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Social Development

The Middle East and North Africa cannot miss the Fourth Industrial Revolution

Ferid Belhaj's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية

The traditional route of industrialization for developing countries may no longer be available for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This should not be a source of regret, as the aspirations of the region’s young and well-educated population extend far beyond auto assembly lines. Furthermore, the repetitive work of an assembly line will increasingly be performed by machines rather than people. The rapid pace of technological change that is propelling this process, dubbed the "Fourth Industrial Revolution," offers new opportunities for developing countries. Opportunities the MENA region cannot afford to miss. 

Invest in women to boost growth in MENA

Lili Mottaghi's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français

Only one in five working-age women in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has a job or is actively looking for one. Currently, women make up only 21% of the labor force and only contribute 18% to MENA’s overall GDP. Had the gender gap in labor force participation been narrowed over the past decade, the GDP growth rate in MENA could have doubled or increased by about US$1 trillion in cumulative output. Instead, the current gender gap in the traditional labor market has extended to the rest of the economy, including the technology sector, impacting women’s access to, and use of, digital services. Women are 9% less likely to own a mobile phone and 21% less likely than men to use mobile internet. 

Changing the lives of Egyptian people left behind for a long time: Taha’s Story

Amal Faltas's picture
Also available in: العربية

"It was the first time we talked while the officials listened. Not as in the past, when they used to talk and we just listened."

With this simple statement, Taha Al-Leithi, a young Egyptian man from the village of Rawafei al-Qusayr in Sohag in Upper Egypt, described the fundamental change introduced by the local development forums to citizens’ participation in the development process in Sohag, and the relationship between government officials and citizens. 

Al-Leithi and his peers have never participated in any development decision concerning their village or its markaz (center). They had never been invited to develop or even discuss the annual investment plan for the markaz or governorate. Taha says he, like other young people in the village, had believed that planning and selecting projects were tasks done in closed rooms, and that the central government in Cairo alone decided the needs of villages and towns in Sohag governorate, 500 kilometers south of the capital. 

Addressing uncertainty in conflict-affected environments: Lessons from Yemen

Philipp Petermann's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français
 UNOPS.

“Uncertainty is the only certainty there is.” This quote is attributed to the mathematician Jean Allen Paulos but could also capture the feeling of development practitioners trying to find ways to effectively support people and institutions in countries affected by fragility, conflict and violence (FCV).

Forcibly Displaced: How MENA Can Reverse its Human Capital Depreciation

Lili Mottaghi's picture
Also available in: العربية | Français


The countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) endure a paradox. They have a highly educated labor force but a large pool of unemployed youth. Whether this contradiction results from uncoordinated economic and educational policies, skill mismatch, low productivity of labor, or anemic demand due to lack of a robust private sector, the ensuing lengthy unemployment and skill depreciation have resulted in disproportionate human capital erosion across the MENA region. MENA countries’ rankings in improving their human capital formation have fallen, acc ording to the human capital index (produced by the World Economic Forum) and in 2017, were among the lowest in the world, close to South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Fiscal Transparency in the Arab World: Where is the money going?

Renaud Seligmann's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية


Continuing the dialogue and peer-to-peer exchange on the benefits and challenges to fiscal transparency is essential to sustaining the momentum for reform. The time for action is now — the Arab world has a chance to go from lagging to leading on fiscal transparency.

From marginalization to inclusion: The story of the waste pickers in the West Bank

Amal Faltas's picture

About a decade ago, we started a project to improve solid waste management for waste pickers like Ibrahim and the 840,000 people in the southern West Bank governorates of Bethlehem and Hebron. One of the project components included the closure of the Yatta dumpsite, where illegally dumped and burned household waste was reaching a very unsanitary and hazardous level. 

But here came the challenge. 

While the closure of the dumpsite would mean putting an end to a serious environmental and public health problem, it was terrible news for the waste pickers and their families. It meant that the livelihoods of those families would come to an end. 

Youth volunteers in Yemen provide hope during conflict

Khalid Moheyddeen's picture
Also available in: العربية


Even before the protractive conflict, implementing development projects in some of the most remote and disadvantaged districts in a number of Yemeni governorates faced significant challenges. To address these challenges, and overcome some of the problems related to access to these remote areas, Yemen’s Social Fund for Development (SFD) devised a program in 2004 to attract youth interested in volunteering to promote development. In its first phase, this program — known as “Rural Advocates Working for Development (RAWFD)” — targeted a number of male and female students from these remote areas and provided them with a development-related program while they are attending universities in major cities. After graduation, these young graduates made a big difference in facilitating SFD operations and activities of other national and international organizations in their home areas. 

Walking in the Footsteps of History – Towards the Social Fund for Development in Iraq

Ghassan Alkhoja's picture
Also available in: العربية


It had rained a couple of days ago. Our footsteps almost float on soil that feels soft, almost spongy. We see footprints of wolves that roam the lands at night. The sun is low in the sky, and a slight breeze wafts all around us. There is serenity in the air, as if history itself is imprinted in the consciousness of this land. This is Uruk, some 300 kilometers south of Baghdad, and some 7,000 years from the start of civilization. 

Last year in May, I authored a blog about the Iraq Social Fund for Development (SFD) project. I wrote about Iraq’s glorious history, its abundant natural resources, its profound cultural heritage, and its vast human capital. I wrote about the cradle of civilization and the great rivers, embodied by the city of Uruk, one of the earliest urban centers in civilization, which many believe lent its name to modern day “Iraq”. I also wrote of the deep challenges that are facing the people of Iraq. Successive years of conflict, violence and displacement have significantly eroded or destroyed much of what the people of this land have built. Today, I write about the promise of history, the optimism of the present, and the potential for a more promising future. 

Public-Private Partnerships: Promoting gender equity and preventing gender-based violence in Egypt

Laila El-Zeini's picture
Also available in: العربية


Although employment is usually seen as a resource for women’s empowerment, it does not automatically translate into better status and lower rates of violence for women. In fact, in some settings, if gendered norms that support men’s violence against women are not addressed, the economic empowerment of women can inadvertently propagate gender-based violence (GBV). For example, when work is a major defining factor of masculinity, working women may face a greater risk of domestic violence.
 

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