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DOCUMENTARIO DEDICATO DA AL-JAZEERA ALLA LEADER RADICALE EMMA BONINO

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SECOND FORUM ON DEMOCRACY, POLITICAL REFORM IN THE ARAB WORLD (DOHA)

Second Forum on Democracy and Political Reform in the Arab World Doha, Qatar, 27-29 May 2007 Hon Emma Bonino, Minister for International Trade and for European Affairs, Government of Italy “European Vision on the Progress of Democracy in the Arab World: Present and Future” It is a great pleasure for me to be back in Qatar and to meet again so many friends whom I have been privileged to work with since the Sana'a Conference on Human Rights, Democracy and the Role of the International Criminal Court, back in January 2004, first as a civil society activist and now as a member of my Government. I would like to extend my special thanks to the organisers, the Government of Qatar and the National Human Rights Commission, with the invaluable support of my good friend Dr Saad Eddin Ibrahim and the Ibn Khaldun Centre. Thank you for inviting me here and for the tremendous work done in hosting and running this forum. It is very heartening for all of you to have come from so many places across the region to gather here in Doha. I believe this is the right time to look critically at (1) where we are, (2) where we want to go and (3) how to get from here to there. We need some stocktaking and - most importantly - to look honestly at some important questions. The results of your work over the past few days are very instructive. Of course, we all understand that democracy should improve in the region. But we also know that we have been working relentlessly towards that end - and will continue to do so in the future. As we pursue our efforts, we should be clear-minded on what is the goal we wish to achieve. Democracy is neither a state of mind nor a state of things. It is a process - one that requires constant attention, to make sure that it works, and that it keeps on working. It is not easy to speak from a European perspective in this respect; and for sure I have no lessons to bring to you. Europe is as diverse as your region: and like yourselves, we have plenty of special perspectives on the approach to democracy. The road to a functioning democratic system has been and continuous to be bumpy in Europe as well as one experiences of Ukraine is eloquently showing these days. What matters, is the sense of direction and the commitment to stay the course. What I can say with pride, is that my Government, the Italian Government, is indeed committed, has been committed since the Sana'a Conference more than three years ago, and will stay the course. We will continue to support gatherings like this one, cooperating with you and helping sustain your efforts. I also wish to offer some thoughts as an “External Actor” . As someone who has a special interest in this region; and has therefore thought a lot about whether foreigners should at all be entitled to have a “vision” for a region that is not their own. I can answer that question right now: I believe it is right to have a vision for democracy. Everywhere in the world. And it is right to rely on fellow democracy activists for support: bearing in mind that, with that right, comes the responsibility to do what we can in pursuit of democracy. As I said, democracy is a process. The best we can do to make that process successful is to be honest in majoring achievements: as honest as you have been during this Forum. As we recognise that progress has been made, we need to address the setbacks suffered on the way. There is one aspect in the current wave of democratisation in this region that sets it apart both from previous reform attempt within the region, and in other parts of the world. I am speaking about partnership between State, and non-State actors. In the past, democratic reform would either be driven by civil society or by governments. It was either the bottom up, or top down: never through both processes taking place at the same time, and working in synergy. What we see now emerging, is precisely that sort of cooperation between state and non-state actors: the first serious attempts to actually work together towards the common goal of democratic reform. Just remember that three years ago, when government and civil society meetings on a peer-to-peer basis was a brand new concept, some of you braved government opposition to participation in the Sana'a Conference. Yet today you all stand here, invited by the Government of Qatar in your capacity of democracy activists, recognised as an essential component of democratic reform in the region. This is what makes progress of democracy in the region so special at this time. Each actor at this table - whether from state or not-state organisations - brings its perspective and its responsibility. The same holds true for actors from within and from outside the region. Civil society cannot simply complain about problems, relying on someone else to find the solution: it can and must propose solutions, as you have been doing over the past few days. If we want democracy, we need to be prepared to act like democrats and that means also sharing the burden of finding solutions, not just with governments but first and foremost with other civil society representatives. By the same token, governments cannot just listen to other governments, or to international organisations. They must listen to the voices struggling to be heard from within their own societies. They need to identify and address the needs and aspirations of the people. Democracy cannot be imposed from the outside. It has to come from the inside, from the people, in response to their needs and aspirations. Societies - not governments - are the true test for democratic achievements. Where societies are democratic, governments will be democratic too. It does not work in reverse mode, as recent experience tells us. But there are commonalities and this is why gatherings like this are so important. As I have said many times, before, there is no such thing as “Arab Democracy”, any more than there is such a thing as “Western Democracy”: there is simply Democracy, the right to be governed by the people and for the people. The right for every voice of the oppressed to have equal weight to the voices of the rich and powerful; the right for opinions to count because they have value not because of who says them; the right for each and every person to live in freedom, governed only by the rule of law - law made by and on behalf of the people, administered by fair and transparent institutions. These are individual rights that we all have, owned by each and every person, men and women equally, simply by virtue of being a human being. You could call this a European Vision, but perhaps it is more accurate to say it is the vision of this particular European, which I am happy to say is shared by many other Europeans. ...And unless I am very mistaken, it seems to me that this is the vision shared within this room. We all need to support each other, we need to keep on each other and on the state of democracy everywhere. Threats to democracy are not specific to the Arab Region: at a recent conference organised by our friends in No Peace Without Justice in Pakistan, where the rule of law and the independence of the judiciary are now regularly on the front page of the major daily newspapers, one of the participants said: “Injustice anywhere threatens justice everywhere”. I would equally say that a threat to democracy anywhere threatens democracy everywhere. And if the foundation of democracy were threatened in my own country, I would very much hope that you, democracy advocates from the Arab region, would be vigilant, and you would offer your own support to those within my country who would be fighting to bring back a stronger and better democracy. I see the European role over the next years ideally as a supporting role, to listen to your priorities; to support non state actors and democracy advocates to work together and to be positive; and to encourage governments to listen to those proposals coming from inside their own country, before listening to the outside world. That is exactly what the Government of Italy is trying to do. Working within the framework of the Democracy Assistance Dialogue, with No Peace Without Justice, who many if not all of you know through their work with democracy activists in the region, through the channel of an international organisation like IDEA. For non-State Actors, working together is not a new concept. This region has already seen a few very successful examples: to take just one, look at the work being done by the Al Kawakibi Centre for Democratic Transition and its network, who are looking at some of the “cutting edge” issues in democratic reform, including issues of transitional justice. It is important for external actors to listen to voices from inside the region: to understand what matters now; and what needs support now. I was pleased to see that Transitional Justice is on the agenda for this meeting. Too many countries - not just in this region - have ignored for too long, and continue to ignore the need to address impunity for the wrongs of the past, hoping that the victims will forget (or die); and that society will forget the victims. Rather then concealing the wrongs of the past they have planted the seeds of a self-perpetuating tragedy. What we need instead is a strong and timely response to break the cycle of violence, to end impunity and to address the needs of those victims, to prevent new victims in the future. Voices crying out for democratic reform need similarly strong and timely responses. As members of a global community, we all have a responsibility to answer those calls - in whatever way we can. It is true for Europeans, and for others as well. The world is changing at a faster pace then that any time before. We need to be flexible enough to move with the same pace: and reassess ourselves continuously if we are to make progress. We are ready for that: but our judgement cannot replace yours on what you need to make democracy a reality in your countries. It is your process and in the end, it has to come from you. Our Vision for progress of democracy in the future, is one of progress driven from within, yet supported from within and from without. It is the only progress that has any chance of working, of providing democracy with the strong root, it needs. Let's continue our efforts, let's keep working together. Together, we can succeed. Thank you




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