The Millennium Development Goals Report for the Arab Region, released on Wednesday, also suggested Arab rulers should allow a decentralisation of power.
“Although it might be off track today, the [Arab] region can recover the lost ground by pursuing the right initiatives – national, regional and international,” a summary of the document said.
The study examined eight goals which UN countries pledged to achieve in the first 15 years of the millennium, including halving poverty and hunger, giving all children primary education, fighting disease and promoting gender equality.
To achieve the targets, the region needed “national and regional stability, democratisation and decentralisation, and peace and security” it said.
Arab states needed to manage their resources better, including limited water supplies.
Governments also needed to address gaps between rural and urban development.
Additionally, the report states women should play a bigger role in development and decisions.
“Throughout the 1990s there was little or no reduction in the proportion of undernourished people,” the summary said, adding that it was unlikely the region would halve the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by 2015.
Women and education
“Although it might be off track today, the [Arab] region can recover the lost ground by pursuing the right initiatives – national, regional and international”
Statistics show the region is unlikely to be able to give all children a primary school education.
However, there were individual success stories, such as in Jordan – where some 90% of children attended primary school.
Although more girls and women were entering primary and secondary education, there were still too few women in universities.
“There are only seven female university students for every ten male students,” it said.
But efforts to raise literacy among younger generations meant the region was on target to achieve its goal of promoting gender equality – some countries were seriously lagging in this respect, particularly Iraq, Syria and Yemen.
Arab countries also lacked data on HIV/AIDS and sexually transmitted diseases, the summary said.
Awareness campaigns and measures to detect and treat illness were needed.
Another UN report released in October, the Arab Human Development Report 2003, said the US-led “War on Terror” had given autocratic Arab rulers an excuse to curb political freedoms in their respective countries.