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French Version


Report on the human development in the Arab countries.

The UNDP draws up an assessment alarming on the situation of the Arab countries
the Program of the United Nations for the development has just published the first report on the state of the human development in the Arab countries, carried out by a group of independent academics, all originating from the area.


With the assistance of a team of advisers, they drew up an assessment of the situation in the 22 Member States of the Arab League gathering 280 million inhabitants, according to an indicator of human development (IDH), distinct from the growth of income.

This one takes into account the life expectancy at birth, the level of education, civil and political freedoms, the capacities of access to Internet as indicator of the knowledge, and the environmental issues. In spite of the significant disparities which exist between the various studied countries, the report reveals a decline of the area, in particular on the poverty level. In this respect, it notes that in spite of a poverty in terms of income lower than other areas of the world, the Arab area must face another type of poverty, namely that of potentialities and opportunities.
This one results from 3 lacks: the lack of freedom of choice, the defect of promotion of the women and deficiencies of knowledge. To this only, the economic growth will not manage to fill these lacks, nor to put the area on the track of a durable development.


·450 million Arabic in 2020?
The Arab population, which accounts for 5% of the world population, knows a very high annual demographic growth rate and could reach the 450 million in 2020. And yet, the systems of health are still archaïc in certain countries, focused on the physical care to the detriment of the mental health, and on the curative medicine rather than preventive. It results in a life expectancy at birth from the female population far below the world average.

In addition, the majority of these countries suffers from a lack of access to drinking water because of a great pollution of the grounds, with less than 1.000 cubic meters of water available per capita and per annum, but it does not post the environmental problems among its priorities yet. As for the education issue, true gangrene of the Arab population today, it affects nearly 65 million Arabs, out of which two thirds are women, who can neither read nor write. However, the education budgets exceeds those of the other developing areas, but profit only to a limited population: approximately 10 million of children between 6 and 15 years old do not have access to the school.

The inscription rate in the higher education is 13% while it reaches the 60% in the industrialized countries. The underprivileged social groups such as the female population and the poor population of the rural zones are out of the educational system. To this is added the place of the women within the political and economic life in number of the Arab countries. For some, the women are not even citizens, and do not have the voting rights. An Arab woman out of two is illiterate. The quality of teaching worsened and lacks interaction with the labour market, thus affecting the economy of the Arab countries, which consolidated GDP hardly reached 531,2 billion dollars, that is to say less than Spain with 595,5 billion dollars.

The unemployment rate amounts to 15% of labour force, main emigration factor for a youth which does not see any future in its country of origin. If the decline of the Arab countries is convincing, it is reversible according to the UNDP report , which presents three priority fields in the area: reinforcement of potentialities and contributions in Arab knowledge, the use of the human potentialities as lever for the growth and the productivity, and the promotion of good governance. The report initially recommends to reform the education system, carrying obligatory teaching at 10 years of studies, and by strengthening the Arab co-operation in production of schoolbooks and teachers training. But above all, one of the keys of the change is the change of the behaviour and the social motivation in order to stimulate creativity and innovation.

Moreover, a reform of the telecommunications sector is necessary to support the competition and to encourage the foreign investment. The report states that the future lays in the opportunity and the motivations given to the Arabs to popularize their work, rather than to impose the contents of it. In term of growth and productivity, it is necessary to stop the employment crisis and to reduce poverty, it is a question of mobilizing the private sector through a promotion of the capabilities policy. To benefit from the effects of the globalization, the Arab countries must be leaded towards the creation of a customs union or a Common Market. These efforts must be accompanied by an inversion of the tendency to the feminization of unemployment, by giving the priority to women entrepreneurs.

Finally, the report stresses the necessity to encourage a participation of the people and groups in the political life. It is essential to place the human development and the reduction of poverty as priorities for the national economic policies. But these efforts must be implemented by the governments of each country, some of which still suffer from a political rigidity which blocks the emancipation of the civil society. The authors of the report thus invite these countries with an Arab "renaissance" anchored in the human development.



Casablanca 26-08-2002
Marina LAABI
L'économiste



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