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Event series on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

From October 15, 2020 until June 30, 20217:00 p.m.
Casa Árabe Auditorium (at Calle Alcalá, 62). 7:00 p.m. Free entry until the event’s capacity is reached.

Casa Árabe is preparing a new series of conferences, this time about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), during the second half of 2020 and first half of 2021.

Of the seventeen SDGs established by the UN, six have been identified as particularly affecting the region of our interest:

- On October 8, we will be discussing the Environment (Goal 13) and how instability in our surrounding world can put sustainability at risk.

- After this, on October 22, we will be taking a closer look at the topic of Health (Goal 3), and more specifically at a factor which has seldom been discussed, that of Mental Health, and its impact on development in Arab societies, above all in conflict areas.

- On November 4, we will be discussing Employment and Youth (Goal 8), because youth unemployment in the Arab countries in the Mediterranean remains among the highest in the world.

- Starting in 2021, we will be analyzing Education (Goal 4), Gender (Goal 5) and Poverty (Goal 1), areas in which this region also lags significantly behind others in the world.
Event series on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
  • The challenges of environmental stress on Arab countries

    October 15, 202011:00 a.m.
    Casa Árabe’s YouTube channel 11:00 a.m.
    We are now officially opening our series of conferences on Sustainable Development Goals with this session devoted to Goal 13 (Environment), to be held on October 15. 
    At present, the Middle East and North Africa region is facing a wide range of environmental tensions which include water shortages, the depletion of arable land, air pollution, improper waste management, a decrease in biodiversity, fewer marine resources and the degradation of coastal ecosystems. In 2013, the UN International Panel on Climate Change pointed out that it is one of the regions most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and the environmental stress expected to occur on a widespread basis due to rising temperatures and sea levels, as well as a rise in the variability of rainfall and population growth, particularly in cities. The repercussions of these climate risks in terms of food and water security, and the resulting conflicts, are raring their heads in an increasingly noticeable way.

    It is within this context that Casa Árabe has invited two guests who are highly knowledgeable about these challenges and some of the paths towards mitigating such an alarming situation. Julia Choucair, a researcher with the Real Instituto Elcano, and Mar Hidalgo, an analyst at the Spanish Institute of Strategic Studies, will be discussing this subject with Karim Hauser, Casa Árabe’s International Relations Coordinator.
  • Mental Health in the Arab Countries

    October 22, 202011:00 a.m.
    Casa Árabe’s Twitter and YouTube channels. 11:00 a.m.
    In English, without translation.
    On Thursday, October 22, we held a round table discussion to talk about Sustainable Development Goal 3: ensuring healthy living and promoting well-being at all ages. We focused on mental health, a topic that is still not sufficiently dealt with. You can watch the event through our channels on Twitter and YouTube.
    Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, progress had been made in improving the health of millions of people. However, as health systems attempt to deal with this unprecedented crisis, the truth is that one underserved area continues to be that of mental health.

    The Arab Youth Survey of 2019, published by Dubai-based communications firm Asda’a BCW, showed that psychological disorders are a widespread concern among youths in the Middle East and North Africa. Half of the those responding in 15 Arab countries, including men and women between the ages of 18 and 24, said that there is still a major stigma towards people seeking care.

    The region suffers from very high rates of depression, anxiety disorders, PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder) and suicide. Furthermore, there is a lack of awareness about mental health, only limited care services and a stigmatization which makes the situation even worse.

    To determine the impact of mental health on development in Arab societies, especially in conflict areas, Casa Árabe will be speaking with Sally Toma, an Egyptian psychiatrist; Yasser Abu Jamei, executive director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program, and Ana Marqués, a role-model in the field of Mental Health at Doctors Without Borders.

    At present, the world is facing a profound global health crisis: COVID-19 is spreading human suffering, thus destabilizing the global economy and dramatically changing the lives of billions of people around the world.

    Yasser Abu Jamei is the executive director of the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. He has developed a special interest in neuropsychiatry, child and adolescent psychiatry, and advocacy and policy change for the Gaza Community Mental Health Program. Founded by Dr. Eyad Serraj in 1990, it is the leading Palestinian non-governmental organization to provide mental health services to the people of the Gaza Strip. The Gaza Community Mental Health Program is committed to helping women, children and the victims of violence, torture and human rights violations.

    Sally Toma is a British-Egyptian psychiatrist who graduated from the University of Cairo in 2001 and earned a Master’s degree in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (for complex disorders) in the United Kingdom. Since she returned to Egypt, she has focused her work on survivors of state torture and the rights of Egyptians to transitional justice and reparations. She has led the Doctors of the World Mission as a medical coordinator and has trained many medical staff members from both the Ministry of Health and various national and international NGOs about psycho-social interventions within the community. She remains a consultant for several national and international NGOs working with refugees, sexual and gender-based violence victims and other at-risk populations

    Ana Marqués is the technical staff leader for Mental Health at Doctors Without Borders, for East Africa, Asia and the Middle East. A Portuguese psychologist educated to become a Family and Systemic Therapist, with a Master’s degree in Palliative Care and a graduate degree in Positive Psychology, Ms. Marqués previously worked for the Portuguese government in the field of social welfare. She joined Doctors Without Borders in 2015, and ever since then she has held in-field and coordination positions in several countries, always in the Middle East, and more specifically in Iraq, Jordan, Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Turkey, as well as working with Middle Eastern populations in Greece. She is currently based in Amman.
  • Decent Work and Economic Inclusion of Youth in the Arab World

    November 04, 20207:00 p.m.
    Casa Árabe’s YouTube channel. 7:00 p.m.
    In English and Spanish.
    On November 4, this online conference about the job situation and youths in Arab countries is being given by Alejandra Ortega Fuentes (CC.OO.) and Jad Chaaban (AUB). You can watch it on our Youtube channel as part of our event series on SDGs.
    Decent work and sustainable economic growth are Sustainable Development Goal Number 8 of the United Nations Agenda 2030. This is a vital issue in achieving an understanding of the socioeconomic and political changes throughout the Arab countries in recent years and, as such, it will be the focus of the third session in the event series devoted to SDGs in the Arab world organized by Casa Árabe this year.

    The Arab world is the region in the world with the highest rate of youth unemployment. The percentage of unemployed young people has reached nearly 30% (29.7%) and is also considerably higher for young women (47%), whereas the world average figures are approximately 14% and 16%, respectively, according to UNDP data. This is not simply due to demographic issues (other regions with a similar level of development also have proportionally very large youth populations without reaching such high unemployment figures), but also to the convergence of a series of structural problems of an economic and political nature that are difficult to solve. This crossroads is now compounded by the economic crisis caused by the pandemic, with very negative consequences for some economic sectors that provide jobs and resources in these countries, including tourism, hydrocarbons and industry.

    To analyze the issue, we will be contacting two international experts in the field: Alejandra Ortega Fuentes, with a PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) and responsible for Arab countries, Africa and Asia and the International Labour Organization (ILO) at the International and Cooperation  Secretariat of the Comisiones Obreras Labor Union (CCOO), and Jad Chaaban, a professor of economics at the American University of Beirut (AUB) and one of the authors of the latest UNDP Arab Human Development Report (Youth and the Future of Human Development in a Changing Reality, 2016). The session will be moderated by Olivia Orozco de la Torre, coordinator of Training and Economics at Casa Árabe.

    In addition to the problem of youth unemployment, they will be discussing the employment situation, the conditions for decent work, and labor and trade union rights in the Arab world, as well as the new risks and problems brought about by Covid-19, as well as other factors related with the economic participation of young people in the region’s societies.

    You can watch the conference live on Wednesday, May 20 starting at 7:00 p.m. on our Youtube channel.  #debatescasaarabe

    Alejandra Ortega Fuentes has been responsible for Arab countries, Africa and Asia and the International Labor Organization (ILO) within the International and Cooperation Secretariat of the Comisiones Obreras Labor Union (CCOO) since 2006. She earned her PhD in Arab and Islamic Studies from the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid (UAM) and a Master’s degree in Immigration and Social Intervention (2004) from the Universidad Pontificia de Comillas. Her doctoral thesis is a study of trade union history in Arab countries, with a comparative analysis of the trade union models in Tunisia and Egypt. She has just published For Decent Work in Africa: The role of labor union organisations on the centennial of the ILO (Catarata, 2020), which was awarded with the eleventh Casa África Essay Prize.

    Jad Chaaban is an Associate Professor of Economics at the American University of Beirut (AUB). He was formerly a visiting professor and researcher at the Toulouse School of Economics, the London School of Economics and the World Bank. He is a founding member of the Lebanese Economic Association and a former member of the Advisory Board of the UNDP Global Human Development Report, as well as one of the authors of the Arab Human Development Report 2016:  Youth and the Future of Human Development in a Changing Reality. He has had many articles and essays published on a wide and varied range of topics from public health economics, education and labor policy to agricultural and environmental economics, as well as youth and development, integration and creating employment in the Arab world.
  • SDG 5: Gender equality in the Middle East and North Africa

    May 19, 20216:00 p.m.
    Casa Árabe’s YouTube and Facebook Live channel. 6:00 p.m.
    In English, with no translation.
    As part of the series of conferences on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) organized by Casa Árabe, on the upcoming date of May 19 we will be analyzing Goal 5, which seeks gender equality and the empowerment of women. The debate will be broadcast live for all audiences on our YouTube and Facebook Live channels.
    Written in terms of “Achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls,” SDG5 is one of the most important for the Middle East and North Africa. The reason is that, according to the World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report (2021), the region has the largest gender gap in the world (at around 40%), and ten of its countries rank among the bottom 15 on the list.

    Despite undeniable advancements attained in recent decades, it is impossible to speak of a homogeneous situation either between or within countries. Furthermore, the coexistence of certain factors at the present time cast doubt on these outcomes and highlights their fragility. In particular, the region is suffering from widespread public discontent, the rise of ultra-conservative movements, the spread of armed conflicts and, for more than a year now, COVID-19. All of these circumstances have raised the risks for women, who are more exposed than ever to violence, disease, premature wedlock and, on the whole, to their definitive relegation to the status of second-class citizens. What other challenges will be faced by those who strive for the effective, robust implementation of SDG5?

    At this event, we will be joined by three speakers who discuss gender issues in the Middle East and North Africa region: Lina Abirafeh, an expert on the prevention of and responses to gender violence in humanitarian and emergency contexts, Sama’a Al-Hamdani founder and executive director of the Yemen Cultural Institute for Heritage & Arts, and Asma Khalifa, an activist and researcher in the field of human rights, women and youth empowerment. The session will be moderated by Olivia Orozco, Casa Árabe’s Economics and Training Coordinator.

    Lina Abirafeh is the Executive Director of the Arab Institute for Women (AiW) at the Lebanese American University (LAU). Lina completed her PhD at the London School of Economics (LSE) and, on the basis of her research, published “Gender and International Aid in Afghanistan: The Politics and Effects of Intervention.” Abirafeh is a board member at several organizations (SheDecides, Forced Migration Review, Society of Gender Professionals and Greenpeace MENA, as well as others). In 2018, she was one of two Arab women included on the list “Gender Equality Top 100: The Most Influential People in Global Policy,” on which she was named again in 2019. She has recently focused her work on the need for a feminist response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on Arab women and girls.

    Asma Khalifa is a Libyan activist and researcher devoted to creating a structure for civil society and peace building in her country. As a non-Arab, Amazigh Libyan who grew up under Colonel Gaddafi’s rule, she witnessed the negative impact of discrimination and violence against women. In 2016, she was awarded with the Luxembourg Peace Prize and a year later was named one of the “100 Most Influential Young Africans” at the Africa Youth Awards. Khalifa is also a co-founder of the Tamazight Women’s Movement, a group for thought and action which works on gender equality and research about indigenous women in Libya and North Africa.

    Sama’a Al-Hamdani is the founder and executive director of the Yemen Cultural Institute for Heritage & Arts. As an art curator, she has been concerned with recovering the unique art forms and heritage of Yemen. In August 2019, she took part in a pilot program involving women in conflict (Women in Conflict 1325 Fellowship), which focused on “The Arts as a Tool for Peacebuilding.” At present, she is a non-resident analyst at the Middle East Institute (MEI), whose main work deals with Yemen’s political dynamics. Prior to joining MEI, she was a visiting researcher at Georgetown University’s Center for Contemporary Arab Studies (CCAS), specializing in Transitional Justice, and a researcher at the Yemen-headquartered Sana’a Center for Strategic Studies (SCSS). She has had articles published by Arab world and Western media and groups of experts, including Al-Monitor, the Lawfare blog, Brookings Institution, The National (UAE), MENAsource (Atlantic Council Blog), Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, Fikra Forum, The Middle East Institute Journal, Yemen Observer and the Yemen Times, as well as others.
  • SDG 1: How to fight poverty in Arab countries

    June 17, 20216:00 p.m.
    Casa Árabe’s channels on YouTube and Facebook Live. 6:00 p.m.
    In English, with no translation.
    As part of the conference series on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) organized by Casa Árabe, we will be analyzing Goal 1 on poverty on June 17.  The debate will be broadcast live for all audiences on our YouTube and Facebook Live channels.
    Worded in terms of “Ending poverty in all its forms everywhere,” SDG1 is a crucial issue for the Middle East and North Africa region. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), around 40.2 million people suffer from hunger in this region, mainly as a result of conflict.

    The situation is acute in countries that have endured wars, including Syria and Yemen, to which one may add Iraq, Sudan and Libya, where, according to FAO, 28 million people are malnourished. The problem of food insecurity is compounded by the high rates of unemployment affecting the youngest population. World Bank data indicate an average unemployment rate of 22% for males and 39% for females, with alarming cases such as Tunisia, where unemployment affects 40% of the youth population. Huge income inequality is another factor contributing to stagnation.

    Against this backdrop, what strategies can be adopted to alleviate poverty in the region? In a context as complex as today’s, with a global pandemic that limits collective action, what mechanisms can be put into practice?

    To address these issues, Casa Arabe will be joined by three specialists from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) based in Beirut: Khalid Abu-Ismail, head of the Economic Development and Poverty Section; Vladimir Hlasny, Economic Affairs Officer, and Sama El Hage, main researcher. The panel will be rounded off with Ziad Abdel Samad, executive director of the Arab NGO Network for Development. The event will be moderated by Karim Hauser, Casa Árabe’s International Relations Coordinator.

    Ziad Abdel Samad is a co-founder and executive director of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND), based in Beirut since 1997. ANND’s members include 35 NGOs and 10 national networks from 12 Arab countries active in monitoring and protecting social and economic rights. He also serves as an instructor in leadership, human rights, citizenship and conflict resolution at the Lebanese American University.  

    Khalid Abu-Ismail is a senior economist at UN-ESCWA, a policy advisor to the Economic Research Forum and a former policy advisor to the UNDP, as well as a faculty member with the Department of Economics at the Lebanese American University. He is the main author and a co-author of over 20 emblematic UN publications, including the “Arab Vision 2030 Report” (2015), the “Arab Development Challenges Reports” (2009 and 2012), “Arab Middle Class” (2014) and “Rethinking Economic Growth” (2012). He holds a PhD in Development Economics from the New School for Social Research in New York.

    Sama el Hage is a senior researcher at ESCWA, where she constructed the JAW Index, which measures justice in the Arab world for 18 countries. She is also responsible for calculating different levels of the Multidimensional Poverty Index (MPI) for Arab countries and develops the regional database for national strategic plans.

    Vladimir Hlasny is an Economic Affairs Officer at ESCWA-UN (Beirut), working on the research team for poverty and inequality. Previously, he was an Associate Professor of Economics at Ewha Womans University (Seoul). His work focuses on labor market conditions and the distribution of economic profits in Asia and the Middle East. His research has been published in general interest magazines, such as the Journal of Economic Surveys, World Bank Economic Review, Development and Change and Social Science Quarterly. He holds a PhD in Economics from Michigan State University.