The Arabist

The Arabist

By Issandr El Amrani and friends.

New Arab Human Development Report

The latest installment in the Arab Human Development Report, Challenges to Human Security in the Arab Countries , is out. From the executive summary:

In the Arab region, human insecurity—pervasive, often intense and with consequences affecting large numbers of people—inhibits human development. It is revealed in the impacts of military occupation and armed conflict in Iraq, Sudan, Somalia and Occupied Palestinian Territory. It is found in countries that enjoy relative stability where the authoritarian state, buttressed by flawed constitutions and unjust laws, often denies citizens their rights. Human insecurity is heightened by swift climatic changes, which threaten the livelihoods, income and access to food and water of millions of Arabs in future. It is reflected in the economic vulnerability of one-fifth of the people in some Arab states, and more than half in others, whose lives are impoverished and cut short by hunger and want. Human insecurity is palpable and present in the alienation of the region’s rising cohort of unemployed youth and in the predicaments of its subordinated women, and dispossessed refugees.

A press release can be found here.

Update: Fatemah Farag in Masri al-Youm has an interview with the lead author of the report, Professor Mustafa Kamal Sayed of Cairo University, who says he has disowned the report after major changes were made without consulting him:

"They then sent me the final report and the changes were drastic. They should not have taken place without consulting me. After all the contract we signed says that the final draft is the responsibility of the lead author in consultation with UNDP. And it is the first time in the history of the report that the lead author not be consulted with regards the final draft."

At the end of the day El Sayed says he "refused the changes for scientific reasons since they undermine the quality of the report."

One such change is moving the chapter on the impact of foreign occupation in the region to human security from being the second chapter to being the last "which of course undermines the importance of this factor. Undermines the impact of Israeli occupation in Palestine and American occupation in Iraq to human security," elucidates El Sayed.

Another change was the dropping of a chapter on identity conflict in the region. "The report demonstrated that identity conflict causes damage that exceeds that of foreign occupation. The casualties of the situation in South Sudan, civil war in Lebanon and other such conflicts are very high and yet this chapter was reduced to two pages integrated into another chapter," adds El Sayed.

"Personal security, which we had slotted as the last chapter after chapters on foreign occupation, poverty and lack of health services was moved to chapter four – putting the ramifications before the reasons. Further within this chapter I had been careful to maintain balance – by highlighting for example that major Arab cities remain much safer in terms of personal security than many other major cities of the South. This balance is no longer reflected in the current report," lamented El Sayed.

He considers that such changes and omissions not only weaken the report but disregard UNDP's own analyses and concepts in defining human security.

In 2004, I had interviewed the report's previous lead author, Nader Fergany, about the pressure he came under from Israel and the US. If you remember, Bush had delayed the publication of the report because of its criticism of the Israeli occupation of Palestine and US occupation of Iraq.