BIC joins Arab leaders to advance sustainable development goals

12 December 2018

CAIRO — Amid growing concerns in the region about serious challenges—hunger, armed conflict, environmental degradation, human rights, and more—Arab leaders gathered in Egypt’s capital city last month to advance the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). It was the first time the Baha’i community had an official presence at a space convened by the Arab League, a regional organization of about 20 nations in North Africa and the Middle East.

The second annual Arab Sustainable Development Week, held from 19 to 22 November, focused on the Arab region’s efforts to reach the 17 targets in the global Sustainable Development Goals by the year 2030.

“The participants in this meeting took ownership of the question of sustainable development as their agenda, and there was a conscious effort to make sure all took part,” said Solomon Belay, a Baha’i International Community (BIC) representative who attended the meeting.

Dr. Belay, from the BIC Addis Ababa Office, was joined by Shahnaz Jaberi from Bahrain and Hatem El-Hady from Egypt.

“It was significant that the Baha’i community participated in such a forum where leaders of Arab states and regional spokespersons were coalescing around the critical issue of sustainable development,” explains Mr. El-Hady.

The BIC representatives noted the participants’ heightened consciousness and insights about the SDGs as they related to the specific challenges in the region. The statement, Summoning Our Common Will: A Baha’i Contribution to the United Nations Global Development Agenda, was distributed at the event.

Recognizing that the summit was a great step forward in the region, Ms. Jaberi highlighted the need to broaden the conversation: “It seems that the focus needs to go beyond technological and economic advancement. We underscored the importance of moral values and spiritual insights in our conversations throughout the event.”

The Baha’i representatives also noted that the conference strengthened relations among fellow regional actors. More than 120 diplomats, government officials, representatives of regional and international organizations, businesses, and academics attended the event. Speakers included Arab League Secretary-General Ahmed Aboul-Gheit and Egyptian Prime Minister Mostafa Madbouly, among a number of other leaders in the Arab region.