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About UNDP in Saudi Arabia


Over the last four decades, Saudi Arabia has achieved and sustained a remarkable progress along the socio-economic development pathway. The progress has been a monumental socio-economic development in all respect, as it spanned all sectors of the economy. As a result of this, the Kingdom has been able to move from an underdeveloped status to a middle-income country with all the means of a promising and sustainable future. The GDP, for instance, increased from SR156 billion in 1969 to SR942 billion in 2011 and to SR2,827 billion in 2014, putting the economy among the top 20 global economies in term of size. This is an ample evidence of the economic and social progress achieved at all sectors. Based on the annual ranking of the Human Development Index (HDI) of the Human Development Report, Saudi Arabia has steady moved from the middle-income category in the 1990s to the very high-income category in 2016 at 0.837 value of HDI[1].

Likewise, the population of Saudi Arabia increased from 7 million in 1974 to 32 million in 2016. According to official statistics[2], population growth averaged 4.9% per year during the period 1974-1992, but this rate declined to 2.4% for the period 1992-2004. The 2004 national census indicates that almost two thirds of the population of Saudi Arabia live in three regions: Riyadh, Makkah and the Eastern region.  Around 80% of the overall population is estimated to reside in urban areas. This high level of urbanization poses a host of challenges to development and its sustainability. In fact, urbanization is believed to be integrally linked to the three pillars of sustainable development: economic development; social development; and environmental protection.

The Saudi Vision 2030 represents an ambitious blueprint packed with long-term goals and expectations grounded in the strengths and capabilities of the Kingdom. The vision is expressed in three themes of a vibrant society; a thriving economy and an ambitious nation. A thorough review of the three themes and their underlying issues of national concern would reveal a holistic approach to development that encompasses the three dimensions of sustainable development: the social, the economic and the environmental.

Prior to this, in September 2015, the World Leaders endorsed the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as the core of a global development agenda towards 2030. The SDGs, bundled in an integrated, and indivisible set of 17 goals, 169 targets and 205 indicators, are a global resolve to take ‘the bold and transformative steps which are urgently needed to shift the world on to a sustainable and resilient path[3]’.

Looked at from the broader perspective of sustainable development, the Saudi Vision 2030 and the SDGs are similar not only in their respective time frames, but in their multi-dimensional approach to development and the urgency to mainstreaming ambitions into the national strategies and polices as well as to respond to the call for a wide-ranging participation of the concerned communities in producing sustainable development results and in reaping their benefits. The analysis of the mapping of the Saudi Vision 2030 against the SDGs (as per attached matrix) demonstrates a handful of synergies and complementarities, a fact that justifies close cooperation between Saudi Arabia and the UN System toward the achievement of development sustainability, be it in terms of the Saudi Vision 2030 or the SDGs. In fact, these synergies and complementarities would avail the UN System of a comparative advantage in a development landscape which is congested with big players and marked by daunting demands for effectiveness, efficiency and excellence.

Saudi Arabia has expressed commitment to achieve the SDGs. It recognizes that both the SDGs and the Saudi Vision 2030 call for inclusive processes of development whereby all stakeholders get involved, not only in realization of an achievement but in sharing its benefits as well. For any meaningful engagement of all stakeholders, though, there is a need to design policies with the concept of inclusiveness in mind. That is, all aspects of inclusiveness, ranging from equity to empowerment, opportunities, participation to satisfaction should be considered.


[1] UNDP, Human Development Report, 2016.
[2] The General Authority for Statistics (http://www.stats.gov.sa/en/1478)
[3]  Transforming Our World: the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (GA Resolution adopted on 25 September 2015)

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