UNDP calls on wealthy Arab states to help neighbors

CAIRO (Reuters) - Oil-rich Arab states should devote more money to creating jobs and boosting food security among their poorer Arab neighbors to help the region meet development goals by 2015, a U.N. report issued on Sunday said.

Though rich in labor and fertile land, much of the Arab world is plagued by malnutrition, joblessness and a big gap between rich and poor, said the report, published by the United Nations Development ProgrammeProgrammed (UNDP).

Without more help from Gulf Arab countries, nations such as Yemen, Sudan and Somalia risk missing goals set for the U.N. Millennium Campaign, which aims to halve extreme poverty and boost life expectancy by 2015, it added.

“The development paralysis experienced by LDCs (least developed countries) in the Arab region can be turned around,” the report said. “However, such a transformation requires a developmental compact between the Arab LDCs and their more fortunate brothers.”

In most Arab countries more than half of unemployed people are young, making the region’s jobless rates among young people the highest in the world, the report said.

The region needs to create 51 million new jobs by 2020 merely to keep unemployment from rising above its current levels, it added.

The two-volume report, entitled “Development Challenges for the Arab Region,” called on oil-rich Gulf Arab countries to employ more migrant workers from neighboring states such as Yemen and to invest more in sectors that create jobs throughout the region.

In spite of progress toward self-sufficiency in grain production in Sudan and Syria, malnutrition is still rampant among Arab states and has seen little improvement since 1990, the report said.

Poverty rates have not declined in the Arab world in nearly two decades, it said, adding that nearly 140 million Arabs continue to live under the upper poverty line.

Reporting by Alexander Dziadosz