Civil Society and Reform: The EU-US Summit

A press conference held in Brussels this morning called upon the EU-US Summit held in Dublin to take into account that any international initiative for reform should invoke the real and pressing needs of the Arab societies. They should be based on real partnership among the civil society institutions, political parties and powers and governments in each country. The institutions of such partnership should be held accountable before peoples of the Arab region and the international community.

The press conference was held at the International Press Center with the participation of Michel Tubiana, Vice President of the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), Kamel Jendoubi, President of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) and Bahey El Din Hassan, Director of the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CIHRS). The speakers confirmed that any new framework for partnership for reform should be based on equal interaction with the civil society, development of mechanisms for monitoring the process of reform and assessment of advancement on the route of reform, provided that the civil society undertakes a key role. Moreover, the speakers emphasized that the vision of the international community for reform in the Arab world would lack the required momentum unless it is accompanied by tangible actions for fair settlement of the Palestinian issue, abidance by declaring the Palestinian state in 2005 and transference of authority to the Iraqis on June 30.

The speakers evaluated the G-8 Summit and the outcomes of the last EU Summit meeting regarding reform. They pointed out that the international initiatives derive their significance from the fact that most of the Arab governments do not heed internal calls for reform and even suppress and marginalize reformists. However, these governments pay due attention to whatever external ideas and initiatives. The speakers confirmed that chances for interaction with any international initiative aiming at democratic development and respect for human rights are enhanced through the extent to which such initiatives meet the requirements of reform from within in the Arab region. In pursuit of such reform, the peoples and the internal reform powers paid a precious price over more than half a century.

Furthermore, the speakers addressed the main principles of the “Second Independence” initiative for reform in the Arab region. This document was concluded by the First Civil Forum parallel to the Arab Summit. The Forum was organized by the CIHRS in Beirut in March 2004, in cooperation with the Association for Defending Rights and Freedoms (ADL) and the Palestinian Human Rights Organization (Rights) and in coordination with the EMHRN and the FIDH with the participation of 52 NGOs from 13 Arab states. The speakers confirmed that the said document represents the wider framework of their stance regarding the main demands for political reform in the Arab region.

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