On 2 July, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) released the Arab Human Development Report 2002. Written “by Arabs, for Arabs,” the report has received significant attention in the Western and Arab media. According to the Jeddah-based Arab News, “The report makes very sobering reading … [and] should be distributed to all Arabs.” A New York Times editorial describes the report as “surprisingly frank and clear-minded.” Similar commentaries appeared in The Economist, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Newsweek and The Independent.
Following are some of the major conclusions of the authors in their own words.
On the Lack of Freedom:
“Political participation in Arab countries remains weak, as manifested in the lack of genuine representative democracy and restrictions on liberties.”
“This freedom deficit undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development.”
On the Status of Women:
“Sadly, the Arab world is largely depriving itself of the creativity and productivity of half its citizens.”
“Women remain severely marginalized in Arab political systems and broadly discriminated against in both law and custom. Women need to be politically empowered by far greater participation.”
On the Digital Divide:
“The Arab region has the lowest level of access to ICT [information and communication technology] of all regions in the world, even lower than sub-Saharan Africa.”
“Only 0.6 percent of the population uses the Internet and the personal computer penetration is only 1.2 per cent.”
The report concludes: “The dignity and the freedom of the Arab people demand that countries join together to provide human services: health, education and training, particularly for girls and women and people living in rural areas, along with strong efforts to abolish illiteracy … such initiatives are at the heart of human development – and human development is at the heart of securing a freer, more secure and more fulfilled future for every citizen of all the Arab States.”