Testimony by Michael Kozak, Acting Assistant Secretary Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Bureau Department of State

At a hearing entitled: “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act Oversight, Part 1 -- Oppressors vs. Reformers in the Middle East and Central Asia”

Before the Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia House International Relations Committee

May 4, 2005

Madame Chairwoman and Members of the Subcommittee, thank you for holding this hearing to focus on the status of democracy and human rights in the Middle East and Central Asia. This hearing provides an excellent opportunity for us to affirm our conviction that the people of these regions stand ready to benefit from democracy and liberty, and to acknowledge our support to those who aspire to build democratic institutions of their own. It is not only our moral obligation to promote democracy and respect for human rights around the world, it is a national security
imperative. The National Security Strategy of the United States lists eight demands of human dignity: the rule of law, limits on the absolute power of the state, freedom of speech and freedom of worship, equal justice, respect for women, religious and ethnic tolerance and respect for private property. We know that regimes that violate the human rights of their own citizens are
more likely to disrupt peace and security in their region and to create a reservoir of ill will that can accrue to the detriment of the United States. The best guarantor of security and prosperity at home and abroad is respect for individual liberty and protection of human rights through democratic governance and the rule of law.

The past year has seen a dramatic shift in the world’s landscape. Elections in Afghanistan, Palestinian Authority and Iraq, and the “Orange Revolution” in Ukraine have brought the dramatic first steps of democracy to populations that have lived under tyranny and oppression for too long. Today, more than fifty million people who lived under brutal regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq are on the road to democracy, and Iraq has taken the first steps in becoming a modern democratic nation in the Arab Middle East.

As Secretary Rice said, “We recognize that each country has a unique history and traditions that will shape its quest for freedom. Whatever the path or pace, however, the U.S. is prepared to stand with those who seek freedom for themselves and their follow citizens.”

In two critical but very distinct regions – Central Asia and the greater Middle East -- we see a slow but rising tide of democracy. The democratic reformer in these lands no longer struggles in isolation to bring freedom and respect for human rights to his homeland. Faced with the broken promises of repressive regimes, seeing and hearing uncensored news for the first time through satellite television and Internet access, many have joined that call for freedom. There is a growing demand for open, fair and competitive elections, for the representative government and impartial justice ordinary citizens in these countries deserve but have long been denied. Some governments in these regions – responding both to internal pressures for change and the links between representative democracy and sustained economic resilience and prosperity – have taken early steps toward reforms to develop and strengthen key institutions and to develop a culture of democracy and rule of law. Regrettably, other governments fail to understand that democracy is a necessary component for both long-term stability and prosperity. Those governments resist change, demonstrating that substantial challenges remain before us.

Democratization in Eurasia faces many challenges. Progress continues to be measured largely in terms of civil society development; political reform remains stalled – and some states are in fact backsliding. Across Central Asia, more and more NGOs, opposition parties and citizens are willing to organize and advocate for government accountability. Unfortunately, the response by most governments has not been to be more accountable and transparent; some governments have instead increased repression of civil society groups.

Opposition political parties across the region remain stymied in their attempts to fulfill the role of an alternative voice to government, so necessary for political pluralism. All political parties are banned in Turkmenistan, except for the party of the self-declared President-for-Life.
In Uzbekistan, opposition parties courageously continue to meet despite government harassment. They have repeatedly submitted their applications for registration, only to be denied each time. In December’s parliamentary elections, no opposition candidates were permitted to run. The regime continues its attempts to restrict training in democratic political skills to the government-approved parties alone. In last year’s Country Report on Human Rights Practices we noted positive steps to improve political participation taken by the Government of Kazakhstan in registering the opposition party Democratic Choice. Unfortunately that progress was negated this year when a court ruling banned the party, raising questions about due process. In another mixed signal, the Government of Kazakhstan did transfer a leading opposition leader – convicted in a trial that also lacked due process—to minimum security facilities as part of the first step toward parole. However, authorities reportedly tried to convince him to discontinue his political activities in exchange for release, and threatened to impose new criminal charges. In Tajikistan, the Government continued to deny the registration of two opposition political parties amid allegations that authorities made politically motivated arrests. February’s parliamentary elections failed to meet international standards and serious irregularities were observed by the OSCE.

Independent media, another key component for a democratic society, remains equally challenged. While on paper, the constitution of every Central Asian republic provides for freedom of speech and of the press, governments in the region used a variety of means, including criminal and administrative charges, physical attacks, and vandalism to control the media. Judicial actions against journalists and media outlets, including civil and criminal libel suits filed by government officials, contributed to selfcensorship and an otherwise chilling environment.

But these efforts to deny people their freedom have not always succeeded. Our hopes are high for Kyrgyzstan: the democratic breakthrough that occurred after February’s flawed parliamentary elections has given the people of Kyrgyzstan a new opportunity to join the community of democratic societies. U.S. programming in Kyrgyzstan, including support for the region’s only independent printing press, enabled the people of Kyrgyzstan to make their voices be heard and contributed to a vibrant civil society that demanded accountability for flawed election races. Zamira Sydykova, a leading opposition journalist, recently testified to that fact
before the Helsinki Commission. In her words, U.S. support and programs “spurred on ordinary citizens to realize their role in the elections” and “imparted confidence to the [Kyrgyz] independent mass media.” Now, the United States is working closely with the OSCE, the new Government of Kyrgyzstan and the Kyrgyz civil society to ensure that the July presidential
election is open and transparent and to urge that democratic reform be enshrined in Kyrgyz institutions such as the constitution, parliament, and judiciary. Likewise, the events last year in Ukraine show that media intimidation, attacks on opposition leaders, and outright vote fraud do not assure the continuity of the regime in power.

Not surprisingly, the recent striking examples of successful and peaceful democratic change have given rise to one of the greatest challenges we currently face in the region. Some government officials in Central Asia and elsewhere are drawing the wrong lessons from Georgia, Ukraine and Kyrgyzstan. Instead of recognizing that governments can be threatened because of bad elections and lack of accountability to the people, these officials are seeing some USG-supported NGOs as working to undermine their governments rather than working to strengthen civil society – and a result, strengthening these nations. We are concerned whenever we hear reports of harassment of local NGOs, including our own implementing partners, who are being harassed through bureaucratic obstacles and specious legal means. U.S.-funded NGOs have been threatened with expulsion; denied visas; and confronted by hostile prosecutorial
investigations. In all of these cases, we have objected strenuously to this kind of treatment for NGOs.

We must not, however, allow these tactics to dampen our support for indigenous and peaceful reform; indeed, we must redouble our efforts and support for organizations receiving U.S. funding. These NGOs are at the frontline of implementing our committed policy to promote democracy and human rights. We will continue to fund programs designed to strengthen political parties, independent media, advocacy civil society groups, human rights defenders and rule of law. The success of the peaceful revolts against efforts to deprive people of their democratic rights in Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan demonstrate the power of ordinary people armed with knowledge of their basic democratic rights.

Increased Sunni-Shi’a dialogue and inclusion of marginalized religious and ethnic groups in a national political process are critical to ensuring long term stability in the Middle East. Governments in the Middle East must provide more than lip service to the principle of religious tolerance, discarding tired excuses for repression in the name of stability or security. The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia in particular must end the export of religious literature that promotes extremist views and violence, move to rapidly reform curricula that now promote bigotry and intolerance, and allow greater latitude for non-Muslims to practice their faith.

Growing regional access to independent and balanced media, whether through satellite television or the expanding Internet, can and does play a vital role in bringing democracy to these lands. Citizens once blinded by censorship now watch the brilliant cedar flags of Lebanon wave amid cheering crowds, marvel at the courage and determination of Iraqi men and women willing to lay down their lives for a chance at deciding their own future, see peaceful elections in Palestinian territories long hostage to violence and hatred. After decades in which their leaders dismissed freedom as a luxury Western import -- somehow incompatible with Muslim culture or the Arab character -- they see democracy rising. They see and wonder, why not here? Why not us?

But even progressive governments, those publicly committed to democratization such as Bahrain or Jordan or Yemen, are reluctant to fully relinquish their old barriers to freedom of expression, to tolerate open dissent or criticism of leaders or open their books to public scrutiny. Too many regimes cling to antiquated press and defamation laws that stifle the growth of a free and balanced press, protect institutionalized corruption, and allow the intimidation and arrest of journalists such as Yemeni editor AlKhawani or the Kuwaiti columnist Ahmed Al-Baghdadi. Egypt’s longstanding Emergency Law and laws governing NGOs, political parties, and libel penalties severely limit the freedom of expression and assembly that opposition parties, civil society and the press need to play their proper role in a democracy. Moreover, criminal cases against people such as opposition politician Ayman Nour have appeared designed to intimidate independent voices. We are pressing Egypt to make good on President Mubarak’s recent pledge to hold open, transparent, and competitive presidential elections, and to take its natural role as a leader in regional democratization.

The greatest internal commitment to democratization can be daunted by the immensity of the task of building a firm foundation for a democratic society. This foundation, a framework for consolidated democracy, must include a fair and efficient judicial system; security forces that protect both the State and its citizens; an active civil society that builds and sustains oversight and accountability of its governmental institutions; democratic political parties that represent the long-term interests of an engaged citizenry and foster broad participation and dialogue; and the keystone of a free press and freedom of expression. Like the United States, these governments must balance the demands of security in an increasingly dangerous world without eroding or ignoring institutional protections for human rights and civil liberties. We have especially reminded our strategic partners in Central Asia of this need if they are to ensure long-term stability and prosperity.

It is the people of these nations – both in the Middle East and in Central Asia -- who will raise their own flags of peaceful revolution in the years to come, who will slowly and carefully build their own distinct democracies. It is their governments that must respond to legitimate demands for change while preserving security and providing a stable environment for economic growth and opportunity. The United States can help our friends meet these challenges. In some cases, it may be through continued diplomatic dialogue or through quiet outreach that promotes full democratic inclusion and enhanced treatment of marginalized populations. Targeted U.S. assistance and exchange programs already work to strengthen judicial systems in Bahrain, to mobilize women in Jordan and the Occupied Territories, to provide information and professional training to journalists and politicians and entrepreneurs and jurists, to promote increased religious tolerance and understanding. In Central Asia, U.S. assistance has led to some positive steps to address torture and other law enforcement abuse in Uzbekistan; the U.S. is providing Kazakhstan with technical assistance to support the implementation of jury trials; and across the region, governments are now actively combating trafficking in persons.

The United States also works with multilateral organizations such as the OSCE and the United Nations and other donor nations to recognize and support legitimate internal demands for inclusion of women and marginalized populations and their full political and economic participation, to help heal long-standing religious and tribal divisions that foster religious hatreds and sectarian strife, to promote peaceful and positive reforms respecting religion and universal human rights and amplifying the voices of politically moderate religious and community leaders, and to help reformist governments build a better future for their citizens.

I would like to close with the remarks that President Bush gave recently when he welcomed to the White House the Iraqi Transitional National Assembly. “It is the policy of the United State to seek and support the growth of democratic movements and institutions in every nation and
culture, with the ultimate goal of ending tyranny in our world. Today, people in a long-troubled part of the world are standing up for their freedom….The trend is clear: Freedom is on the march. Freedom is the birthright and deep desire of every human soul, and spreading freedom's blessings is the calling of our time. And when freedom and democracy take root in the Middle East, America and the world will be safer and more peaceful.” Madame Chairwoman, I’d be happy to take your questions.

Fact Sheet: Middle East Partnership Initiative Funds 225 Reform Initiatives

State Department fact sheet outlines MEPI programs

Since its founding in 2002, the State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) has received $293 million to support democratic and economic reform initiatives, educational development and women’s empowerment in the Middle East.

Following is a fact sheet outlining MEPI’s projects:

U.S. Department of StateBureau of Public AffairsJune 28, 2005

THE MIDDLE EAST PARTNERSHIP INITIATIVE:U.S. Support for Freedom and Democracy in the Middle East

“Here in the Middle East, that same long hopeful process of democratic change is now beginning to unfold. Millions of people are demanding Freedom for themselves and democracy for their countries.”–Secretary of State Rice, June 20, 2005


-- 225 programs in 14 countries and the Palestinian Territories.

-- Supporting over 70 civil society organizations from the Middle East.

-- Of the total received, 22% increase in proposals from indigenous organizations.

-- Over 75% of MEPI funding supports civil society and non-governmental organizations. The remaining MEPI funding supports country reform technical assistance.

Since its launch in 2002, the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) has received $293 million to fund initiatives that support freedom in the Middle East. MEPI concentrates its efforts in the areas of democracy promotion, economic reform, quality education, and women’s empowerment in the region.


Democracy and Civil Society

-- In Lebanon, supported pre-election polling and nationwide discussions on electoral law.

-- In Morocco, trained party members from 11 political parties on constituency building and media outreach.

-- In Egypt, supporting civil society organizations in domestic election monitoring, training youth to develop advocacy skills and voter education in anticipation of fall elections.

-- In Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian territories, and Tunisia, training journalists and new media outlets on journalistic standards and techniques for covering elections.

-- In Algeria, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, and Yemen, working with parliamentarians and their staffs to strengthen skills in representing constituents.

-- In the Gulf, working to develop Alternative Dispute Resolution programs to help alleviate the backlog of court cases.
Economic Reform

-- In Egypt, Jordan, and Morocco, trained 1000 bank staff on providing capital to small and medium size enterprises. As a result, one Egyptian Bank plans to make 12,000 loans in the next year.

-- In Morocco and Bahrain, helped prepare the country for Free Trade Agreement negotiations.

-- In Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, assisting to reach compliance with international obligations in agriculture, labor, intellectual property rights, customs, etc.

-- In Oman, helping its only law school establish a commercial law curriculum.
Quality Education

-- Beginning in Bahrain, Jordan, and Lebanon, providing over 5 million children’s books translated into Arabic.

-- Throughout the region, providing English language scholarships with the goal of reaching more than 13,000 disadvantaged youth.

-- In Jordan, developing new interactive technology solutions to large-scale education problems.

-- Providing leadership and problem-solving training to more than 120 youth.
Women’s Empowerment

-- Provided more than 200 Arab women with political campaign skills.

-- Provided 42 young women internships in U.S. businesses and law firms. Five alumni have now started their own businesses.

-- Funded Freedom House’s first ever comparative study of Women’s Freedom in the Arab World.

-- Building networks among activists across the region who are working for women’s full legal, political, social and economic empowerment.


--Working with G-8 and regional partners, established the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) initiative as a multilateral framework for democratic reform in the region. The BMENA centerpiece, the Forum for the Future, is an unprecedented international venue to support the reform voices in the region.

-- Among the BMENA initiatives supported by MEPI are two entrepreneurship training centers, the civil society component of the Democracy Assistance Dialogue, a rule of law meeting of the Civil Society Dialogue, support for entrepreneurs and micro-enterprises, and a region-wide education portal.

Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)

Bush Vows United States Will Defeat Terrorists in Iraq

President rules out setting deadline, says number of troops now sufficient

President Bush vowed that the United States will not flinch from fighting terrorism in Iraq or from seeing that democracy, prosperity and hope are spread throughout the Middle East.
In a speech June 28, Bush said that the sacrifice that the United States is making to bring democracy to Iraq is worthwhile because success in Iraq is vital to U.S. security and to the global cause of freedom.

The terrorists, both Iraqi and foreign, "know that as freedom takes root in Iraq, it will inspire millions across the Middle East to claim their liberty as well. And when the Middle East grows in democracy, prosperity, and hope, the terrorists will lose their sponsors, lose their recruits, and lose their hopes for turning that region into a base for attacks on America and our allies around the world," Bush said.

The president said the terrorists, despite their "savage acts of violence," are not achieving their strategic goals. He said the only way that the enemies of the United States can succeed is if the United States forgets the lessons of September 11, 2001 – something he vowed would not happen while he is president.

Bush noted that since sovereignty was restored to Iraq one year ago, Iraqis have held elections for a transitional government, are drafting a constitution, and are planning more elections for the end of the 2005. He noted that progress is being made in improving the educational and health systems and in rebuilding the infrastructure. More than 30 nations have troops in Iraq and many others are contributing nonmilitary assistance, Bush said.

"Thus far, some 40 countries and three international organizations have pledged about 34 billion dollars in assistance for Iraqi reconstruction," Bush said. "And next month, donor countries will meet in Jordan to support Iraqi reconstruction."

Regarding the question of setting a deadline for withdrawing U.S. forces from Iraq, Bush said such an action would be a "serious mistake" in that it would send the wrong message to the Iraqi people, U.S. troops and the terrorists.

He also said that the United States does not need to send more troops to Iraq at this time.

"Sending more Americans would undermine our strategy of encouraging Iraqis to take the lead in this fight. And sending more Americans would suggest that we intend to stay forever – when we are in fact working for the day when Iraq can defend itself and we can leave," he said.

In order to bolster the Iraqi security forces, Bush said the United States is taking three steps:

  • Partnering Coalition units with Iraqi units to show Iraqis "how the most professional armed forces in the world operate in combat;"
  • Embedding Coalition transition teams inside Iraqi units to provide "battlefield advice and assistance to Iraqi forces during combat operations;" and
  • Working with Iraq's Defense and Interior Ministries to improve their capabilities to coordinate anti-terrorist operations.
  • Bush said that on the political front, Iraq's constitutional committee plans to include more Sunni Arabs, and many Sunnis who opposed the elections in January are now participating in the political process.
"[A]s Iraqis see that their military can protect them, more will step forward with vital intelligence to help defeat the enemies of a free Iraq. The combination of political and military reform will lay a solid foundation for a free and stable Iraq," Bush said.

The transcript of Bush's speech

In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How

Report of an Independent Task Force

In an important initiative, an independent task force issued a significant report “In Support of Arab Democracy: Why and How” sponsored by the council on foreign relations. I endorse this report as a “general frame” considering that there are some points need to be elaborated. These points include but not limited to:

- The foreign policy and what means it has to promote democracy in the foreign states, in the current context of the international relations.

- The civil society in the Arab states, its role, the engagement with it, the possibility and the way of support.

- The prospects of constructing an international systemic effort of promoting democracy in the Middle East with full recognition in the international code.

I think that the democracy and human rights have the chance to replace the chaos of the post-cold war international order. This question needs to be reflected on.

The previous questions would be addressed in this blog in the future, and I invite the interested people to contribute.

Here is the executive summary of the report, which could be obtained from the council on foreign relations website.

Executive Summary

The Middle East will be a central focus of U.S. foreign policy for the next generation and beyond. While the list of challenges in the region is long, the Arab world also presents opportunities. In a region marked by a "democracy deficit" and limited economic prospects, there is also ferment. From Marrakesh to Cairo and Ramallah to Riyadh, Arabs are engaged in intense debate, self-reflection, and reassessment of their societies. Washington has a chance to help shape a more democratic Middle East. Whereas emphasis on stability was once the hallmark of U.S.-Middle East policy, democracy and freedom have become a priority. Indeed, U.S. policymakers concluded shortly after the September 11 attacks that the prevailing domestic political, economic, and social conditions within Arab countries were a serious national security concern.

Through a critical examination of regional developments and an assessment of U.S. options, the Task Force sought to answer two primary questions: First, does a policy of promoting democracy in the Middle East serve U.S. interests and foreign policy goals? Second, if so, how should the United States implement such a policy, taking into account the full range of its interests?

The Task Force’s answer to the first question is "yes." The United States should support democracy consistently and in all regions of the world. Although democracy entails certain inherent risks, the denial of freedom carries much more significant long-term dangers. If Arab citizens are able to express grievances freely and peacefully, they are less likely to turn to more extreme measures. They are also more likely to build open and prosperous societies with respect for human rights and the rule of law.

In answer to the second question, the United States should promote the development of democratic institutions and practices over the long term, mindful that democracy cannot be imposed from the outside and that sudden, traumatic change is neither necessary nor desirable. America’s goal in the Middle East should be to encourage democratic evolution, not revolution. Policymakers should take into account the region’s political and economic diversity, its lack of a strong democratic tradition, and the challenge of moving beyond the relatively simple process of holding elections to the construction of independent and sustainable democracies. America’s goal should be to support the development of democratic systems that are open to participation across the ideological spectrum, excluding only those who refuse to commit to peaceful procedures.

Findings and Recommendations

• Promoting political, economic, and social change in the Arab world requires a country-by-country strategy. Nevertheless, a number of basic principles should be emphasized across the region, including human rights, political representation, constitutional checks and balances, tolerance, rule of law, women’s rights, and transparency of decision-making.
Despite its recent emphasis on democracy in the Middle East, Washington has yet to speak in a consistent manner to various Arab countries on these important issues.

• The Bush administration should encourage Arab leaders to develop public, detailed "pathways to reform" that respond to the specific demands for change made by citizens within their countries. The public nature of these plans would help Arab citizens hold their leaders accountable to specific political, economic, and social benchmarks.

• This report is not about the Arab-Israeli conflict, but U.S. policy on that subject is relevant to America’s credibility in the region. The Task Force believes the United States should continue its renewed diplomatic engagement to help ensure that Israel’s withdrawal from the Gaza Strip proceeds smoothly and the two parties uphold their commitment to the "Roadmap for Peace." Washington’s engagement will also help ameliorate Arab mistrust of U.S. intentions in the region. The United States should not accept the argument made by some Arab leaders that progress toward democracy is not possible until the Palestinian question is settled; nor should the United States accept the view espoused by some Israelis that peace negotiations should not resume until the Palestinian Authority is fully democratic. The United States should support democratic reform in the Middle East whether or not there is progress toward peace, as well as progress toward peace whether or not there is significant democratic reform.

• For better or worse, Islamist movements and political parties are likely to play a prominent role in a more democratic Middle East. The United States must remain vigilant in opposing terrorist organizations. That being said, it should not allow Middle Eastern leaders to use national security as an excuse to suppress nonviolent Islamist organizations. Washington should support the political participation of any group or party committed to abide by the rules and norms of the democratic process. To reduce the possibility that Islamist movements will overwhelm more open Middle Eastern political systems, Washington should promote constitutional arrangements that would restrain the power of majorities to trample the rights of minorities. Most democracies have mechanisms such as an upper chamber of the legislature chosen on a specialized basis and/or a supreme court that guards against the "tyranny of the majority."

• Washington should promote economic and political reform simultaneously. All the available data indicate that economic growth is crucial for the durability of democracies but does not directly cause democracy. Favoring economic reform at the expense of political reform would ignore the democratic rights and political demands of Arab citizens.

• One of the most important factors hindering foreign direct investment in the Arab world is the fragmented and small size—in terms of capitalization—of the Middle Eastern market. Along with bilateral initiatives such as qualified industrial zones, trade and investment framework agreements, bilateral investment treaties, and free trade agreements, Washington should provide assistance to improve regulatory environments, reform tax codes, and, most importantly, remove barriers to intraregional trade in an effort to promote regional economic integration.

• Corruption remains a significant impediment to Arab economic development. One of the surest ways to reduce corruption is through deregulation and greater integration with the international business community. With less regulation there are usually fewer opportunities for bureaucrats and others close to the state to demand kickbacks, payoffs, or commissions. As in other regions, greater integration with global businesses will allow Arab companies and entrepreneurs to gain access to capital based on what they do, not whom they know. Another important instrument in the fight to control corruption would be the establishment of truly independent and resourceful counter-corruption commissions.

• The Task Force recognizes that there are problems with the way U.S. foreign policy is portrayed by Arab news networks and newspapers. While it is appropriate for Americans and U.S. policymakers to criticize what they regard as inaccurate and biased coverage on Arab satellite news networks, Washington’s message about democracy and freedom is damaged when policymakers exert pressure on Arab governments to alter the content broadcast on these stations.

• Overall, the development of alternative Arab media outlets is a positive development. The United States should promote the expansion of the private media market in the Middle East. A more democratic environment will provide Arab media consumers with more choice and better quality. Concomitant with Washington’s push for privatization of Arab media should be an emphasis on improving laws that protect freedom of speech.

• The United States has done a poor job explaining its policies in the region and spreading its message about democracy and freedom. Washington’s public diplomacy strategy needs to be changed. The Voice of America’s (VOA) Arabic service, which was previously the U.S. government’s means of broadcasting news and information to the Arab world, should be funded and become an integral component of Washington’s public diplomacy strategy, emphasizing reform issues in addition to news and information about the United States. Washington should also alter the content of its own Arabic satellite channel, al-Hurra. Because the channel is operated by the U.S. government, the suspicion is strong within the region that it is merely a conveyor of propaganda. To correct this, some of al-Hurra’s programming should be shifted to a C-SPAN-style format. Broadcasting the practices of the U.S. and other democratic governments, including congressional and parliamentary hearings, political rallies and debates, would expose Arabs to the spectacle of free political systems in action.

• Arab educational systems have generally done an inadequate job of preparing students for the global economy. Although Washington’s involvement with Arab education reform is fraught with political and cultural hazards, the U.S. government should seek the partnership of Arab, American, European, and Asian educational institutions, foundations, the private sector, and multilateral organizations to develop teacher-training programs, provide technical assistance to decentralize Arab educational systems, help further expand English language instruction, and help establish lifelong learning through adult education. Given Washington’s goal of promoting economic and scientific development in the Middle East, Washington should also promote partnerships between U.S. business and engineering schools, and Arab educational institutions.

• The prevailing visa policy of the United States is a significant barrier to worthy cultural, educational, and scientific exchanges. While recognizing the delicate balance the Department of Homeland Security must strike between protecting the country and maintaining its traditional openness to foreign students, Washington must improve procedures for allowing students from the Arab world to enter the United States.

• The Task Force believes that the policy and diplomatic components of the Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) should remain within the State Department, but the bulk of MEPI’s funds should be shifted to an outside independent organization
such as the National Endowment for Democracy or a newly created Middle East foundation. Many Middle Eastern nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are reluctant to accept direct transfers from an arm of the U.S. government.

• The United States currently provides approximately $5.5 billion annually in economic and military assistance to the Arab world, excluding reconstruction assistance for Iraq. As a general principle, the United States should use the promise of additional financial support as an incentive for reform. Although it has yet to dispense aid, the United States already has a program that would condition aid in this way to developing countries—mostly in Africa and Asia—called the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA). The funds will be distributed to those countries that have income per capita below a certain level (in 2005 below $1,465) and are best able to use them based on sixteen specific reform-related criteria including accountability, rule of law, education reform, and economic freedom. Currently, only four Arab countries—Egypt, Iraq, Yemen, and Morocco—qualify for participation in the MCA based on income. Of these only Morocco is currently eligible to apply for MCA funds based on its good indicators. (If the income cap is raised in 2006, as has been foreseen, Jordan could also qualify.) The United States must work with other Arab countries to undertake the reforms necessary that would make them eligible for MCA funds. In addition, notwithstanding chronic budget deficits, Washington should devote additional resources for democracy initiatives in the Arab world.

• Arab leaders should understand that a failure to make progress toward democracy will have consequences for their relations with the United States. The United States must convey the message that the general quality of bilateral relations will be contingent, in part, upon reform. In other words, those countries demonstrating democratic progress will benefit from close relations with the United States through expansion of trade relations, military ties, and diplomatic support. Washington should not go so far as to break relations with countries that lag behind, but it should take steps to distance itself from governments that refuse over time to recognize the political rights of their citizens.

In years to come, the world can expect to see both dramatic advances and discouraging reversals in the process of political, economic, and social change in the Middle East. This does not make the Arab world unique. After all, the evolution of American democracy includes not only the majesty of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but also the blight of slavery, a civil war, denial of women’s suffrage for well over a century, and the exclusion of African-Americans from formal participation until the enactment of landmark civil rights legislation in the 1960s. The fits and starts of development in the Middle East are a function of ongoing Arab debates about the appropriate vision for their respective societies. While it is clear that Washington has both compelling interests and a role to play encouraging change in the Middle East, the emergence of more open polities, greater economic opportunities, and social reform is primarily an Arab project in which Washington can and should play an important supporting role.

Article: A trans-Atlantic plan for democracyBy Urban Ahlin, Ronald Asmus, Steven Everts, Jana Hybaskova, Mark Leonard, Michael McFaul, Michael Mertes

Originally published in International Herald Tribune, March 14, 2004

This article represents the views of a trans-Atlantic group sponsored by the German Marshall Fund of the United States. It was written by Urban Ahlin, chairman of the Swedish Parliament's foreign affairs committee; Ronald Asmus, of the German Marshall Fund of the United States; Steven Everts, of the Center for European Reform, London; Jana Hybaskova, former Czech ambassador to Kuwait; Mark Leonard, of the Foreign Policy Center, London; Michael McFaul, of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University; and Michael Mertes, of Dimap Consult, Germany. American and European leaders have started to talk about the need to promote greater freedom, justice and democracy in the "Greater Middle East." While Americans see this as the crucial battleground in the war on terror, Europeans want their southern neighbors to be stable and well-governed, to stem the flows of illegal migration and organized crime. Both sides have accepted that working with local partners for peaceful democratic regime change today is the best way of avoiding violent revolution or military action tomorrow.

The enthusiasm for reform marks a paradigm shift in policy. In the past, other interests, like securing a steady flow of oil or obtaining cooperation against terrorism, have too often taken priority over political reform. But despite the flourishing rhetoric about promoting democracy, it is still not backed with concrete action plans. If we want a serious strategy, we must do three things: increase support for democrats in the region; create a better regional context for democratic development; and reorganize ourselves at home to pursue and sustain pro-democracy policies abroad.

First, we must recognize the fact that while the West must play a critical supporting role, change must come from within the region. Our task is to design policies to strengthen indigenous political forces pushing for democratic change.

In many countries democratic activists sit in jail because of their commitment to human rights, yet we do little to help them. We should provide them with consistent political and moral support. No senior American or European leader should visit the region without raising the issue of human rights and defending those brave individuals already fighting for democracy.

In practical terms, the West must drastically increase its direct support for local nongovernment organizations and democracy campaigners. The United States now spends nearly $400 billion on defense, but the National Endowment for Democracy has lived on a budget of only about $40 million, a fraction of which is spent in the Greater Middle East. Washington is now doubling that amount, but needs to raise the level of support tenfold, or even more, to make a real impact. The European Union should increase the funding for its democracy promotion program to at least E500 million a year.

This money should be administered at arm's length from government to ensure it is not constrained by diplomatic pressures. A new trans-Atlantic Forum for Democracy Promotion could be created to coordinate all activities in the region, including the bilateral programs pursued by European countries. This could be supplemented by an independent Trust for Democracy in the Middle East to which European countries and the U.S. government could contribute funds and expertise.

As well as working at a grass-roots level, the West should use policies on trade and aid to encourage governments to reform and to enlarge the space for legitimate political action. We need to reward countries that make progress on democracy and governance, and be ready to withdraw privileges from those that do not.

Second, the United States and its European allies need to help create the external security environment and regional context in which democratic change can occur more easily. As well as working to further peace between Israel and Palestine, we must help Turkey succeed in turning itself into a full-fledged democracy that qualifies for EU membership, renew pressure on the Iranian regime for democracy and arms control, and avoid a premature disengagement from the democratic transition under way in Iraq.

Working with moderate Arab states, we can try to create a new regional security regime for the Greater Middle East that is modeled on the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. This would mean developing a range of incentives so that Arab countries see the benefits of signing up.

NATO, too, has a role to play. It can provide the peacekeeping capabilities needed to help rebuild Afghanistan and Iraq. And it can help promote more democratic practices in peacetime by extending cooperation to the Middle East under a new version of the Partnership for Peace program. NATO's new role would be to keep the Americans and Europeans together, the aggressors out and the terrorists down.

The third big step in a grand strategy for democracy promotion is to reorganize ourselves to sustain such a course for decades to come. As well as creating a new generation of diplomats and democracy-builders who know the Middle East and its languages, we will need to reorganize our governments to ensure that they maintain their commitment over the long term.

Missions such as building democracy, promoting a political transformation agenda and winning the hearts and minds of millions of ordinary people are buried deep in American and European bureaucracies. As a result, these tasks will never receive the necessary leadership, attention and resources. Our governmental capacity to help build new democratic states must be as great as our capacity to destroy autocratic regimes.

President George W. Bush or his Democratic successor should create a Department of Democracy Promotion headed by a cabinet-level official. The Europeans should appoint a commissioner for democracy and human rights promotion.

As the debate over the Greater Middle East heats up, there is a danger that Europeans and Americans will pursue competing democratization strategies. We must pool the best proposals available on both sides of the Atlantic and coordinate their implementation in a joint endeavor.


New Grants To Help Palestinians with Democratic, Economic Reform

Middle East Partnership Initiative funding totals more than $2 million

The State Department’s Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) has issued three new grants totaling more than $2 million to support democratic institutions and economic training in the West Bank and Gaza, according to a June 28 media note.

One project will provide funds to Palestinian television stations to broadcast live sessions of the Palestinian Legislative Council. The other two grants will support entrepreneurship training.

Since its founding in 2002, MEPI has received $293 million in funding and sponsored 225 projects throughout the region. These projects aim to support democratic and economic reforms, enhanced educational opportunities and women’s empowerment.


Survey Finds Freedom Gap for Women Throughout Middle East

First-ever comprehensive study of women's rights in region

A study by the independent, nongovernmental organization Freedom House has found that, despite progress in some countries, women in the Middle East continue to suffer discrimination and lack full legal and civil rights, according to a June 24 State Department press release.

The Freedom House study -- the first comprehensive, comparative study of women's civil and legal status throughout the Middle East -- was funded by the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI), a presidential initiative that supports economic, political and educational reform in the region. (See related article.)

The report, “Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and Justice,” is the culmination of an intensive 20-month-long research process by a team of 40 leading scholars, analysts and women's rights experts primarily from the region, according to the State Department.

The full text of the study is available on the Freedom House Web site.

Following is the text of the State Department Media Note:

(begin text)

Department of State Media Note Office of the Spokesman Washington, DC June 24, 2005
New Survey Assesses the Status of Women's Freedom in the Middle East
An award from the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative has enabled Freedom House to complete a comprehensive survey of the barriers to women's full participation in society.

The survey, which can be accessed through the MEPI website (www.mepi.state.gov), is the first-ever comparative assessment on the status of women in the Middle East and North Africa. Notwithstanding important country differences and some key breakthroughs in gender equality in legal rights and increased access to education, the survey reveals a substantial deficit in women's rights throughout the 16 countries and Palestinian territories where the survey was conducted.

The report, "Women's Rights in the Middle East and North Africa: Citizenship and Justice," is the culmination of an intensive 20-month-long research process by a team of 40 leading scholars, analysts, and women's rights experts primarily from the region. The survey features country reports and country numerical ratings and focus group research.

The research team discovered that in most countries women are at a profound disadvantage in practically every institution of society: the criminal justice system, the economy, education, health care, and the media. Discriminatory laws and inadequate enforcement of existing laws intended to guarantee equality and fair treatment exacerbate the systematic gender gap.
The study reveals gender inequality in the region is compounded by apathetic governments and patriarchal traditions, all of which undermine women's empowerment, leaving many of them unaware of their rights and ill-equipped to advocate for them.

The survey's major recommendations include equal legal status for women and revised family laws, increased spending for and access to education, and removal of social and legal obstacles to women's political and economic participation. It is hoped that this survey will serve as a catalyst for both regional and international efforts to empower women in the Middle East and North Africa.

Freedom House is an independent non-governmental organization that supports the expansion of freedom. Freedom House functions as a catalyst for freedom through its analysis, advocacy, and action.

The Middle East Partnership Initiative is a Presidential initiative that supports economic, political, and educational reform efforts in the Middle East and expanded opportunity for all people of the region, especially women and youth.

More information can be found online at: www.mepi.state.gov.

(end text)

(Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)

Research: Iraq and World order

An interesting paper “Iraq and World order” by John Lloyd had been published by the Foreign policy center in London. It discusses the international dimension of the Iraq war and the prospects of the international order in light of the U.S. action of overthrowing the Iraqi regime and the war on terror.

Important topic and has a little reflection in the literature of international relations. I will quote the introduction and the last section. It is fully downloadable from the Foreign policy center website.


The war on terror has opened up new era in world affairs: but the outlines of the new are hazy. There is not just no new order: there is no agreement on what the order should be, or even if it is possible, or desirable. But an attempt to construct a new order will have to be made.
And it will have to be made at the same time as the confrontation with Iraq is the order of the day: for only if some new general principles can be glimpsed through the tumult which surrounds the particular case will there be longer term assent to a global system which might function justly. It is argued here that the scepticism and cynicism which fuels opposition to any intervention in Iraq is overdone, sometimes grossly so: but some scepticism as to war aims, as well as the never-redundant inquiry as to who benefits, is bound to be expressed and has to be answered.

Most of all, the doubt as to whether a confrontation with Iraq – even if necessary – is no more than a one-off operation with no larger structure of future world relationships in mind must be answered. The largest failure on the part of those states which argue for a last-resort invasion of Iraq – the US and the UK in the lead – would be to recoil from at least a sketch of the architecture they wish to have put in place beyond the struggle with Iraq, however it may go.

There can, however, be no return to the old verities. The international scene is too dynamic and troubled for a reassertion of national sovereignty, or of unilateralism on the part of any state, or of a multilateralism which achieves only stasis. The mix of challenges, dangers and outright horrors now presenting themselves demands new thinking and a willingness for radicalism: conservatism, whether on the part of governments or of electorates, is probably the most dangerous posture there is.

What follows argues a case for intervention in Iraq not based on the narrow arguments from self-defence which are most frequently put forward, but on the broader need for an international architecture capable of bearing the strains placed on it in the modern era. To begin with, it argues that a conservative approach to international affairs is no longer appropriate, because of the challenges that have emerged, or at least become clear, since the end of the partial stability of the Cold War. Firstly, the end of the Cold War both removed the disciplining structures of a binary confrontation and let loose an arsenal of deadly weapons and knowledge of how to make them – just at the time when advances in electronics, biology and chemistry were making weaponry more powerful and more portable. Secondly, the ending of superpower rivalry also removed much of the support which very poor states, especially in Africa, had enjoyed: and this hastened the collapse of the weakest of these, a collapse which carries profound security threats. Within the former Soviet Union itself, states were created from former republics which had neither the experience, nor the elites, nor the resources to succeed, at least in the short term – and some of these remain in a semicollapsed state. Thirdly, the growth of a desire to construct a new order on humanitarian and democratic/civil rights grounds was made possible by the unfreezing of the Cold War, and set a new paradigm for judging the actions, and inactions, of the major states. And finally, the emergence of the US as an unchallenged superpower for the foreseeable future presents a challenge to all – the US itself, its allies, the other major states of the world – to seek to turn that power towards the construction and support of an order in which all can have a stake.

The core of the case deployed here is that there will be a war in Iraq, as the American administration has made clear, but that the central question surrounding that war remains to be answered. That intervention will be judged on whether it is a one-off example designed to assure American imperial interests, or whether it is a police action fought in defence of a world order based on democracy and human rights. It is vital that it should be the latter, and in order to bring that about the Left must recognise the urgency of the case in Iraq and support intervention, but also recognise the urgency of the need for a broader framework on which to base international order and seek to bring that into being.


The United States, spurred on by its position as pre-eminent victim of new global threats, has grasped the dangers inherent in a globalised world. The Bush Administration’s National Security Strategy demonstrated that much.
The United States will act against Iraq, but the important question is what form that action will take. Will it be allowed to be the unilateralist assertion of a right of imperial self-defence, or will it be a creative moment in the history of state relations, similar to the Bretton-Woods agreements following the Second World War.

That question will depend on whether the United States is engaged by the rest of the world, and on whether it can be persuaded to pursue the right response. In order to convince America that multilateral interventionism and the ‘responsibility to protect’ are feasible and effective measures that meet the dangers it sees so clearly, the international community must assure the US that it, too, recognises those dangers by intervening in Iraq if Iraq does not show a willingness to disarm.

The threat, and potential tragedy, of this situation is that if the US isn’t convinced that a multilateral route, and a new world order, are feasible then it will act alone. If it does so, it will be unable to convince the world that it is interested in long-term law rather than simply short-term order. A nationalinterest response to new threats will be insufficient, and will exacerbate existing security dilemmas. For the new order
necessary to effectively respond to current threats to be successful, it must demonstrate its efficacy in Iraq, and to three audiences: to deter future defiant dictators and proliferators, to convince the US that it can enhance its national security through a multi-lateral framework, and to convince Europe and the rest of the world that responding to these threats won’t take the form of the US throwing its weight around, but instead be a sustainable era of activist international law.

In this situation, the pivotal factors for the long-term success or failure of an Iraqi war will be the way that that war is prosecuted, and the actions which accompany and follow it. There is a large chance that a US-led invasion will be successful relatively quickly, and that a regime change will be welcomed by most Iraqis. It is therefore widely accepted that the largest immediate problems are likely to be those of post-war Iraq, where a very extensive engagement and the cooperation of the major states and the UN and other agencies and NGOs will be essential over a long period to hold out a strong hope of success for Iraq as a thriving and stable state. Secondly, it is clear that the effects of the intervention on the rest of the Middle East are crucial: proponents of war see the Iraqi intervention as the harbinger of a more
general democratisation, and as an opening to a further effort to settle the Israel-Palestine issue, this time in more lasting fashion. Many therefore see it as incumbent on the states which do make the intervention – if it is made – to establish a rule in Iraq which is both efficient and just, and to then follow through with a renewed effort to bring agreement between Israelis and Palestinians in order to realise the potential of a transformative moment.
But those who insist upon these two corollaries of war – commitment to reconstruction and to a just settlement in Israel/Palestine – are merely advocating, piecemeal, elements which are a part of a broader agenda. It is in fact necessary to follow up an intervention in Iraq based on the case laid out in this article not just with steps toward democracy and respect for justice, human rights and international law in the Middle East, but with a commitment to a rule-governed order that must apply globally if it is to be a sufficient response to global problems.

By placing this intervention in a broader context, it will be possible to construct a wider coalition for action. As long as the debate is conducted in terms of threats alone, the gulf in perceptions across the Atlantic will mean that many people are left unimpressed by arguments for intervention. The West must set out a positive agenda based on democracy, human rights and the rule of law – and so re-establish a sense of shared goals in the West, and beyond. The bare bones of a future world order should include the following commitments:
Ø to orderly and peaceful relations between states;
Ø to increased efforts to alleviate poverty and disease on the basis of reciprocal pledges: from the donor states, to augment aid, and from the recipients, to use it for the ends for which it is intended;
Ø to protect, on the part of governments, the security of all citizens of a given polity: where that cannot be guaranteed, or is deliberately being flouted because of repression or war conducted by the government against a part of the population,
the issue becomes a cause of concern at the UN and is considered as to whether intervention might be warranted;
Ø to agreement being reached by the major states of the world, East and West, North and South, on the basic principles of a global system of security, and the basic requirements for intervention in the case of its breakdown. This would, in the words of Robert Cooper, “aim to bring order and organisation but rest…on the voluntary principle.”

There is no guarantee of success in any of this: but nor is there any route of retreat to a position of stability in the fastness of our nation states. Our security no longer lies within their borders; though where it does lie will take a journey to discover.

Bush Lays Out "Strategy for Victory" in Iraq

Radio address highlights military, political goals

In his weekly radio address June 25, President Bush recalled his June 24 meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jafari at the White House and previewed his scheduled June 28 address to the American people, in which he intends to speak of "our mission in Iraq, why it remains important to our safety here at home, and our two-track strategy for victory."

The first track is military, according to the president, in which the United States must "defeat the terrorists and continue helping Iraqis take greater responsibility for defending their freedom" against "terrorists [whose] ... objective is to break the will of America and of the Iraqi people before democracy can take root."

Bush said that so far the enemy has not succeeded: "Two years ago, they tried to intimidate the Iraqi Governing Council -- and failed. Last year, they tried to delay the transfer of sovereignty to Iraq -- and failed. This year, they tried to stop the free Iraqi elections -- and failed."

Now, despite the fact that "the terrorists are trying to undermine the new government and intimidate Iraqis ... more and more Iraqis are defying the terrorists by joining the democratic process." The military strategy is clear, said the president, asserting, "We will train Iraqi security forces so they can defend their freedom and protect their people, and then our troops will return home with the honor they have earned."

On the second, or political track, Bush said, the U.S. strategy "is to continue helping Iraqis build the institutions of a stable democracy." The president hailed as "landmark steps" the Iraqi election and formation of government, and said the Iraqi prime minister during his visit assured him that "his government is committed to meeting its deadline to draft a new constitution for a free Iraq. Then the constitution will be submitted to the Iraqi people for approval, and new elections will be held to choose a fully constitutional government."

The president called the challenges ahead "monumental" but promised that "the free world will continue to stand behind the Iraqi people." He pointed out that, "more than 80 countries and international organizations came together in Brussels," Belgium, to discuss helping Iraq with its security and reconstruction, the latter also being the theme of a planned July meeting of donor countries in Jordan.

Despite a prediction of "more tough fighting in the weeks and months ahead," Bush said he was confident as the Iraqi people "in optimism and hope" understand "that the violence is only a part of the reality," while Iraq's infrastructure is being rebuilt.
"Americans ... have been tested before," said the president, "and we have a long history of resolve and faith in the cause of freedom ... we will see that cause to victory in Iraq."

Article: Lessons for Bush's Mideast vision

By Anatol Lieven

Originally published in the Financial Times on March 1, 2004

There has been a good deal of talk in the US about a parallel between President George W. Bush's "plan" for democratising the greater Middle East and the Helsinki process that contributed to the fall of the Soviet empire. When thinking about western policy and the Muslim world, it does indeed make sense to look for lessons from the cold war - but this is not the right one.

The lessons of successful development in the cold war and post-cold-war periods for western policy are threefold. The regimes concerned obviously need to have both the right economic policies and a state strong enough to guide economic development. Second, the west needs to have a strong local nationalism on its side. Third, it has to be prepared to make real economic sacrifices. Democracy as such is not of central importance, though law and social freedom certainly are. After an economy has modernised, democracy often follows; but, outside parts of Europe, the correlation between democracy and modernisation is weak.

There has also been much talk of the precedent of the Marshall Plan; but this merely helped what had been successful free-market economies before the second world war to get back on their feet. Of much more relevance are the experiences of east Asia from the 1950s to the 1970s; and of eastern Europe after the Soviet collapse.

Nationalism was of critical importance in both these regions. In the cases of Taiwan and South Korea the US backed homogeneous authoritarian elites with a strong military element and a powerful sense of national purpose, closely linked to their fear of communism. Later, this was also true of Thailand. Take away the military element and it was true of Japan, Singapore and Malaysia. By contrast, in ethnically divided elites with a weak sense of common national purpose, development was much less successful.

In the case of eastern Europe, most countries had strong ethnic nationalisms that long pre-dated communist rule. Because of their passionate desire to escape for good from Moscow's imperial clutches, these countries benefited from a strong nationalist "push" towards the west after 1989. Also of critical importance was the fact that the western institutions and alliances that they so wished to join were defined by democracy and regulated free-market economics. This provided the "pull" in terms of modernisation.

This process was not cheap for the existing European Union countries. Aid to eastern Europe seemed grossly inadequate to the recipients but it has been colossal compared with the paltry sums Washington is talking of spending in the Middle East. And even aid was secondary compared with the most important factor of all: the opening of western European markets to eastern European exports and the easing of restrictions on the movement of workers.

These factors were also central to the development of some of the east- and south-east Asian countries. First because of the Korean war and then because of the Vietnam war, the US transferred huge sums in aid to states that it viewed as bulwarks against communism. And, once again, even more important was the fact that the US kept its markets open to these countries' products and to immigrants.

The contrasts with the greater Middle East are bleak. With the exception of Iran, none of these states is a truly national one, and their sense of real common national purpose is weak. Where state nationalism does exist, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and US support for Israel mean it is hard to mobilise it on the side of the west. What the American formulators of the Helsinki parallel cannot seem to grasp is that all too many Arabs see the US plus Israel as playing the Soviet role of detested regional hegemon. As long as Arab television can show daily images of Palestinian suffering, it will be difficult even to begin to dispel this impression.

Finally, the readiness of the US or EU to make real sacrifices for the sake of developing this region is highly questionable. Will they, for example, make available amounts of aid comparable with those given to Poland or South Korea? Is there any possibility that the US will allow large-scale Muslim immigration?

The answers to these questions may seem self-evident. Yet, at the same time, simply to dismiss the Bush initiative out of hand is not enough. September 11 2001 proved that mortal threats to the west can emerge from failed Muslim states and this threat must be combated, for decades and possibly generations. But to do so will require a level of western commitment vastly greater than anything envisaged today.

United States Economic Assistance to Egypt: Does it Advance Reform?

Testimony before the House International Relations Committee

House International Relations CommitteeHearing on "United States Economic Assistance to Egypt: Does it Advance Reform?"June 17, 2004
Testimony of Michele Dunne, Ph.D.Visiting Scholar, Democracy and Rule of Law ProgramThe Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, thank you for inviting me to testify. Having worked on democracy assistance to Egypt during assignments at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and National Security Council staff and then studied the issue from outside government, I welcome the opportunity to present my thoughts to you. With your permission, I will focus primarily on the impact of American assistance on the prospects for political (versus economic) reform.

First, democracy assistance to Egypt can be effective only as part of a coherent policy strategy including active engagement with the Egyptian government on the structural changes in law and practice that political reform demands. The U.S. Agency for International Development's programs have helped to build Egyptians' ability to participate in a democratic system, but not their opportunity to do so. For example, several years of assistance to non-governmental organizations has strengthened Egyptians' skills in running their organizations, but has not helped change restrictive laws that keep civil society groups from operating freely and practicing advocacy effectively. Modest bottom-up pressure of the sort that can be generated through democracy programs alone will not force an unwilling governing elite to share power, nor are the amounts of assistance under consideration enough to persuade them.

Second, the U.S. government should raise the relevant issues in private discussions with the Egyptian government at senior levels and reinforce them with public statements on the need for reform in Egypt and throughout the region. Recent steps by the American administration in this regard have been important factors in opening up political space in Egypt for discussion of reform. President Bush raised the issue with President Mubarak for the first time at their April 2004 summit in Crawford, in preparation for which Mubarak hosted a meeting of Egyptian and Arab civil society activists who issued a refreshingly frank and thorough statement of needed reforms. Despite the undeniable resistance among many Egyptians to the United States as the messenger of democracy and reform, the public message has nonetheless resonated among a broad spectrum of activists - Islamists and leftists as well as liberals - who have long advocated reform and are now coming forward with their own ideas.

Third, in planning a coordinated strategy of policy engagement and assistance programs, it is important to be honest and clear about the current political situation in Egypt. The Egyptian government has shown a readiness to modernize certain institutions - for example, the judiciary - and is now allowing discussion of liberalizing aspects of political life. It has not, however, shown any intention to democratize, by which I mean giving the Egyptian people the right and ability to change their government. All of the U.S. democracy assistance programs so far, and most under contemplation, aim at modernization and liberalization, which can certainly improve people's lives but do not necessarily lead to democratic transformation. Such transformation could eventually happen when the governing elite decides that it can no longer resist strong internal pressure for change, or as a result of visionary leadership.

Fourth, although Egypt is not necessarily on the cusp of democratic transformation, it is important to keep political reform on the public and private bilateral agenda in the coming few years, when Egypt is likely to face a leadership succession as well as parliamentary elections. While the United States cannot and should not try to force change in Egypt, it can use the significant influence it possesses to help shape the environment in which Egyptians will make important decisions about their country's future.

Fifth, the United States should be realistic about how much its assistance can achieve, but at the same time be determined to spend U.S. funds only on programs that stand a real chance of aiding political liberalization with a view toward eventual democratization. Specific policy recommendations include:

  • Concentrate in the policy dialogue and in programs on issues that Egyptians themselves have identified as critical: lifting Emergency Laws, revising laws on forming political parties and regulating non-governmental organizations, forming an independent electoral commission and monitoring bodies, and amending the constitution to provide for direct election of the president, term limits, and redistribution of power from the executive to legislative and judicial branches.
  • Make major program commitments only in areas where the Egyptian government has demonstrated the will to reform, or critical areas where the U.S. government is prepared to work hard on persuading the Egyptian government to open up.
  • Retain enough flexibility in the assistance program to be able to respond to opportunities or challenges that arise; i.e., avoid committing all the funds to large, multi-year projects.
  • Carve out funds that can be disbursed by the U.S. government directly, with Egyptian government agreement only to general program guidelines.
  • Seek alternative destinations for funds should the U.S. and Egyptian governments be unable to agree on meaningful programs.

Finally, it helps to recall that Egypt is for the Egyptians, and all of the important decisions ultimately belong to them. At the same time, the United States' influence is not neutral, and should be used in the service of regional peace and internal reform, the two overarching issues that face Egypt and the Middle East today.

Article: Double Blow to Mideast Democracy

The Washington Post, May 1, 2004

Shibley Telhami, Nonresident Senior Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy

Events in Iraq and the Palestinian-Israeli conflict have dealt a fatal blow to the Bush administration's plans for Middle East reform even before they are formally unveiled. These events may come to symbolize the end of democracy as a serious policy objective in the Middle East.

Certainly the painful pictures from Iraq a year after the war—including humiliating scenes of abused Iraqi prisoners—have turned that country into a model to be feared and avoided in the eyes of many in the Middle East, and a tool in the hands of governments reluctant to change. It is a far cry from the anticipated model of inspiration the administration promised would spur demands for democracy in the Arab world.

But the challenge for the administration's reform plans is far greater than the pictures in Iraq convey. A year after major combat was declared over, the administration is in greater need than before of help from the very governments it seeks to reform. And the administration's support for the unilateral disengagement plan of Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon necessitates yet more help from Arab governments in implementing an unpopular plan without unleashing instability.

Add to this increasing public anger in the Arab world with the United States over both Iraq and the Palestinian issue—and with their own governments for supporting the United States. This exacerbates the rulers' insecurity and inclines them toward increased repression.

Because our strategic and political objectives are now urgent, they outweigh our desire for reform, even if we continue to pay lip service to it. In the history of U.S. foreign policy, such concessions are always portrayed as necessary short-term measures. Too often, however, long-term U.S. behavior in the region simply looks like a series of short-term concessions.

Despite our claim before the Iraq war that the prospects of democracy in the region would improve, public opinion there has gone the other way. In an opinion survey I conducted in six Arab countries on the eve of the war, majorities of Arabs expressed the view that the Middle East would be less democratic after the war. It was a seemingly puzzling view given how little democracy already existed. But there are two primary reasons for this assessment that we cannot ignore.

First, there was widespread mistrust of American intentions. When you don't trust the messenger, you don't trust the message, even if it's a good one. While the lack of trust was based on many factors, including a historical gap between what we say and what we do, the primary measure of confidence toward the United States in Arab minds remains the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. While Arabs have always complained about perceived American "bias," their level of confidence in the United States has not been constant. In the spring of 2000, for example, when it looked as if the United States was genuinely trying to mediate an end to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, more than 60 percent of Saudis expressed confidence in this country. Immediately after the collapse of the negotiations that fall, confidence began to slide, and it continued to do so, reaching single digits in the past year.

No matter what else we do in the region, the Arab-Israeli conflict remains the "prism of pain" for Arabs through which they read U.S. intentions, in the same way that the tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, and associated terrorism are now the prism of pain through which Americans will continue to see the Arab and Muslim worlds. Regardless of the objective meaning of the administration's support for Sharon, the regional perception of that support is likely to outweigh anything we say on reform—or even Iraq.

Second, while Arab and Muslim public views of the United States are often wrong and unjustified, their skepticism about our policy toward reform is reasonable. We have not been fully honest in our own public discourse about where democracy ranks in our priorities. It is true that many in our government and media have come to believe that democracy is now a strategic priority, because its absence fuels terrorism. But we fear anarchy and instability even more in areas where we have strategic interests, and we fear the emergence of unfriendly governments, even if democratically elected.

In Pakistan, our strategic priority is to get maximum support from the besieged government of Pervez Musharraf for fighting our top strategic threat, al Qaeda. We fear most the disintegration of a nuclear state in an area where al Qaeda is strong. In Iraq today, we would like to see democracy, but our priority is to limit the casualties of our troops, to ensure an outcome that favors our other interests, especially oil. We want democratic rulers, but only if they are sure allies. The result is that what we say and what we do are visibly in conflict.

The difficulty in bringing stability, let alone democracy, to Iraq, where we have direct control and are spending enormous resources, should be a sobering example of the limits of our power. Above all two conclusions must be drawn: First, it is impossible to succeed in our reform policy without having in place a robust Arab-Israeli peace process that commands regional trust. Second, we cannot succeed if we continue to ignore public opinion in the region. The gap between governments and publics increases the rulers' incentive to repress at the same time that it decreases our leverage with them.


Key Documents: Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the Region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa Sea Island, Georgia June 9, 2004

1. We the leaders of the G8 are mindful that peace, political, economic and social development, prosperity and stability in the countries of the Broader Middle East and North Africa represent a challenge which concerns us and the international community as a whole. Therefore, we declare our support for democratic, social and economic reform emanating from that region.

2. The peoples of the Broader Middle East and North Africa have a rich tradition and culture of accomplishment in government, trade, science, the arts, and more. They have made many lasting contributions to human civilization. We welcome recent statements on the need for reform from leaders in the region, especially the latest statement issued at the Arab League Summit in Tunis, in which Arab leaders expressed their determination “to firmly establish the basis for democracy.” Likewise, we welcome the reform declarations of representatives of business and civil society, including those of Alexandria and the Dead Sea, Sana'a and Aqaba. As the leaders of the major industrialized democracies in the world, we recognize our special responsibility to support freedom and reform, and pledge our continuing efforts in this great task.

3. Therefore, we commit ourselves today to a Partnership for Progress and a Common Future with the governments and peoples of the Broader Middle East and North Africa. This partnership will be based on genuine cooperation with the region's governments, as well as business and civil society representatives to strengthen freedom, democracy, and prosperity for all.

4. The values embodied in the Partnership we propose are universal. Human dignity, freedom, democracy, rule of law, economic opportunity, and social justice are universal aspirations and are reflected in relevant international documents, such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights.

5. In launching this Partnership, we adhere to the following principles:
5.1. Strengthening the commitment of the International Community to peace and stability in the region of Broader Middle East and North Africa is essential.
5.2. The resolution of long-lasting, often bitter, disputes, especially the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, is an important element of progress in the region.
5.3. At the same time, regional conflicts must not be an obstacle for reforms. Indeed, reforms may make a significant contribution toward resolving them.
5.4. The restoration of peace and stability in Iraq is critical to the well-being of millions of Iraqis and the security of the region.
5.5. Successful reform depends on the countries in the region, and change should not and cannot be imposed from outside.
5.6. Each country is unique and their diversity should be respected. Our engagement must respond to local conditions and be based on local ownership. Each society will reach its own conclusions about the pace and scope of change. Yet distinctiveness, important as it is, must not be exploited to prevent reform.
5.7. Our support for reform will involve governments, business leaders and civil societies from the region as full partners in our common effort.
5.8. Supporting reform in the region, for the benefit of all its citizens, is a long-term effort, and requires the G-8 and the region to make a generational commitment.

6. Our support for reform in the region will go hand in hand with our support for a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement to the Arab- Israeli conflict, based upon U.N. Resolutions 242 and 338. We fully endorse the Quartet's Statement of May 4, 2004 and join the Quartet in its “common vision of two states, Israel and a viable, democratic, sovereign and contiguous Palestine, living side by side in peace and security.” We support the work of the International Task Force on Palestinian Reform and the Ad Hoc Liaison Committee and urge all states to consider the assistance they may provide to their work. We welcome the establishment of the World Bank's Trust Fund and urge donors to contribute to this important initiative. We join in the Quartet's call for “both parties to take steps to fulfill their obligations under the roadmap as called for in U.N. Security Council Resolution 1515 and previous Quartet statements, and to meet the commitments they made at the Red Sea Summits in Aqaba and Sharm el Sheikh.” We reaffirm that a just, comprehensive, and lasting settlement to the Arab-Israeli conflict, including with respect to Syria and Lebanon, must comply with the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions, including Resolution 425, which “Calls for strict respect for the territorial integrity, sovereignty and political independence of Lebanon within its internationally recognized boundaries.”

7. We stand together united in our support for the Iraqi people and the fully sovereign Iraqi Interim Government as they seek to rebuild their nation. Iraq needs the strong support of the international community in order to realize its potential to be a free, democratic, and prosperous country, at peace with itself, its neighbors, and with the wider world. We welcome the unanimous approval of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1546 on Iraq, and we join in supporting the continued, expansive engagement of the United Nations in Iraq after the transfer of sovereignty, as circumstances permit. We pledge to provide support and assistance for the electoral process leading to national elections for the Transitional National Assembly no later than January 31, 2005. We are united in our desire to see the Multinational Force for Iraq, in accordance with the UNSCR 1546, succeed in its mission to help restore and maintain security, including protection of the United Nations presence, and to support humanitarian and reconstruction efforts. We express our shared commitment, and urge others, to support the economic revitalization of Iraq, focusing on priority projects identified by the Interim Government. We welcome the success of the recent International Reconstruction Fund Facility donors' conference in Doha, and commit to meeting before the next conference in Tokyo later this year to identify how each of us can contribute to the reconstruction of Iraq. Debt reduction is critical if the Iraqi people are to have the opportunity to build a free and prosperous nation. The reduction should be provided in connection with an IMF program, and sufficient to ensure sustainability taking into account the recent IMF analysis. We will work with each other, within the Paris Club, and with non-Paris Club creditors, to achieve that objective in 2004. To help reestablish the ties that link Iraq to the world, we will explore ways of reaching out directly to the Iraqi people – to individuals, schools, and cities – as they emerge from decades of dictatorship and deprivation to launch the political, social, and economic rebirth of their nation.

8. The Partnership we launch today builds on years of support for reform efforts in the region through bilateral and multilateral cooperation programs. The Euro-Mediterranean Partnership (“Barcelona Process”), the U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative, and the Japan-Arab Dialogue Initiative are examples of our strong commitment to supporting democratic and economic development. We are similarly committed to such progress in Afghanistan and Iraq through our multilateral reconstruction efforts. The Partnership we propose will build on our on-going engagement in the region.

9. The magnitude of the challenges facing the region requires a renewed commitment to reform and cooperation. Only by combining our efforts can we bring about lasting democratic progress. We welcome and support the work of other governments, institutions, and multilateral agencies that aim to assist the region's development.

10. Central to this new Partnership will be a “ Forum for the Future,” which will root our efforts in an open and enduring dialogue. The Forum will provide a framework at ministerial level, bringing together G-8 and regional Foreign, Economic, and other Ministers in an ongoing discussion on reform, with business and civil society leaders participating in parallel dialogues. The Forum will serve as a vehicle for listening to the needs of the region, and ensuring that the efforts we make collectively respond to those concerns.

11. Our efforts in the Partnership we commit to today focus on three areas:
11.1. In the political sphere, progress toward democracy and the rule of law entails instituting effective guarantees in the areas of human rights and fundamental freedoms, which notably imply respect for diversity and pluralism. This will result in cooperation, the free exchange of ideas, and the peaceful resolution of differences. State reform, good governance, and modernization are also necessary ingredients for building democracy.
11.2. In the social and cultural sphere, education for all, freedom of expression, equality between men and women as well as access to global information technology are crucial to modernization and prosperity. A better-educated workforce is a key to active participation in a globalized world. We will focus our efforts to reduce illiteracy and increase access to education, especially for girls and women.
11.3. In the economic sphere, creating jobs is the number one priority of many countries in the region. To expand opportunity, and promote conditions in which the private sector can create jobs, we will work with governments and business leaders to promote entrepreneurship, expand trade and investment, increase access to capital, support financial reforms, secure property rights, promote transparency and fight corruption. Promotion of intra-regional trade will be a priority for economic development of the Broader Middle East and North Africa.

12. The Partnership for Progress and a Common Future offers an impulse to our relationship with the Broader Middle East and North Africa region. As an expression of our commitment, we issue today an initial Plan of Support for Reform outlining current and planned activities to give life to this Partnership.

Promotion of Human Rights, Democracy Vital to U.S. Interests

State's Dobriansky says democracy cornerstone of U.S. foreign policy

By Brittany SterrettWashington File Staff Writer

Washington -- It is completely within the United States’ interests to champion human rights abroad, according to Human Rights Watch’s Washington Advocacy Director Tom Malinowski.

“There is no distinction most of the time between American national interests and human rights,” Malinowski told an audience at Washington’s Hudson Institute June 20 during a policy discussion entitled “America’s Mission: Debating Strategies for the Promotion of Democracy and Human Rights.”

He noted that, in his opinion, the biggest problem the United States faces is overall credibility. He recommended that the administration “speak out for all dissidents, not just those who like the U.S.,” and he urged it to support everyone who speaks out peacefully.

Jennifer Windsor, executive director of Freedom House, added that the administration should not to “confuse promoting democracy with U.S. public diplomacy.” She agreed that the promotion of democracy should not be only for those who agree with U.S. policies.

Under Secretary of State for Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky spoke at length about U.S. efforts to promote democracy abroad. She said, “Democracy is the cornerstone of the Bush administration’s foreign policy.”

She spoke about the importance of multilateral diplomacy, mentioning the Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative launched by the Group of Eight industrialized nations and saying that it has made “democratic reform the central pillar of our and others’ engagement in this pivotal region.” The G8 comprises Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United States and Russia.
Dobriansky also mentioned the United States’ Millennium Challenge Account, which she called a “poverty reduction tool” that reinforces democratic practices through its allocation of international development assistance, and the Middle East Partnership Initiative, which she said is “making significant progress in supporting” democracy.

Marc Plattner, editor of the Journal of Democracy, recalled Bush’s January 20 inaugural address, in which he stated that democracy would be a central theme of his second term. Plattner said the administration’s policies and actions in this area “on the whole really have had positive effects.”

Dobriansky noted that democracies “rely on complex institutions that must be cultivated,” and named these democratic “pillars” as freedom of speech and a free press, freedom of assembly and the formation of a loyal opposition, freedom of worship, a free economy, and an independent judiciary.

Free and fair elections, a declaration of inalienable rights, minority protection, a legislative body and a civil service — the “tenets of democracy”— result from the establishment of these pillars, according to Dobriansky.

“These tenets of democracy serve as the goalposts of what we are seeking to create, cultivate or strengthen,” she said.

Michael Horowitz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, also spoke about the need to get women on the side of the United States in the areas of democracy and human rights, and noted the work of the Bush administration in the area of women’s rights. He said, “The great phenomenon of the 21st century will be the emancipation and the empowerment of women,” including suffrage for them.

Horowitz urged intelligence agencies to provide documentary evidence of atrocities occurring under repressive regimes, such as concentration camps in North Korea. This evidence could then be used to support the administration’s policies of promoting democracy in those areas as a response to oppression.

He also encouraged more live broadcasting by the Voice of America to further spread the administration’s message. He noted that many political dissidents risk their lives to listen to the hour and a half of live broadcasting currently available. With more broadcasting, he said, more people could be reached.

(The Washington File is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov)