of Unemployment is a major source of eco-
prosperity, fluctuation in growth rates has nomic insecurity in most Arab countries.
abated somewhat across all country groups. Data from the Arab Labour Organization
While this development is comforting, it (ALO) show that in 2005 the overall
offers no grounds for complacency, since average unemployment rate for the Arab
Overall, the Arab the current plunge in oil prices is bound countries was about 14.4 per cent of the
countries were less to undo growth prospects and once again labour force compared to 6.3 per cent
cause volatility. for the world at large. The weighted
industrialized in
Arab oil producing countries have average growth rate in unemployment in
2007 than in 1970 opted to put much of their latest windfall the Arab countries (using the number of
into foreign investments, external reserves unemployed in 2005) was about 1.8 per
and oil stabilization funds, and to pay cent annually. While national unemploy-
down debts. They have also embarked on ment rates vary considerably, ranging from
major domestic investments in real estate, about 2 per cent in Qatar and Kuwait to
construction, oil refining, transport and about 22 per cent in Mauritania, youth
communication and social services. This unemployment is a serious challenge com-
approach clearly differs from patterns of mon to many Arab countries.
the past, which emphasized imports and These trends in unemployment, coupled
consumption. Some Arab oil exporting with population growth rates, indicate that
countries have also been in a position to Arab countries will need about 51 million
direct large streams of revenue towards new jobs by 2020. Most of those jobs will
their military and security forces. be essential to absorb young entrants to the
However, their new patterns of invest- labour force who will otherwise face an
ment also expose Gulf Cooperation empty future. ALO estimates for the year
Council (GCC) countries more widely 2005/6 show that youth unemployment
than in the past to global economic rates in the region vary from a high of about
downturns, the latest of which poses 46 per cent in Algeria to a low of 6.3 per
severe challenges to their capital-intensive cent in the United Arab Emirates. With the
growth model. New external shocks for exception of the latter, high income Arab
the Arab countries are associated with the countries suffer from double digit youth
current global recession. All of the major unemployment rates. Relatively high youth
oil producers have substantial holdings in unemployment rates are also recorded for
Arab countries the US and elsewhere abroad, and are not the middle and low income Arab countries.
will need about able to decouple their economies from the Overall, the unemployment rate among
spreading international crisis. The knock- the young in the Arab countries is nearly
51 million new
on effects on the rest of the Arab countries double that in the world at large.
jobs by 2020 of a protracted slow-down in investment Unemployment also often wears a
financing and remittances from GCC female face. Unemployment rates for Arab
countries would be considerable. women are higher than those for Arab
In fact, other Arab countries may have men, and among the highest in the world.
gained less from the short-lived third boom This reflects more than the failure of Arab
than they did from the first two. Although economies to generate sufficient jobs; it
oil wealth still crosses borders, and while points as well to entrenched social biases
several rich countries switched a number against women.
of foreign investments to regional markets Three primary factors account for the
in the aftermath of 9-11, intraregional region’s slumping employment trends: first,
flows are becoming less copious and are the contraction under structural reforms
having less impact than in the past. First, of the large public sector, which employs
population increases in non-oil countries more than a third of the workforce; second,

10 Arab Human Development Report 2009

the limited size, hobbled performance poverty rate ranges from a low of 28.6 – 30
and weak job-generating capacity of the per cent in Lebanon and Syria to a high
private sector, which has not taken up the of 59.5 per cent in Yemen, with that for
slack; and third, the quality and type of Egypt being about 41 per cent. Extrapolat- The Report projects
education generally provided, which does ing from a sample of countries representing that the estimated
not stress technical or vocational skills 65 per cent of the region’s population, the numbers of Arabs
in demand. Report projects that the overall headcount
living in poverty
Arab policies will have to focus on poverty ratio at the upper poverty line is
revamping education to close skills gaps, 39.9% and that the estimated number of could be as high
respond to labour market signals and Arabs living in poverty could be as high as as 65 million
stimulate knowledge-based capabilities 65 million.
matching opportunities in the global, as Extreme poverty is especially acute
well as regional economy. National sav- in the low-income Arab countries, where
ings will need to be converted efficiently some 36.2 per cent of the population are
into sizeable investments for expanding living in extreme poverty. Expectably,
health, housing and labour markets in income poverty, and the insecurity associ-
order to cater for the needs of this young ated with it, is more widespread among
workforce and provide it with the facilities rural populations.
to increase productivity. A special effort Another lens for the analysis of
is required to remove entrenched social impoverishment is human poverty, which
barriers to women’s entrance to high- refers to the deprivation of capabilities
productivity jobs. In many of these policy and opportunities, and can be measured
shifts, private-public partnerships offer through the Human Poverty Index (HPI),
the best option for mobilizing resources, a composite index built on three compo-
transferring skills and creating new jobs. nents: a) longevity, b) knowledge and c)
standard of living. Applying that index,
The backlog of poverty low income Arab countries exhibit the
The Report considers economic insecurity highest incidence of human poverty in the
associated with poverty from two perspec- region, with an average HPI of 35 per cent
tives: income poverty (defined in terms of compared to a 12 per cent average in high
people’s enjoyment of goods and services, income countries. This metric shows that
represented in real per capita consump- insecurity undercuts health, education
tion expenditure); and human poverty and standards of living, all of which puts
(defined by income as well as by other in question the effectiveness of the state in
valued dimensions of life, such as educa- providing, and ensuring access to the basic
tion, health, and political freedom). Its necessities of life. In particular, human
analysis of income poverty, in turn, takes poverty affects children’s attendance at
into account both the international pov- elementary school and their levels of con-
erty line at two-dollars-a-day and national tinuation at post-elementary stages. Low
poverty lines. school completion rates perpetuate the Extreme poverty is
Arab countries are generally regarded as insecurity of the poor. especially acute
having a relatively low incidence of income Arab countries scoring an HPI of 30 in the low-income
poverty. In 2005, about 20.3 per cent of per cent or more include three low income
the Arab population was living below the countries and a lower middle income
Arab countries
two-dollars-a-day international poverty country: Sudan (with an HPI of 34.3 per
line. This estimate is based on seven Arab cent), Yemen (36.6 per cent), Mauritania
middle and low income groups, whose (35.9 per cent), and Morocco (31.8 per
population represents about 63 per cent of cent). In almost all of these countries,
the total population of the Arab countries significant insecurity (i.e. a value of more
not in conflict. Using the international line than 30 per cent) is recorded for the educa-
indicates that, in 2005, about 34.6 million tion component, represented by the adult
Arabs were living in extreme poverty. illiteracy rate. In addition, in Mauritania,
However, the two-dollars-a-day Sudan and Yemen insecurity from lack of
threshold may not be the most illumi- access to safe water and child nutrition is
nating metric for looking at poverty in also significant.
the Arab countries. Applying the upper Despite moderate levels of income
national poverty line shows that the overall inequality, in most Arab countries social

The report in brief 11

exclusion has increased over the past two number of undernourished has risen since
decades. In addition, there is evidence the beginning of the 1990s—from about
to suggest that the inequality in wealth 19.8 million in 1990-1992 to 25.5 million
has worsened significantly more than the in 2002-2004.
deterioration in income. In many Arab Considerable disparities exist among
countries, for example, land and asset individual Arab countries in their fight
concentration is conspicuous and pro- against hunger. The countries that have
vokes a sense of exclusion among other made the greatest progress towards lower-
groups, even if absolute poverty has not ing the prevalence of undernourishment
increased. between 1990 and 2004 are Djibouti,
The patterns of economic insecurity Kuwait and Mauritania. Sudan has also
illustrated in the Report are the result of made strides, but still experiences serious
Inequality in several policy gaps. First, the increased hunger prevalence. Saudi Arabia, Egypt,
wealth has structural fragility of Arab economies is Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco and Yemen,
an evident consequence of continuing to on the other hand, recorded increases in
rely on volatile, oil-led growth. Economic both the absolute numbers and prevalence
significantly growth itself has been, for the most part, of undernourishment, while Syria and
more than the erratic and low. Correspondingly, the Algeria achieved very small reductions in
deterioration performance of productive sectors (and prevalence but none in numbers.
in income manufacturing in particular) has been The direct causes of hunger in the
weak and uncompetitive. Second, this region are related to insufficient daily
growth model has negatively impacted the nutritional intake, which is attributable
labour market, and Arab countries now to limited supplies of different foods and
suffer the highest unemployment rates in the resulting imbalance in diets. Food
the world. Third, overall poverty, defined availability, in turn, is connected with
as the share of the population under the the forces of supply—which is contingent
national upper poverty line, is significantly upon such factors as agricultural produc-
higher than the underestimate yielded by tion, access to global markets, the growth
using the international poverty line of two of food industries, and the size of foreign
dollars a day. Hence, poverty in the Arab aid—and demand, which is connected, in
countries is a more conspicuous phenom- particular, to per capita income levels. In
enon than commonly assumed. terms of local food production, some Arab
countries have the lowest cereal yields in
the world and, moreover, between 1990 and
5. Hunger, malnutrition and 2005, production in 7 countries declined.
food insecurity The Report illustrates that Arab countries
are altogether more self-sufficient in food
Despite its ample resources, and low inci- commodities that are favoured by the rich
dence of hunger relative to other regions, the (meats, fish and vegetables) than in those
Patterns of Arab countries are seeing hunger and mal- likely to be consumed by the poor (cereals,
economic nutrition among their people rise. Although fats and sugar).
prevalence rates and absolute numbers in In a seeming paradox, while malnutri-
insecurity are the
individual countries vary quite markedly, tion is on the rise in both absolute and
result of several the region, as a whole, is falling behind in relative terms in some Arab countries,
policy gaps achieving the hunger-reduction target of the obesity is also an increasing health risk
Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). In in the region. In fact, the two are linked
addition, the backlog from hunger and mal- by their common origins in poor diet.
nutrition in the past continues. Obesity and overweight are more com-
According to Food and Agriculture mon among women than men in Arab
Organization (FAO) figures, among devel- countries, contrary to the situation in the
oping country regions, the Arab countries US, for example, where these problems
have a low ratio of undernourished people are more prevalent among men. In the
to the total population. It is only surpassed region, obesity is generally attributed to
in this regard by transition countries in over-consumption of high-fat foods com-
Eastern Europe and the former Soviet bined with little physical activity, which
Union. Yet it is one of two world regions—the may partly explain its prevalence among
other being sub-Saharan Africa—where the Arab women, who are often prevented by

12 Arab Human Development Report 2009

custom from pursuing sports and other followed liberal economic policies and
physical exercise. Obesity contributes to ensured a minimum level of food for the
such non-contagious chronic illnesses as poor.
diabetes, high blood pressure, coronary The Report discusses the feasibility of
arterial diseases, degenerative joint dis- achieving food sovereignty and food secu-
eases, psychological illnesses, and some rity in Arab countries. It concludes that
types of cancer. Such ailments are steadily food security needs to be pursued, not
increasing in Arab countries. in terms of absolute sovereignty in food
The main indirect causes of hunger in production, a goal impractical in light
the region are poverty, foreign occupa- of regional water scarcities, but rather in
tion and domestic conflict and economic terms of sufficiency for all members of
policies for dealing with globalization. The society in essential commodities. In this
Report shows that, while poverty and mal- context, the region’s low self sufficiency
nutrition often co-exist in Arab countries, rate in staple foods is one of its most seri-
poverty is not necessarily associated with ous development gaps. The region’s low
undernourishment when the consump-
self sufficiency
tion pattern of the poor tends towards
inexpensive but nutrient-rich foods, and 6. Health security challenges rate in staple
when such foods are readily accessible foods is one of
under targeted government programmes. Health is both a vital goal of human its most serious
Conversely, when conditions of conflict security that is influenced by non-health development gaps
disrupt food supplies, as in Iraq, the factors, and an instrumental capability
Occupied Palestinian Territory, Somalia that significantly impacts other aspects of
and Sudan, a high degree of malnutrition human security. In the last 40 years, Arab
and food insecurity follows. countries have made striking progress in
Food accessibility is strongly influenced forestalling death and extending life, as
by government economic policies and evidenced by falling infant mortality rates
openness to world markets. Subsidising and rising life expectancy. Yet health is by
food commodities to make them more no means assured for all citizens of Arab
affordable to the public is one such policy; countries, with women suffering the most
lifting subsidies is another. Most Arab from neglect and gender biased tradi-
governments have adopted food supply tions. Health systems are often shackled
policies as part of a social contract based by bureaucratic inefficiency, poor profes-
on state provision of essential needs in sional capabilities and underfunding; and
exchange for the people’s loyalty. But since health risks from new infectious diseases Health is by no
the 1980s, economic and market deregula- are on the rise.
means assured
tion policies adopted by governments have
rendered domestic food prices vulnerable General status
for all citizens of
to fluctuations in international prices. Despite improvements in health across the Arab countries
Arab countries as much as any others, region,
have recently suffered from spiralling • The health status of Arabs, in general,
food prices traceable to various causes. is lower than that enjoyed by citizens
Among these are the climate changes that of industrialized countries.
have affected production in grain export- • While life expectancy increased and
ing countries, the extensive depletion of child mortality declined between
grain stocks, and the rising consumption 2000 and 2005, other health indica-
of meat and dairy products in emerging tors stagnated.
economies, especially in China. Another • Disparities are apparent between
major cause is the growing demand in the countries and within countries
US and Europe for biofuels derived from • Health data are insufficient, incom-
grain, in response to the rising costs of oil plete and often unreliable, making it
and transportation. The Report contrasts difficult to frame effective health poli-
how Arab economic policies have fared in cies or reach those in need
coping with these pressures with the rela- • Harmful health practices, deeply
tive successes of countries such as Brazil rooted in culture, continue to lower
and Mexico, which have simultaneously health levels, especially among women

The report in brief 13

Limits of health systems Sudan. A significant observation about
Health care systems in the region are let Sudan concerns the relatively high percent-
down by: age of HIV-positive women. Compared to
• A narrow biomedical model based on a world average of 48 per cent in 2007,
hospital and curative care, and focused 53 per cent of adults living with HIV in
on the treatment of diseases Sudan were women. This percentage
• The absence of inter-sectoral linkages stood at 30.4 in the other Arab countries,
that would help to bring vital indirect for the same year, which is comparable
health determinants into the equation. to the situation in Western Europe. It is
Arab health systems do not recognize estimated that about 80 per cent of female
the role of such factors as the quality infections in the region occur within the
and coverage of education, women’s bonds of marriage where the subservient
empowerment, and social and eco- position and weak negotiating capacity of
nomic justice. Neither do they evince many women leave them exposed to their
the mindset required to address key husbands’ high risk behaviours.
HIV/AIDS factors such as gender, social class, The destructive power of the disease lies
represents identity and ethnicity, all of which not solely in the power of the virus which
a stubborn, have obvious effects on health and causes it, but also in the social stigma that
human security comes with it. Those living with the virus
proximate and
• Disparities in health care provision and are often deprived of their livelihoods and,
misunderstood financing with their families, denied access to social
danger • Profitable high technology hospitals opportunities in a climate of shame.
that provide expensive state-of-the-art While malaria has been almost elimi-
treatment for only a small minority of nated in the majority of Arab countries, it
wealthy citizens remains highly endemic in the Arab LDCs
• Over-stretched public health services, where on average 3,313 cases per 100,000
frequently low in quality were reported in 2005. Djibouti, Somalia,
Sudan and Yemen accounted for 98 per
Health financing cent of notified cases in the region; Sudan
Health system financing is challenged by: alone bore about 76 per cent of the regional
• The rising costs of health care burden. Achievement of the MDG target
• Inadequate government expenditure of halting and beginning to reverse malaria
on health in low and middle income in the sub-region, and in the region as a
countries whole, is therefore heavily dependent on
Many of the • Inefficient systems in the high income progress in Somalia, Sudan and Yemen.
threats to human countries where ample funding does
not translate into health gains
security coalesce
• Increasing out-of pocket expenditures 7. Occupation and military
in situations of on health that burden individuals and intervention
occupation, conflict families
and military • A general lack of social health insur- Many of the threats to human security dis-
intervention ance and employer-provided benefits cussed in the Report coalesce in situations
of occupation, conflict and military inter-
Emerging health threats vention. In Iraq, the Occupied Palestinian
HIV/AIDS represents a stubborn, proxi- Territory and Somalia, people’s basic
mate and misunderstood danger in the rights to self-determination and peace
region. In 2007, more than 31,600 adults have been forcibly annulled. They face
and children died from AIDS in the Arab threats to their lives, freedom, livelihoods,
countries (80 per cent of which are in education, nutrition, health and physical
Sudan). Between 2001 and 2007, there environment from outside forces whose
were 90,500 estimated new cases of HIV presence wreaks institutional, structural
infections in the Arab countries, 50,000 and material violence on them every day.
of which in Sudan alone. The Report assesses in detail the dam-
According to WHO and UNAIDS age to human security that ensues from
estimates, the number of those living such travesties of human rights, focusing
with HIV in Arab countries was 435,000 on the impacts of the US intervention in
in 2007, 73.5 per cent of which were in Iraq, Israel’s continuing hold on Occupied

14 Arab Human Development Report 2009

Palestinian Territory, including its recent claim to be free from fear or free from
campaign against Gaza, and on the special want, and many are affected by spillovers
circumstances of the beleaguered people from insecurity in neighbouring countries.
of Somalia. The Report’s individual chapters outline
Military intervention and occupation various policy orientations that the state,
not only contravene international law and civil society, individual citizens and inter-
abrogate the rights of peoples in the affected national actors could adopt within their
countries. They spark both resistance and respective spheres of action, suggesting
a cycle of violence and counter-violence specific steps that can be taken to reduce
that engulfs occupied and occupier alike. threats across all dimensions of the con-
Occupation and military intervention cept. In doing so, the Report underlines Occupation
undercut human security in other Arab the central importance of: and military
and neighbouring countries in several intervention spark
ways. First, they displace peoples across 1. The preservation and enhancement of
borders, creating humanitarian challenges the land, water, air and ecology that
a cycle of violence
for affected states and seeding tensions in sustain the Arab peoples’ very exis- and counter-
them. Second, as a cause célèbre of extrem- tence under rising national, regional violence that
ist groups that resort to violence, they and global environmental, population engulfs occupied
strengthen the militant appeal of those and demographic pressures; and occupier alike
who perpetuate the cycle of destruction in
the region and whose acts provoke a back- 2. The guarantees of essential rights,
lash against citizens’ rights and freedoms. freedoms and opportunities without
Finally, as a threat to sovereignty, occupa- discrimination, that only a well gov-
tion and military intervention allow Arab erned, accountable and responsive state
governments to cite national security as a ruled by just laws can provide; and the
pretext for halting or postponing democra- diffusion of identity conflicts rooted in
tization and for prolonging oppressive rule. competition for power and wealth that
Occupation and military intervention are becomes possible when such a state
thus responsible for creating conditions of wins the trust of all citizens;
systemic insecurity in the region.
The Report observes that the fact that 3. The recognition by the state and soci-
occupation and intervention have plagued ety of the abuse and injustice that vul-
the region so long indicates its vulner- nerable women, children and refugees
ability to the policies of external parties. across the region encounter each day,
Prospects for settling major conflicts in and the resolve to change their legal,
the affected countries are very largely economic, social and personal condi-
governed by the will of non-Arab parties. tions for the better;
This throws into strong relief the respon-
sibility of the UN as the sole impartial 4. The will to address the weak struc-
guarantor of human and national security tural underpinnings of the Arab oil The concept of
in occupied countries, a role however economy, reduce income poverty and human security
which the world body has been kept from move towards knowledge-based, equi- provides a
playing effectively by the powers that have table and diversified economies that
framework for re-
marginalized it. will create the jobs and protect the
livelihoods on which coming genera- centring the Arab
tions will depend in the post-oil era; social contract on
Seven building blocks vital yet neglected
of Arab human security 5. Ending persisting hunger and malnu- priorities
trition in all sub-regions, but especially
The Report’s analysis illustrates that the the poorest, which continue to erode
concept of human security provides a human capabilities, cut short millions
framework for re-centring the Arab social of lives and set back human develop-
contract on those vital yet neglected pri- ment. The economics of food security
orities that most affect the wellbeing of in the global economy may call for a
citizens of Arab countries. While the state new realism in defining food security
of human security is not uniform through- less in terms of absolute food sover-
out the Arab countries, no country can eignty and more in terms of sufficiency

The report in brief 15

for all members of society in essential the Arab peoples and the continuing
commodities. violation of Arab sovereignty and lives
by regional and global powers through
6. The promotion of health for all as a occupation and military intervention
human right, a prerequisite for human are self-defeating and unacceptable to
Occupation security and an instrumental enabler the international and regional public.
and military across the gamut of human function- Such violations have inflicted enormous
ing. The significant progress that Arab damage through the disproportionate
countries have made in this field is use of force and a total disregard for
undermine the being undercut by policy and institu- civilian lives, as highlighted in Israel’s
fragile progress tional failures that produce disparities recent campaign on Gaza. These viola-
of political reform in access, affordability and quality, and tions have caused untold human suffer-
in the region by the growing health threats from ing and chaos, stained the image of the
serious diseases such as malaria, tuber- powers implicated in them and under-
culosis and HIV/AIDS. mined the fragile progress of political
reform in the region by bolstering
7. Policy recognition abroad that long- extremist forces and driving moderate
standing human rights violations against voices out of the public arena.

UNDP 1994.
UNDP 2002.
UNDP/AHDR calculations based on FAO’s AQUASTAT database.
UNDP 2007.

16 Arab Human Development Report 2009