Press release

4 Jun 2024

3rd Arab Forum for Equality Tackles Escalating Inequality Amid Multiple Crises

Beirut-Cairo, 4 June 2024--The Arab region faces a daunting challenge as poverty rates continue to climb, marking it as the only region globally with such a trend. Wealth inequality has also worsened since 2020, with the richest 1% now holding 44% of the wealth.

In response to these pressing issues, the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) has launched the third Arab Forum for Equality in Cairo. Held under the patronage of Egypt’s Ministry of Social Solidarity, the event is organized in partnership with the Sawiris FoundationPathfinders for Peaceful, Just and Inclusive Societies at New York University, and the International Monetary Fund’s Middle East Regional Technical Assistance Center (METAC).

Nivine El-Kabbag, Egypt's Minister of Social Solidarity, opened the Forum by saying that the human conscience, international laws and moral obligations are challenged by the dire international and regional circumstances under which the third AFE is held. She noted that the Ministry has worked since 2014 on building an integrated responsive and inclusive social protection system for all groups in society to achieve not only sustainable development, but also an equitable development.

Themed “Addressing Inequalities in Times of Multiple Crises,” the two-day forum gathers Arab ministers, senior officials, representatives from UN agencies, regional organizations, civil society networks, and international think tanks. Participants will examine how the convergence of various crises is intensifying inequality within countries.

ESCWA Executive Secretary Rola Dashti highlighted the role of ending inequality in strengthening the social fabric, boosting economic prosperity, and moving the sustainable development forward. “Our mission is clear: we build partnerships, we inspire renewed policies and we commit ourselves to defeat all obstacles. We do not exaggerate when we say that our mission is a priority, it is time to work hard for the change we are seeking,” she stressed. 

A new report by ESCWA, the Sawiris Foundation, and Pathfinders, titled “Inequality in the Arab Region: Crisis upon Crisis,” underscores the gravity of the situation. The report notes increasing youth inequality and disparities in food access, with the number of individuals living in extreme poverty rising by 42 million between 2015 and 2023.

These report’s findings, which offer a strategic road map to address and reduce inequality in the Arab region, will inform the discussions in the forum.

Executive Director of Sawiris Foundation Noura Selim emphasized: “The Sawiris Foundation for Social Development has been driven by a commitment to humanitarian work for nearly 23 years, emerging as a key player in Egypt’s sustainable development landscape. Our unwavering goal is to evolve into a dynamic learning foundation, guided by a knowledge-centric approach and best practices in development. We prioritize evidence-based interventions that are measurable and undergo thorough evaluation to maximize our impact.”

The Forum will also discuss immediate solutions, such as emergency humanitarian aid and disaster risk responses, to mitigate the impact of crises and prevent further inequality. Additionally, policy solutions to ensure long-term sustainable development through regional and international cooperation will be explored.

A special session in the Forum launched the “Josour” initiative’s chapter in Egypt, featuring prominent Egyptian singer Abu, who supports this initiative aimed at enhancing opportunities and employability for young people since its inception in 2022.

For the agenda and more details, click here.




One of five United Nations regional commissions, ESCWA supports inclusive and sustainable economic and social development in Arab States, and works on enhancing regional integration.


For more information and to arrange interviews:

-Ms. Rania Harb, Public Information Assistant, +961-70-008879 -;

-Ms. Maryam Sleiman, Public Information Assistant, +961-81-769888 -




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