SEATTLE — It’s easy to believe that the Middle East is flourishing and exotic—tall skyscrapers, the finest shopping retailers and wild animals riding shotgun in a Lamborghini. Yet with so much oil trade throughout the region, poverty in the Middle East is rising at unprecedented levels.
One of the major reasons for such poverty in the Middle East is the direct result of military intervention in the region over the course of the last 15 years. Imperial, civil and sectarian wars have led to millions of people fleeing their native lands searching for protection and stability.
Poverty in the Middle East is very complex and cannot be defined with a single brush of a pen. Every nation has its own unique cultures and tribes. Similarly, every major crisis, from the Syrian refugees to the medical crisis in Yemen, are unique and require custom-tailored solutions.
But even though the region is vast, and possesses many distinct cultures and lifestyles, it is still intricately connected and events in one area affect the entire region.
According to the World Bank, currently there are more than 345 million people in the Middle East. Countries currently experiencing civil conflicts such as Iraq and Syria have more than 10 million displaced people.
Twenty-one percent of the Iraqi population is currently living on less than $2 a day. In Yemen, that number is more than 37 percent. The list goes on from Syria to the West Bank. And the numbers are increasing.
Over the course of the last 15 years, millions of people have died or fled their homes only to land in overcrowded refugee camps, illegally land in Europe or worse, drown in the Mediterranean Sea. The crisis is only escalating with more and more people becoming displayed daily.
This situation has made it very difficult for many countries and populations to successfully build an economy. Children are growing up in refugee camps without adequate education and skills. Daughters are having to be wed off at young ages for fear of sex trafficking and economic burden.
In September of 2015, the United Nations Member States will meet to formally adopt the outcome of a document agreed on August 2, 2015. More than 150 world leaders are expected to attend the Sustainable Development Summit at the U.N. Headquarters in New York to complete an agreement to end poverty and create sustainability.
While the Millennium Goals aimed at an array of issues that included hunger, disease, gender inequality and access to water and sanitation, the new goals and targets aim at tackling key systemic barriers to sustainable development, such as inequality, unsustainable consumption and production patterns, inadequate infrastructure and lack of decent jobs.
Unfortunately, many ravaged countries in the Middle East that are experiencing extreme poverty have had all their initial structures destroyed and will have to rebuild from the bottom up. The goals must make sure to address specific nation’s needs, such as Yemen’s lack of medical supplies or Syria’s lack of security and education in refugee camps.
Broad strokes of a brush will not be applicable to the entire poverty-stricken world in the same color. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said in his concluding remarks, “We are resolved to free the human race within this generation from the tyranny of poverty and want and to heal and secure our planet for the present and for future generations.”