Building human capabilities: the basics—life, health, habitat

Chapters 1 and 2 set the scene for the chapters that follow, which successively discuss key aspects of building (chapters 3 and 4), using (chapters 5 and 6) and liberating human capabilities (chapter 7). This chapter discusses the basic conditions for human development in Arab countries: population size and characteristics, together with issues relating to the population’s health, and the physical environment in which people live. These factors are interrelated, and their status and evolution directly affect human welfare. Taken together, they have an important impact on issues discussed in later chapters, for example, developing a knowledge society, enhancing economic performance and reducing poverty. Key demographic features of the region include historically high but gradually declining fertility and population growth rates and an expected decline in the dependency ratio over the coming 20 years, reflecting a small rise in the percentage of the population over 65 but a very large reduction in the proportion of children (from around two fifths of the total to about one quarter). With respect to health, conditions vary widely from country to country, but a number of important areas for improvement stand out: reduction in infant, child and maternal mortality; better management of health care, including more attention to primary care, preventive care and behavioural factors that damage health; and ensuring access to care for the poor. With respect to habitat, while Arab countries vary very widely in topography and climatic conditions, a number of region-wide issues and concerns have emerged in recent years, most importantly, severe water and arable land scarcity coupled with environmental degradation, urbanization and air pollution, and coastal area pollution. The section on environment closes with a series of principles for meeting the environmental challenges the region faces and strategic guidelines for protecting the region’s habitat endorsed by the Council of Arab Ministers Responsible for the Environment.

Sustainable Development Goals:
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