11.16.2005

The Forum of the Future without final declaration

Some dictators in the Middle East are really afraid these days. That became very obvious. Mr. Mubarak has surprised the world and stalled the final declaration of the Forum of the Future. He needs to create some cards to play in front of the pro-democracy U.S. considering the fact that he has the strongest pro-democracy opposition in the Arab world.

Mr. Mubarak has refused the NGOs to get a direct funding from the international community. Reportedly, he had support from some Arab governments in doing that. Here I have some evidences of my hypothesis that the reform in the Middle East needs both the indigenous civil society and the international effort as the indispensable pillars. The Middle East despots clearly believe in that, then, they are doing their best to prohibit the connection between the two parties to stall the entire process of reform and change.

I hope also this incident to make it clear to the international community and interested scholars and researchers, what many reformists in the Middle East and I have frequently said, that the focal impediment to the reform in the Middle East is the authoritarianism. And the international powers – mainly U.S. -- have to develop a policy and means of pressure on despotic governments.

In another subject, the international endorsement of the reform initiative was encouraging through the support to the two established institutions. We wait for the German position after the new government to take office, which I think, would be positive. As regards France, the French alone are still preoccupied with their historical Barcelona Process, which I predict, will yield the democratic change in the Middle East after two centuries and a half.

Recent related posts:

The Middle East Forum for the Future.

The Forum of the Future Watch.

Middle East Dictators' System.


Here is the related information:

U.S. Goals Are Thwarted At Pro-Democracy Forum

Demand by Egypt Derails Middle East Initiative

By Robin Wright
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, November 13, 2005; Page A24

MANAMA, Bahrain, Nov. 12 -- An international conference intended to advance democracy in the Middle East ended Saturday without a formal declaration, eliciting expressions of disappointment from U.S. officials, who considered the conference a key part of President Bush's regional democracy initiative.

In a surprise move, Egypt, which accounts for more than half the Arab world's population and is the second-largest recipient of U.S. aid, derailed the Forum for the Future by demanding language that would have given Arab governments significant control over which pro-democracy groups would receive aid from a new fund.

Last-ditch diplomacy by the United States -- which was represented at the conference by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice -- failed to get Egypt to budge, and Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit left before the conference broke up. "We made a very clear case," a senior U.S. official at the conference said on condition of anonymity. "There were intensive negotiations. We made clear it would scuttle the declaration"

Participants may have to wait another year for a region-wide declaration, Bahrain's foreign minister, Khalid bin Ahmed Khalifa, said at a news conference here.

The gathering of dozens of nations -- including 22 Arab countries, members of the G-8 industrialized countries and others -- nevertheless agreed to set up two new groups to promote political and economic reform.

The U.S. delegation expressed disappointment with Egypt, a long-standing ally on such pivotal issues as the Arab-Israeli conflict and the Bush administration's international fight against terrorism. Egypt receives roughly $2 billion in U.S. military and economic assistance annually. Since it made peace with Israel more than a quarter-century ago, it has received tens of billions of dollars from the United States.

"Obviously, we're not pleased," said a second senior State Department official attending the event.

Saad Eddin Ibrahim, an Egyptian democracy activist who attended the conference, charged that the government of President Hosni Mubarak was holding the region "hostage to its despotism. By so doing," he said, "they leave the field clear for the theocrats. . . . The theocrats still have the mosque," a reference to the fact that Egypt's proposed restriction would have limited funds available to secular democracy activists and nongovernmental organizations, or NGOs.

The Forum for the Future, a joint U.S.-European initiative launched at the 2004 G-8 summit hosted by Bush at Sea Island, Ga., is an element of the administration's Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative. With the related issue of Iraq, promoting democracy in the Islamic world is the Bush administration's top foreign policy priority. The first Forum for the Future was held last year in Morocco; this year's forum was aimed at fostering nongovernmental organizations and civil society.

The forum's final declaration would have bound countries in the Middle East and North Africa to "expand democratic practices, to enlarge participation in political and public life, to foster the roles of civil society, including NGOs, and to widen women's participation in the political, economic, social, cultural and education fields and to reinforce their rights and status in society while understanding that each country is unique."

But Egyptian officials wanted to add language stipulating that only NGOs legally registered with their governments were covered by the declaration. Although Saudi Arabia and Oman initially supported Egypt, all the governments but Egypt agreed in the end to take out language that would have given them control over foreign resources going to groups in their countries. The United States told the Egyptian delegation that the addition was inappropriate, U.S. officials said.

"In our view and in the view of other delegations, this would have circumscribed NGO activity," said the second senior U.S. official, who briefed reporters traveling with Rice.

The aid most affected by the wording of the declaration would come from one of the two new funds established Saturday, the Foundation for the Future. The foundation has commitments of over $50 million to help nongovernmental organizations, academic institutions and professional associations foster freedom and democracy in the Middle East and North Africa. The United States has pledged $35 million.

The second new fund, called the Fund for the Future, is designed to help small and medium-size enterprises to stimulate the private sector and attract foreign investment. The fund, which is expected to establish offices in Egypt and Morocco to evaluate and recommend investments, will contain about $100 million, with the Bush administration pledging $50 million.

The dispute over the forum's final declaration underscored broader differences between the West and Muslim nations of the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia.

Several Arab delegates expressed concern that the norms of democracy -- and the means of achieving it -- were being imposed by the outside world. At a dinner Friday night before Rice arrived, several delegations made clear that the Arabs want more say in crafting criteria for change, according to Arab and European officials present.

Britain, which co-sponsored the forum with Bahrain, acknowledged the issue at the news conference. "It would be a disaster for the region if this region thought democracy was an American idea," said British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw.

In her opening remarks at the conference, Rice voiced criticism of Syria and demanded it release all its political prisoners -- specifically a democracy activist, Kamal Labwani, who was arrested Tuesday after he returned from talks at the White House.

"We continue to support the Syrian people's aspirations for liberty, democracy and justice under the rule of law," Rice said, as Syrian Foreign Minister Farouk Charaa looked on.
"We would like to see an end to the arbitrary detentions of democratic and human rights activists," Rice said.
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Mideast reform forum ends in confusion

U.S. officials disappointed at lack of final document

Compiled by Daily Star staff
Monday, November 14, 2005

A Middle East reform conference promoted by the U.S. ended in confusion on Saturday without a final declaration after Egypt tried to introduce language which Washington said would restrict aid groups.

In a result U.S. officials called disappointing, the conference ended with no final document on promoting political and economic reform in the Middle East and North Africa, the goal of the meeting.

"Obviously we are not pleased," said a senior State Department official at the conclusion of the "Forum for the Future" meeting.

Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were also angry.

"The Egyptians are always the problem with democracy ... they are the ones who spoiled the final democracy document by holding out," said Saadeddine Ibrahim, an Egyptian rights campaigner.

According to a draft copy of the final declaration, delegates would have pledged "to expand democratic practices, to enlarge participation in political and public life [and] to foster the roles of civil society including NGOs."

Egypt wanted to add that only NGOs "legally registered" by a country and which followed that nation's laws should be helped.

"It would have made them susceptible to government influence and pressure," said the U.S. official.

Host country Bahrain wanted the document to be unanimous and the Americans said all the other delegations had agreed to drop reference to NGOs, but Egypt refused.

Egypt's foreign minister, Ahmad Abu al-Gheit, left a private session on the language of a final statement before a closing news conference. "We didn't withdraw" from the conference, he said later. "What happened is that the meeting took so long, more than it was scheduled."

Bahrain's foreign minister, Sheikh Khalid bin Ahmad al-Khalifa, told reporters the declaration will come up again, perhaps at a gathering scheduled for Jordan next year.

"We don't want to issue a haphazard decision," Khalifa said. "We decided we will come back to it one day."

"This forum is being held amid an atmosphere of conflicts which we cannot ignore. This cycle of violence and counter-violence is feeding the feeling of injustice and frustration in the region," said Moroccan Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Issa.

Bin Issa called on the international community to "link the reforms with renewed efforts toward the settlement of conflicts in the Middle East and toward finding a just and lasting solution to the Palestinian-Israeli conflict."

"We are all committed to work for the future, but we also have to solve the problems of today," Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa said on Saturday, referring to the Arab-Israeli issue.

British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said Western countries were promoting universal values, not a narrow Washington agenda. "It would be a disaster for this region if this region thought democracy was an American idea," Straw said.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said this week's bombings in Jordan underlined the need for reforms across the Middle East.

"It makes even more urgent our work to have an answer to the ideologies of hatred that produce the kind of violence that we saw in Jordan," she told delegates.

The forum announced a $100 million fund to promote business enterprise across the region, which stretches from Morocco to Afghanistan and which will see 100 million new job-seekers in the next eight years.

The United States is providing $50 million for the fund and Egypt and Morocco have put forward $20 million each. The fund is expected to have offices in Morocco and Egypt, organizers said.

It also unveiled a $50 million "Foundation for the Future," aimed at promoting democracy and political reform in the Middle East and announced a conference next year in Jordan to discuss the body's structure. - Reuters, AP
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EGYPT: NGOs react to stalled democracy summit

15 Nov 2005
IRIN

CAIRO, 15 November (IRIN) - An international summit in Bahrain aimed at promoting democracy in the Middle East ended inconclusively after Egyptian delegates and other Arab leaders defied the United States over a clause in the event's outcome document relating to civil society freedoms.

"Egypt and other Arab states asked for a new clause stipulating that only institutions fully recognised by the government be allowed to receive funding," explained Bahieddin Hassan, director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Research.

The US delegation, meanwhile, argued that such an amendment would defeat the purpose of the initiative, which aims to promote democratic practice in the so-called "Broader Middle East," stretching from Mauritania to Pakistan.

The conference, whose stated aim was the establishment of a regional fund, dubbed the "Foundation for the Future," focused on various aspects of democratic development within the region.

The US, represented in Bahrain by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, has pledged $50 million to the fund, while Egypt announced its readiness to provide an additional $20 million.

The delegation from the US, the prime mover of the forum, focused debate on the provision of greater liberties to civil societies and non-profit organisations working in the fields of human rights and democratisation.

Before the signing of a final resolution, however, the Egyptian delegation, represented by Foreign Minister Ahmed Abu al-Gheit, insisted on tighter government control over the funding and activities of NGOs. Cairo's position was supported by delegations from Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain and Tunisia.

While other members of the 22-nation gathering used the opportunity to establish new pro-democracy groups, the Future Foundation appears stalled, at least for the time being.

"Discussions aimed at formalising the declaration are due to take place soon in Jordan," explained Hassan, who attended the conference as a member of the Egyptian delegation's non-governmental component. "But for now, the fund isn't open."

Many civil society observers, meanwhile, said the Egyptian move came as no surprise.

"The position that the Egyptian government took on the issue falls straight in line with their traditional policy vis-à-vis civil society and human rights," said Mahmoud Ali of the Association for the Development of Democracy.

According to an amended NGO law passed in 2002, the Ministry of Social Affairs enjoys wide-ranging authority over most aspects of civil society activity inside Egypt.

For an NGO to be legally registered, for example, it must comply with a long set of prerequisites, the most crucial of which is that it promise to refrain from any activity deemed "political."

"When there is government interference on every level of our work in human rights – from administration to funding and policy – it becomes very difficult for us to function at all," Ali complained. "If the ministry deems a particular initiative inappropriate, it will simply declare it politically motivated."

Magda Abdel-Halim, Director General Coordinator of NGOS in Egypt at the Ministry of Social Affairs, however, denied this claim. "We do not differentiate between human rights groups and other NGOs," she said. "We treat all legally registered groups in the same way."

According to Ali, though, the 2002 NGO law is vague enough to allow the government to manipulate in any way it sees fit. "As things stand, we end up waiting months on end to get approval from the ministry to approach donors or start investing money," he said.

Abdel-Halim countered by saying that the government couldn't be expected to allow foreign entities to fund Egyptian groups unchecked. "We need to establish what the entity's agenda is, and whether it's legal," she said.

Despite the restraints faced by Egyptian human rights activists, said the country had a "vibrant civil society."

"The rights movement has been active for 20 years in Egypt, and the fact that the government is going against the tide will not put a stop to our efforts," he said. "On the contrary, this gives us all the more incentive."
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A New Mideast Push

Wall Street Journal
11/8/2005

Fred Kemp


It has taken five years since 9/11 to get there, but the Bush administration this weekend will announce its most ambitious multilateral action yet for promoting democratic and economic change across the Mideast.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Saturday at a G-8 sponsored meeting in Bahrain will announce something the world hasn't seen before: a grant-making private foundation with as much as $50 million in startup funds aimed at democratizing the Mideast. Months of difficult diplomacy have won symbolically significant backing from the European Union and some Arab states that seemed unlikely until recently.

Ms. Rice at the same time will announce a $100 million-plus enterprise fund that will take equity positions to promote small and medium-size corporations across the region. The fund will launch its operations in Egypt and Morocco with some $50 million of U.S. funding. Importantly, Egypt and Morocco will each put up $20 million. The EU is likely to participate through a $30 million contribution from the European Investment Bank.

The two measures - known as "The Foundation for the Future" and "The Fund for the Future" - have significance beyond their initially modest backing. That is because of the G-8 imprimatur and because their broad, nongovernmental nature could make them lasting institutions that become a magnet for the region's fledgling pro-democracy forces. The U.S. is pushing the initiative now partly so that the G-8's support for democratizing the Mideast doesn't evaporate when Russia replaces the United Kingdom presidency next year.

The fund and foundation also are the first institutions to be established inside the region that embody what could be one of the Bush administration's legacies after 9/11, the linking of security with democratic change after years of backing authoritarian regimes. Mr. Bush's first speech on the subject came at the National Endowment for Democracy in 2003, which he followed with his second inaugural address, and now officials involved say they are "operationalizing the rhetoric."

Both the fund and the foundation are aimed at creating a larger "democratic space" with the immediate aim of helping defuse a ticking demographic bomb. Fifty million more Mideast young will enter the work force by 2007 and some 100 million by 2013. The State Department calculates that it would take 6-7% regional economic growth over that period to absorb them all; current growth is only half of that. Without jobs or a government perceived as responsive to their plight, the danger is that millions more Arab young will become terrorist recruits.

The nonprofit foundation's aim is to provide them new political channels and organizations to join, while the enterprise fund would create more jobs to employ them. The hope is that both will be more successful than Bush administration reform efforts that have fallen largely within the Middle East Partnership Initiative, or MEPI. That project was launched in 2002 with $300 million of government funding (some of which will go to these new programs). But insiders say the money has only been partially deployed and that MEPI has suffered from leadership turnover, stunted creativity, charges of U.S. meddling and Washington's unwillingness to stand up to recalcitrant Mideast leaders. (See related article.)

By creating these more independent and multilateral institutions, U.S. officials hope they can overcome MEPI'S inherent weaknesses.

Role for a Cheney

Elizabeth Cheney, the senior official responsible for the new push, is very familiar with MEPI. After working in her father's vice-presidential campaign, she returned to the State Department early this year to run MEPI. The Cheney name, associated as it is with the Iraq war, won't play well on the Arab street. But Ms. Cheney, the vice president's eldest daughter, has proven an effective advocate among European and Arab elites, who have seen that level of White House involvement as a demonstration of seriousness.

The initiative, which few would have given a chance two years ago, grows out of the artful diplomacy that is becoming a hallmark of Ms. Rice's talent-laden State Department. The team has been led by Scott Carpenter, a deputy assistant secretary who worked on democratization efforts in Iraq before returning to Washington. Most importantly, the highest ranks of the State Department have pushed the initiative. Those involved include senior officials who drove Eastern European change, such as Daniel Fried and Kurt Volker, and they are now applying the lessons learned there to the Mideast.

The nonprofit democratization foundation has been the most controversial of the two initiatives, as more than a few Mideast leaders realize that its goal of bolstering civil society organizations could translate into better organized opposition to their own rule. It's no wonder that long-time American allies Egypt and Saudi Arabia haven't signed on.

The U.S. has deflected parties that might impede the foundation's independence and freedom of movement. Washington is also helping to craft charter principles that would satisfy Congress that the foundation won't unwittingly support Islamist movements.

That said, the list of countries that have promised support is an impressive one. The U.S. will pony up $35 million over two years, the European Union some $5 million. With the minimum price of admission set at $1 million, other countries that have committed are Spain, Italy, Denmark, the U.K., the Netherlands, Hungary, Turkey, Switzerland, the United Arab Emirates, Lebanon, Morocco, Bahrain and possibly Kuwait.

French Resistance

France hasn't joined because it much prefers acting in the Mideast through a 10-year-old EU initiative known as the Barcelona Process. Germany won't be able to decide about joining until its new government is fully formed. Spain's involvement was a critical diplomatic victory, however, as it helps mend one of the most troubled U.S. relationships in Europe and brings on board the country that was the home of the Barcelona initiative.

The U.S. and European countries would like to see the foundation based in a Mideast country where it can operate relatively freely, so Lebanon is a favorite - though Jordan, Morocco and even Yemen have put up their hands.

The enterprise fund is a more straight-forward affair, patterned after initiatives in Eastern Europe after the Soviet bloc's implosion. What the U.S. learned was the such efforts succeed only in countries committed to reform that are also willing to contribute themselves. Hence, the emphasis is on Egypt and Morocco.

In Poland, a similar fund had $240 million in capital for just 40 million people, so the target of $100 million is small for 30 million Moroccans and 80 million Egyptians. The U.S. wants to see some success before further expansion. It envisions attracting board members with the clout - names being bandied about include Jack Welch and Robert Rubin - to get Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak on the phone to complain, for example, that he needs to free up pharmaceutical prices if a private drug industry is to flourish in Egypt.

State Department officials are under strict rules not to use the "H" word when describing this weekend's Bahrain meetings. It was the Helsinki agreements of 1975 that helped set off the changes that ultimately brought democracy and free markets to the former Soviet bloc. The challenges are far different in the Mideast, where the people doubt American motives and the governments they hope to change have long been American friends.

Yet U.S. ambitions for what one senior State Department official calls "the Bahrain process" are no less.

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