RIYADH, February 26, 2014 – Ministers, representatives from international organizations, private sector and labor union experts gathered in Saudi Arabia for a three-day event to discuss challenges and solutions related to access to the labor market, rigidity in economic structures, and enhanced social protection systems.
The Forum, “Towards Social Protection and Sustainable Development,” organized by the World Bank in partnership with the Arab Labor Organization and the Saudi Ministry of Labor, was held under the auspices of HRH King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud.
The Forum concluded with the adoption of the Riyadh Declaration, which lays 29 policy recommendations to support job creation, enhanced social protection systems and improved processes for social dialogue. The Declaration urged signatories to engage in comprehensive reforms that will build the human capital of the poorest and most vulnerable, contribute to economic growth, and boost shared prosperity across the region. Moreover, the Declaration called on Arab League countries to solve unemployment and exclusion through cooperation between governments, international and regional organizations and the private sector.
Participants included over 42 Ministers from Arab League member countries, representatives from international organizations such as the International Labor Organization, the Islamic Development Bank, and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, as well as members from the private sector and labor unions.
“The Arab region persistently ranks higher than any other region in its unemployment figures, which overwhelmingly reflects the numbers of youth and women,” said Inger Andersen, World Bank Regional Vice President for the Middle East and North Africa. “When we include inactive and unemployed individuals, joblessness is as high as 54 percent for those between the ages of 15 and 64.”
“The biggest asset available to any economy is its people and the Arab world is blessed with a young, vibrant, committed and engaged youth who want to take part in shaping the society of tomorrow through active participation in the labor market and the business world,” continued Andersen.
Some Arab League countries have taken important steps to tackle youth unemployment and extend access to social protection systems to all citizens. However, addressing unemployment and social exclusion remain a challenge.
Ahmed Luqman, Director General of the Arab Labor Organization, emphasized that, “tackling unemployment, which is important for political stability and social cohesion, requires our attention, and the need for the simultaneous review of development patterns and its various intervention options. This Forum which brings together leaders in the fields of policies, economics and social affairs, provides this opportunity and allows for an expanded circle of interventions.”
The closing ceremony concluded with a word from HE Minister Adel Faqih, who spoke on behalf of HRH King Abdullah Bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, wishing all delegates a good stay and success in the path to greater development through employment opportunities and enhanced social protection systems.