Photo by IISD/ENB | Kiara Worth
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The 29th Ministerial Session of the UN Economic and Social Council of Western Asia (ESCWA) agreed on the Doha Declaration on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, which renews the region’s pledge to implement the 2030 Agenda.

Three ministerial panel discussions focused on national-level SDG implementation, based on an ESCWA report on: external and internal challenges faced by member States in implementing the SDGs; the impact of conflict or occupation on implementing the SDGs; and methods and tools to support SDG implementation.

16 December 2016: Participants at the 29th Ministerial Session of the UN Economic and Social Council of Western Asia (ESCWA) agreed on the Doha Declaration on the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, in which countries reiterate their commitment to the 2030 Agenda. The Session focused on the theme, ‘2030 Agenda: Implementing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at the National Level.’

The Session convened in Doha, Qatar, and included two segments: a senior officials segment, from 13-14 December 2016; and the ministerial segment, from 14-15 December 2016. Three ministerial panel discussions focused on national-level SDG implementation, based on an ESCWA report on: external and internal challenges faced by member States in implementing the SDGs; the impact of conflict or occupation on implementing the SDGs; and methods and tools to support SDG implementation.

On conflict and occupation, the report states that seven out of 22 Arab countries are experiencing conflict and instability, and that the region’s collapse of basic health, education, water and sanitation services puts it at risk of reversing decades of development gains. The report also underscores the relationship between unemployment, lack of opportunities for youth and conflict intensity in the region.

On challenges in implementing the SDGs in line with Arab countries’ capacity and circumstances, panelists discussed the importance of supporting country efforts in formulating national development plans and policies and follow-up and review processes, including development of statistical infrastructure to monitor progress. The panel observed that the Arab region needs to build the capacity of its national statistical offices (NSOs) to collect data to monitor progress, noting that Arab countries only had data on 42% of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and that only three out of 22 Arab countries currently have a national strategy for the development of statistics. Panelists also discussed: Arab capacity to develop strategies in line with their national priorities and the 2030 Agenda’s priorities; and financing for development (FfD) and strategies to increase domestic resource mobilization (DRM).

On policy, research and capacity-building tools to determine development priorities and identify a path to achieve the SDGs, participants discussed initiatives to support member States, including a nexus approach to development planning and monitoring, capacity building and training programmes to adapt the SDGs to national contexts, and economic models to simulate different policy options.

In the Declaration, leaders pledge to implement the 2030 Agenda, taking into account the region’s particular development priorities, and ensuring and stressing national ownership of the process.

In the Declaration, leaders pledge to implement the 2030 Agenda, taking into account the region’s particular development priorities, and ensuring and stressing national ownership of the process. Leaders also commit to address Arab regional priorities, including: ensuring energy, food and water security and eliminating hunger; preserving the environment; reducing the impact of climate change, in line with the Paris Agreement on climate change; combating desertification and promoting management of shared water; and achieving gender equality and women’s empowerment, ensuring consistency with domestic legislation. The Declaration further: supports the development of a regional action plan on science, technology and innovation in the Arab region, and underscores the importance of support for the region’s least developed countries (LDCs) and countries suffering from conflicts and wars, observing that countries experiencing conflicts and wars have a smaller chance of achieving development aims.

On follow-up and review, the Declaration emphasizes that each country must find an appropriate institutional context for planning, implementing and following up on the 2030 Agenda, and that it must create effective coordination and integration mechanisms among government ministries and other stakeholders. The Declaration calls for the adoption of national strategies for the development of statistics and for the ESCWA secretariat to support Arab countries’ statistical capacity.

The Ministerial Session is ESCWA’s governing body and meets biennially to discuss ESCWA’s activities, future work programmes and economic and social development issues in the region. ESCWA has 18 members: Bahrain; Egypt; Iraq; Jordan; Kuwait; Lebanon; Libya; Mauritania; Morocco; Oman; Palestine; Qatar; Saudi Arabia; Sudan; Syria; Tunisia; the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Yemen. [ESCWA Press Releases] [Session Website] [Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Arab States: Implementation challenges at the national level] [Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Arab States: Impact of conflict and occupation] [Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development in the Arab States: Methods and tools to support member States] [Doha Declaration (in Arabic)]

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