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Committe on Economic Policy, Labour and National Resources

Developing welfare statehood and increasing social protection in the Arab world

09-10 January 2012

Latifa Perry

With participation from across North Africa and the Middle East region, the Socialist International Committee on Economic Policy Labour and National Resources convened in Rabat on 9-10 January 2012 hosted by the Socialist Union of Popular Forces (USFP). The meeting, chaired by Christoph Zöpel (SPD, Germany), chair of the committee, focussed its discussions on welfare statehood in the Arab states with particular emphasis on the conditions necessary for social welfare and protection and how these could be realised in the Arab world.

Fathallah Oualalou, the mayor of Rabat, gave an introductory speech in which he welcomed participants to Morocco and talked of the economic situation that currently faced his country as a consequence of the global financial crisis and the Arab spring. He underlined the need for democratic and socialist forces in Europe to reinforce cooperation with the countries of the southern Mediterranean to build a profitable and dynamic partnership, as well as solidarity in the Arab world by those countries with a budget surplus towards those carrying a deficit.

Contributions were also heard from Néjib Chebbi, leader of the Progressive Democratic Party (PDP), Tunisia, Ahmad Soboh (Fatah, Palestine) and Ahmed Lafdal (RFD, Mauritania), who outlined their experiences with regard to social protection and the welfare state in their own countries. Perspectives from outside the region on the issues at the centre of the discussions were added by Bernard Soulage (PS, France, vice-chair of the committee), Paulina Lampsa (PASOK, Greece) and Heliodoro Quintero (UNT, Venezuela).

Exchanges on the second day of the meeting centred on the document, “Welfare Statehood in the Arab States – The Alternative of the Socialist International to Social Irresponsibility”, which incorporates the main conclusions of the meeting and the responses of the Socialist International to the current socio-economic situation in the Arab states, with calls for strategies based on social democratic values to build socially responsible welfare states founded upon the values of social justice, solidarity and full employment.

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