G-8 Greater Middle East Partnership. U.S. Working Paper For G-8 Sherpas

Posted in Broader Middle East | 11-Mar-04 | Source: Al Hayat

What kind of people power will the region beget?
The Greater Middle East (GME) region [footnote in the original document: The "Greater Middle East" refers to the countries of the Arab world, plus Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Turkey, and Israel] poses a unique challenge and opportunity for the international community. The three "deficits" identified by the Arab authors of the 2002 and 2003 United Nations Arab Human Development Reports (AHDR) - freedom, knowledge, and women's empowerment - have contributed to conditions that threaten the national interests of all G-8 members. So long as the region's pool of politically and economically disenfranchised individuals grows, we will witness an increase in extremism, terrorism, international crime, and illegal migration. The statistics describing the current situation in the GME are daunting:
  • The combined GDP of the 22 Arab League countries is less than that of Spain.
  • Approximately 40% of adult Arabs - 65 million people - are illiterate, two thirds of whom are women.
  • Over 50 million young people will enter the labor market by 2010, 100 million will enter by 2020 - a minimum of 6 million new jobs need to be created each year to absorb these new entrants.
  • If current unemployment rates persist, regional unemployment will reach 25 million by 2010.
  • One-third of the region lives on less than two dollars a day. To improve standards of living, economic growth in the region must more than double from below 3 percent currently to at least 6 percent.
  • Only 1.6 percent of the population has access to the Internet, a figure lower than that in any other region of the world, including sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Women occupy just 3.5 percent of parliamentary seats in Arab countries, compared with, for example, 8.4 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Fifty-one percent of older Arab youths expressed a desire to emigrate to other countries, according to the 2002 AHDR, with European countries the favorite destination.
These statistics reflect a region that stands at a crossroads. The GME could continue on the same path, adding every year to its population of underemployed, undereducated, and politically disenfranchised youths.

Doing so will pose a direct threat to the stability of the region, and to the common interests of the G-8 members.

The alternative is the route to reform. The two Arab Human Development Reports represent compelling and urgent calls for action in the GME. These calls have been echoed by activists, academics, and the private sector throughout the region. Some GME leaders have already heeded these calls and have taken steps toward political, social, and economic reform. The G-8 countries have, in turn, supported these efforts with their own Middle East reform initiatives. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership, the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative, and the multilateral reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrate the G-8's commitment to reform in the region.

The demographic changes described above, the liberation of Afghanistan and Iraq from oppressive regimes, and the emergence of democratic impulses across the region, together present the G-8 with a historic opportunity. At Sea Island, the G-8 should forge a long-term partnership with the Greater Middle East's reform leaders and launch a coordinated response to promote political, economic, and social reform in the region. The G-8 could agree on common reform priorities that would address the AHDR deficits by:
  • Promoting Democracy and good governance;
  • Building a knowledge society; and
  • Expanding economic opportunities.
These reform priorities are the key to the region's development: democracy and good governance form the framework within which development takes, well-educated individuals are agents of development, and enterprise is the engine of development. ...more

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