This diverse region includes some of the world's least developed countries as well as rich oil-producing nations. However, while the 22 Arab States face very different economic and development challenges, they share many political and social characteristics.
The Maghreb countries (Morocco, Tunisia, Libya and Algeria), which are well-advanced along the demographic transition, are dealing with ageing populations. Other countries are faced with rapid population growth and the challenge of providing opportunities for their young people. The prosperous Gulf Cooperation Council countries attract large flows of immigrant labour, predominantly from other countries of the region with young populations and high unemployment.
While some countries enjoy stable growth and development, others confront complex emergency, conflict and security situations that require a shift from long-term development planning to immediate emergency response and preparedness.
Religion and culture play an important role in social and political life, and pose both challenges and opportunities in terms of addressing the quality of reproductive health services, the prevention of HIV and gender-based violence, and women's empowerment. Effective programming and policy debates on high rates of fertility and maternal morbidity and mortality require culturally sensitive approaches and advocacy tools.
Lack of data makes it difficult to closely analyse the epidemiology of AIDS in the region. However, an estimated 35,000 people acquired HIV in 2007, and some 25,000 died of AIDS-related illnesses that year. Unprotected commercial sex and injecting drug use appear to be major factors in transmission of HIV.
Regional dialogue and cooperation among development partners, including faith-based organizations, aim toward the implementation of gender-sensitive social development policies that are rights-based and embedded in national poverty-alleviation frameworks.Source: Women's Need for Family Planning in Arab Countries