Overview of the Arab Knowledge Report 2009
The report paints a bleak picture of the status of knowledge in the Arab world
Gulf News Report
A bluntly expressed document, the Arab Knowledge Report 2009, published by the United Nations Development Programme and the Mohammad Bin Rashid Al Maktoum Foundation does not spare Arab states from criticism.
Carefully avoiding to name specific countries, the report paints a bleak picture of the status of knowledge in the Arab world, criticising governments for continuing to “add more forms of brain drain to the haemorrhaging of intellect from the region”, paying lip service on reforms, and “widening the gap between word and deed”.
Below are summaries of some of the report’s key findings
On human development
Slight improvement in development: In 2006, no Arab states fell under the category of low human development.
Only seven Arab states (GCC and Libya), or 15 per cent of the Arab population, fall within the high human development group.
Gulf Arab states highest achievers in Millennium Development Goals, but other Arab states will fail to achieve goals by due date 2015 .
The welfare state model is under “intense” pressure due to economic, demographic and social changes, that could threaten its survival.
Reform processes recommended by Western countries have “not produced desired results”.
Poverty in the region is increasing despite efforts to alleviate it; 18.4 per cent of Arabs live below the poverty lines of respective states; wealth is badly distributed.
Arab region one of the most dependent on imports for food security.
On war, occupation and conflict
Conflict has an “overwhelmingly disruptive influence” on knowledge society. It affects education, technology, and innovation, and lead to economic destruction, disruption to development, suppression of freedom, and restrictions on movement.
Between 2003-2007, more than 830 Iraqi academics were killed, most of them doctors, engineers, and physicists.
In 2008, 40 Palestinian students were killed and 80 wounded; 260 students, teachers, and support staff were detained (figures exclude Gaza war statistics).
More than 10 per cent of all Palestinian students have witnessed the killing of a teacher in school
Palestine nonetheless holds an advanced position in knowledge among Arab states, with an adult literacy rate of 92.4 per cent in 2006
On extremism and radicalism
“Extremism and terrorism will be abound” as long as oppression, poverty and social marginalisation remain.
Spread of poverty, social marginalisation, political frustration, repeated political defeats, and waves of westernising propaganda broadcast by the news media lead to radicalism.
“Close-minded” interpretations of religious texts led to “alarming proportions” of fatwas declaring people to be infidels
Media discourses range from radical religious to extreme consumerist and materialist exploitation of sex and dreams of fame and quick profits.
Influences of cultural heritage can result in a one-dimensional vision that rejects change, creativity, and innovation, believing in and preferring to submit to restrictions.
Some states improved in democratic reform, political participation, human rights and freedom, but “palpable retreat” in others.
Democratic opening up in past decade did not achieve desired results due to restricted freedom.
Much talk about reform since September 11, but no action.
Qatar and UAE ranked highest in combating corruption
On freedom of opinion and expression
Arab states have tightened grip on media, journalists, bloggers and intellectuals.
Arab countries lead the world in arrests of bloggers
Most knowledge dissemination outlets and media are state owned.
Arab decision makers appear to be democratic and reformist when addressing world powers, but domestic policy proves the contrary.
Continued censorship is a violation of the citizen’s right to privacy and access to information.
Arab media is under the “hegemony of Arab governments”. Concentrated media ownership serves the governments’ interests.
Predominance of shallow entertainment pieces at the expense of knowledge content.
Political discourse is characterised by loyalty to governments and praise of their achievements.
Newspapers granted licenses primarily on a political basis.