The 108th session of the Economic and Social Council at the ministerial level was held, in-person, at the headquarters of the General Secretariat of the Arab League on Thursday, September 2, 2021, chaired by the Libyan Minister of Economy and Trade Mohammed Al-Hawij, and the participation of the Ministers of Finance, Economy and Trade of Arab Countries and The Secretary General of the Arab League, H.E. Ahmed Abul Al Gheit.
In his speech, The Libyan Minister stressed that the meeting is of great importance due to the issues raised in the economic and social fields that directly affect the Arab citizen, which requires intensifying efforts to confront the difficulties and challenges facing the region in the fields of economy and trade, moving forward with the Council with the aim of strengthening economic cooperation to increase Domestic Gross Product (GDP), doubling the volume of trade between Arab States, activating the greater Arab free zone which contributes to achieving economic integration, facilitating the movement of capital and people and exchange of goods and services among member States and promoting investment in Arab States.
His Excellency praised the Arab League's proposal to establish the Arab Crisis Fund, through which the Arab Epidemic Control Authority will be established, and invited Arab countries to participate in the Conference of Arab Business owners and investors to be held in Tripoli at the end of this year and contribute to reconstruction and development and strengthen economic and trade relations.
In his address, the Secretary-General of the League of Arab States, Mr. Ahmed Abu Al Gheit, noted that the Corona pandemic continues to have a heavy shadow over the world economy and international trade. The Arab region, like that of the world, has suffered the consequences of the pandemic and is currently undergoing a difficult recovery, with a high level of uncertainty about the global health situation caused by the spread of new variants of Coronavirus.
There is a great need to review the performance and assess the past period in order to put our hands on the weaknesses in the overall performance of the Arab States, particularly with regard to the ability of the Arab States to cope with pressing situations and to steer the economic wheel in times of crisis.
His Excellency explained that the Arab economies continue to suffer from structural difficulties and face daunting challenges. The Arab Consolidated Economic Report revealed that 40% of the population in the Arab region lived below the poverty line, 15% of the poor suffered from extreme poverty, and unemployment exceeded 16%, well above the world average. The impact of unemployment is compounded by the fact that the majority of those who suffer from it are young people, which means that Arab economies are clearly dysfunctional in absorbing newcomers to the labour market and achieving high levels of employment, and that market needs remain separate from teaching skills.
His Excellency appealed to the ministers to do everything possible to help alleviate these pressing crises, to which the difficult financial situation of the Palestinian Authority has also been added, as well as the ongoing and escalating humanitarian crisis suffered by Syrians.
The agenda of the Council's discussions on the economic side included discussing the developments in the Arab Customs Union, developments in Arab cooperation within the framework of the Greater Arab Free Trade Area, investment development frameworks in the Arab region, developments in the Common Arab Electricity Market agreements, and the request of the United Arab Emirates to host the 28th session of the Conference of Parties in the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP 28), in addition to discussing the periodic economic themes: Support for the Palestinian economy, the Arab Consolidated Economic Report for 2021 and the Unified Arab discourse of the 2021 Annual Joint Meeting of the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, topics on Arab joint action organizations and institutions, and reports and decisions of ministerial councils, where the report and recommendations of the 30th Meeting of the Committee of Organizations for Coordination and Follow-up of the Economic and Social Council were approved, particularly the plan and budgets of specialized Arab organizations for fiscal year 2022.
The Council also discussed strengthening Arab cooperation in the field of food security, as well as reviewing the experience of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan on the national window of trade with Arab countries.
On the social front, the Council discussed items on the specific committees of the Economic and Social Council. Among the most prominent topics before the current session of the Council was the establishment of the Council of Arab Ministers responsible for education affairs, submitted at the request of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, to continue to strengthen Arab efforts to address the social and economic repercussions of the Covid-19 pandemic and its negative impact on workers in the fields of tourism and air transport. The Council approved a proposal for Arab general principles to standardize the procedures for registration, adoption and use of vaccines among Arab States, thus contributing to the revival of tourism, aviation and transport among Arab States, an item submitted by the Arab Civil Aviation Organization, the Arab Tourism Organization and the Arab Air Transport Union, as well as an item on international cooperation in the development and social fields, and another on the preparation of the social issue for the Arab Economic and social Council at the Summit level.
The agenda also included a proposal for the protection of women in the informal sector, an item on the Action Plan for the Economic and Social Empowerment of Women and Girls in Rural Areas (2022-2028) and the Arab Strategy in this area.