Arab nations are squandering their oil wealth and under-investing in education and scientific research, according to an influential UN report released today.
Following on from last year's unprecedented report that provoked widespread debate and controversy, the second Arab Human Development Report, written by 40 Arab intellectuals, criticizes Arab governments for losing out on the potential educational gains of their vast oil revenues by entrusting their development to foreign corporations. The high dependence on oil has lead to "the over concentration of wealth in a few hands", "faltering economic growth" and "weakened the demand for knowledge", the report says, calling for a heavy investment in education to plug the "growing knowledge gap", between Arab states and the West.
"Many children still do not have access to basic education. Higher education is characterized by decreasing enrolment, and public spending has actually declined since 1985," the report says.
The survey is the second in a planned four-part series, backed by the UN and the Arab League, that aims to outline the main development issues facing the 22 Arab states, from Morocco to Iran, Egypt to Yemen. The first UN Arab Development Report, released in June last year, received a mixed reception, with many official meetings set up to discuss its implications, but few Arab governments directly endorsing the plan.
Rima Khalaf Hunaidi, chief author of today's report said: "At the official level only a few countries accepted [last year's] report, or talked about it. Some of them felt it was not a fair representation of their own situation." But she added that more than a million people had downloaded it from the website and no other report of its type had gained as much popular recognition.
The original report identified three main failings in the Arab world that had impoverished the region - lack of freedom, education and women's empowerment.
© 2003 Independent Digital (UK) Ltd