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>> The Cairo Times


MEETING OF THE MINDS?

Democracy conference in Yemen yields questionable results By Khaled Ezzelarab More than 600 delegates from Middle East countries and international organizations gathered in the Yemeni capital, Sana’a, 10 and 11 January for the biggest pro democracy conference ever held in the Middle East. With a rather long name – the Inter Governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the role of the International Criminal Court (ICC) – the conference might be a turnoff at first glance. But a second look at the participants reveals an important development. “It’s the first time we see representatives of Arab governments sitting face to face with NGOs and human rights activists to discuss the situation of democracy and human rights in the Middle East,” said American University in Cairo sociology professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who attended the conference. Traditionally, the two parties would never meet – at least not in a regional context. Hence this conference gave un unprecedented opportunity “for a lot of serious exchanges,” said Ibrahim. Not everyone agreed however. “The way the conference was organized was such that it gave much more pace to government than civil society,” said Egyptian participant Hafez Abou Saada, secretary general of the Egyptian Organization for Human Rights. According to Abou Saada, the opening speeches were all delivered by government officials, and attempts by human rights activists to produce a meaningful resolution was ambiguous and vague because it was not allowed to specify any functional system to monitor human rights abuses in the Arab world.” A positive feature of the conference however was the amount of international attention that it attracted. International organizations such as the United Nations, the Arab League and the Organization of the Islamic Conference sent delegates to attend the gathering. Moreover, there was a strong presence of European NGOs and parliamentarians, probably encouraged by the fact that the conference was cosponsored by a European NGO. Emma Bonino, the former European commissioner for humanitarian affairs, and a founder of the Italian NGO “No Peace Without Justice”, was generally considered to be the driving force for the holding of the Sanaa meeting. The two-day conference witnessed many high profile Arab government officials. This was seen by observers to be a signal of an increasing interest by Arab governments to start looking favourably to calls for political reform. Indeed, the Yemeny president Ali Abdoullah Saleh hosted the meeting in his presidential palace. Addressing the participants, he hailed democracy as being “the choice of the modern age for all people of the world and the rescue ship for political regimes.” The tone of fear cannot be missed in such statements, many observers believe. It is not merely because democracy is a desirable value on its own, but because it is necessary to “rescue” the current regimes. There is no doubt that the regimes now feel the urgency for reform so as not to give the American administration the chance to interfere in domestic affairs. Expectedly, the conference was full of calls for reform being followed by the reservation that “democracy…cannot be imposed from the outside,” as Kofi Annan, secretary general of the UN said in a message to the delegates. Similarly Amr Moussa, secretary general of the Arab League called for democracy to be viewed as a “process, not a decision imposed by others.” The Arab world’s record is disappointing in all of the three issues that were handled in Sanaa, namely democracy, human rights and the ICC. The famous Arab Human Development Reports issued by the UNDP in 2002 and 2003 ranked the Arab world as the lowest in global regions in terms of the degree of political and civil freedom. However, Yemen’s big show has induced other Arab countries to follow suit. Bahrain, Qatar and Morocco have expressed their willingness to host a second conference. All three countries have young and relatively new leaders and are thus examples of what could be seen as a new trend in Arab politics – competition for modernization and reform.





Altri articoli su:
[ Islam e democrazia ] [ Corte Penale Internazionale e Tribunale Penale Internazionale ] [ ONU e OMD ] [ Conferenza di Sana'a ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ]

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[ Islam e democrazia ] [ Corte Penale Internazionale e Tribunale Penale Internazionale ] [ ONU e OMD ] [ Conferenza di Sana'a ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ]

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[ Islam e democrazia ] [ Corte Penale Internazionale e Tribunale Penale Internazionale ] [ ONU e OMD ] [ Conferenza di Sana'a ] [ Diritti Umani, Civili  & Politici ]


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