The Arab Spring protest movement has cost the region $614bn in lost growth since 2011, the UN says.

The estimate is the first of its kind by a major economic body.

It is equivalent to 6% of the region’s total GDP between 2011 and 2015, the UN’s Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA) says.

The uprisings, which started in Tunisia, saw leaders toppled in four countries, and led to war in Libya, Syria and Yemen.

The UN says Arab states have faced economic and social stagnation since the uprisings in 2011. The report describes social progress as “grim” and says the rights of citizens have regressed in some countries.

The data also says conflicts have worsened debt, unemployment, corruption and poverty, and exacerbated the refugee crisis.

Economic analysis was done using growth projects made before the uprisings.

It included countries not directly affected by political conflict but subject to spill-over effects from it, like refugee arrivals, lost remittances and falls in tourism.
Arab upheaval

The so-called Arab Spring started after a young, unemployed man, Mohamed Bouazizi, set fire to himself after officials stopped him from selling vegetables in central Tunisia in December 2010.

Mr Bouazizi’s action ignited a string of protests across Tunisia which led to the then president’s resignation and exile, and to the country’s first democratic elections in 2011.

Protests in Tunisia acted as a catalyst for revolts and protests in several other Arab states, including Egypt, Yemen, Syria, Bahrain, Libya, Oman, Jordan and Morocco.

Much of the protests centred on calls for more democratic freedoms and an end to corruption. But many Arab protesters were met by violence and strong government crackdowns.

Libya, Yemen and Syria, remain locked in civil wars, which have cost tens of thousands of lives, and have left these countries without a functioning central government.

In Syria, where anti-government protests spiralled into a conflict that has drawn in foreign powers, GDP and capital losses are equal to $259bn since 2011, according to ESCWA’s National Agenda for the Future of Syria.

In countries where political transitions have occurred, new governments have not made economic reforms required to address “the issues that led to unrest in the first place”, the report says.