The Forum reviewed progress towards SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals).
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed said the region’s progress in renewable energy, Internet access, and social protection should serve as inspiration for the road ahead.
The 2023 Arab Forum for Sustainable Development called on governments in the region to leverage resources and human capital to address rising poverty, food insecurity, and inequality, and to promote partnerships with the private sector to achieve the SDGs. The Forum urged the international community to support developing countries in achieving debt sustainability, increase access to affordable long-term financing, and align financial flows to the SDGs.
Themed, ‘Solutions and Action,’ the Forum convened in Beirut, Lebanon, from 14-16 March 2023. The UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) organized the event in partnership with the League of Arab States (LAS) and 16 UN regional entities.
UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed delivered opening remarks, warning that the world – and the Arab region – are not on track to meet the SDGs. She said progress has faltered and even reversed on some targets, leaving many behind. Highlighting the challenges posed by “multiple interconnected, cascading crises,” Mohammed urged governments and stakeholders to “act now.” She said the region’s progress in renewable energy, Internet access, and social protection should serve as inspiration for the road ahead.
LAS Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul Gheit called for developing sustainable strategies and building the capacity of national and regional institutions to better respond to “overlapping issues.”
The Forum reviewed progress towards SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation), SDG 7 (affordable and clean energy), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 11 (sustainable cities and communities), and SDG 17 (partnerships for the Goals). Countries will conduct in-depth review of these five Goals at the High-level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) in July.
Participants acknowledged that the Arab region is one of the most urbanized in the world, with 75% of its population projected to live in cities by 2050. In light of a rising demand for energy, speakers called for “an equitable and inclusive energy transition to reach net zero emissions.”
Speakers also noted that, prompted by the COVID-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine, many countries in the region adopted strategies to become self-sufficient in terms of food production, putting pressure on already scarce water resources. The Forum called on governments to ensure water security for all, particularly vulnerable groups.
Participants also explored ways to expand digitization, accelerate industrial development, boost urban resilience, and create jobs for youth.
The Forum included a high-level roundtable on Voluntary National Reviews (VNRs) and a high-level dialogue on delivering the SDGs in partnership with the private sector. Addressing the high-level dialogue, Mohammed called for “powerful private sector partnerships that invest in the transitions necessary to accelerate development progress and get the SDGs back on track.” She underscored the business community’s crucial role in bridging the SDGs financing gap, which is estimated to be in excess of USD 660 billion annually in 12 Arab countries.
The Arab Forum for Sustainable Development is the primary regional mechanism for the follow-up and review of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The findings and recommendations from the 2023 Forum will feed into the HLPF, and the SDG Summit in September. [ESCWA Press Release] [UN News Story]