Conversation with the UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States: “Empowerment of Women in the Arab region – advancing Women, Peace and Security (WPS) Agenda”

  • Date:
  • Time:
    14:00-15:30 (JST)
  • Location:
    HASEKO-KUMA HALL (Faculty of Engineering Bldg. 11, UTokyo)
    (There will be no online delivery.)
  • Hosts:

    Institute for Future Initiatives, The University of Tokyo

  • Cooperation:

    United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representation Office in Japan

  • Language:

    (No simultaneous interpretation will be provided.)

  • Registration:

    Advance registration is required. We will close registration once the maximum capacity (approximately 120 participants) is reached.

    *The Institute for Future Initiatives collects personal information in order to provide you with the event information about our current and future activities. Your personal information will not be disclosed to any third party.

Registration is now closed for this event.

We will invite Dr. Abdallah Al Dardari, UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States, and he will give remarks on topics including socio-economic and development situation of the Arab region from the standpoint of the United Nations agency working for development assistance on the ground , and interact with students. We especially welcome the active participation of UTokyo students.

  • Opening Remarks

    FUKUSHI Kensuke
    Director and Professor, the Institute for Future Initiatives, the University of Tokyo

  • Keynote Speech

    Dr. Abdallah Al Dardari
    UN Assistant Secretary General, UNDP Assistant Administrator and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States

  • Discussion with Students
  • Q&A session
  • Closing Remarks

    Hideko Hadzialic
    Director, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Representation Office in Japan

Call for UTokyo Student Discussants

Discussants from UTokyo students (undergraduate and graduate) are invited to apply. Any UTokyo student (undergraduate or graduate) is welcome to apply, regardless of their faculty or graduate school affiliation. If you wish to participate as a discassant, please register using the form below by 5pm on Friday, May 24.

Contact us

E-mail: ifi_undp_event[at]
(replace [at] with @)

On May 30, 2024, the Institute for Future Initiatives (IFI) hosted a lecture and conversation with Dr. Abdallah Al Dardari, United Nations Assistant Secretary General, United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Assistant Administrator and Director of the UNDP Regional Bureau for Arab States. The topic was “Empowerment of women in the Arab region—advancing women, peace and security (WPS) agenda”.

The host of the event, Prof. Kensuke Fukushi, Director of IFI, presented opening remarks. He noted that IFI shares common goals with the UNDP regarding sustainable development and success of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). This relationship builds on the mutual collaboration agreement between the UNDP and IFI towards creating opportunities for peacebuilding and development. Women play a crucial role in shaping sustainable and peaceful futures. The University of Tokyo and IFI are committed to promoting gender equality and empowering more women to contribute to just, peaceful, and inclusive societies.

These comments were followed by Dr. Dardari’s presentation, which focused on the importance of women empowerment in the Arab region and its significance to world peace. His lecture illustrated five key points.

Firstly, statistics present an important part of the story but also simplify ground realities. The Arab region scored poorly in comparison with the rest of the world in terms of lowest female labor participation. The loss of income due to labor force participation gap is almost 53 percent, costing 20 percent of the GDP.

Yet, while these statistics are related to formal economies, there is a lot of women participation (including unpaid household work) in informal economies that remains invisible and uncounted. Female education is also high, including in Occupied Palestinian Territories, which represent the highest educated population in the Arab world.

Secondly, while women empowerment is crucial, it is important to preserve cultural diversity in the world. Much needs to be done to improve conditions for women in the region (gender development index is the second worst among all regions; gender gap in the MENA region is 37.4%). Yet, in improving conditions for women, instead of following widely held conceptualizations of women empowerment, cultural diversity of peoples and regions needs to be protected and cherished.

Thirdly, economic empowerment of women is an important pathway towards peace and security. To foster competitive economies, women need to be brought into the fold of formal economies. With improved female education, it would benefit to bring qualified individuals into workforce. Economic independence would also enable women to have a say regarding the number of children for their families and contribute to overall wellbeing.

Fourthly, women are disproportionately impacted by crises. In conflicts, as men are killed, women become collateral damage (one in five women refugees and Internally Displaced Persons have experienced sexual violence; 94 percent of UN-verified cases of conflict-related sexual violence in 2022 targeted women and girls).

In fragile settings, women spend four times as much time as men on unpaid care work and require support. Their survival contributes not only to the wellbeing of their families but also communities. In Afghanistan for instance, the UNDP supported 70 thousand women entrepreneurs under Taliban rule, which contributed to service provision, social cohesion and peace within local communities. Considering emergent crises from climate change, past experiences of development illustrate the need to train and empower women.

Lastly, women need to be included in peace processes in meaningful ways. The world does not have a good track record on the issue—women constituted only 16.5% of negotiators in major peace processes between 1992 and 2023. The UN Security Council Resolution 1325, a landmark resolution adopted in year 2000, affirms the importance of women’s equal participation in conflict prevention and resolution. The Women, Peace and Security Agenda consists of 10 UN Security Council resolutions supported by several normative frameworks.

Dr. Dardari’s lecture was followed by a lively discussion led by student discussants from the University of Tokyo. Questions focused on reasons behind the persistence of the gender gap in the region, how the UNDP can empower women (via grassroots organizations or even through authoritarian governments), and the role of international and humanitarian law in addressing gaps between laws and ground realities.

In his responses, Dr. Dardari noted that social classes have become stratified in the Arab region, itself a diverse part of the world. Ongoing conflicts at multiple scales are entrenching divides within societies. Regarding development efforts, the foremost concern remains about not abandoning ordinary people even if they live under authoritarian regimes. The goal of all efforts is to contribute to long lasting peace. Respect of international law should remain paramount in all contexts, but particularly when it comes to conflicts. The ongoing conflict in Gaza is an example where international legal frameworks have been violated. Our efforts remain focused on safeguarding international standards for not only ongoing conflicts but those that may unfold in the future.

Finally, concluding remarks were presented by Ms. Hideko Hadzialic, Director of the UNDP Representation Office in Japan. She emphasized the need to increase female labor participation and include gender dimensions in conflict resolution. Without tapping the potential of 50 percent of the world’s population, it would be impossible to ensure global stability.

[Upper Column] From left, Prof. Fukushi, Dr. Dardari, Ms. Hadzialic
[Lower Column] Q&A Session with UTokyo Student Discussants
Photo: UNDP Tokyo