The Greater Middle East Initiative and the Arab Civil Society

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Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies (CHIRS) organized a seminar on “The Greater Middle East Project and the Arab Civil Society” yesterday. The purpose of the seminar was to discuss the initiative recently introduced by the American administration under the pretext of democratizing the Arab world. Twenty of the researchers, politicians, journalists and human rights and civil society activists participated in the discussions of the seminar which was directed by Dr. Mohamed El Sayed Said, the academic advisor of the CIHRS and the deputy director of AL-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies (CPSS).

The discussions were centered upon the trial to answer a lot of the many important questions raised by the initiative, which surpass the limits of refusal or approval to give the superior importance to studying the chances and possibilities of influencing the current state of affairs for adopting the from-inside Arab and Egyptian reform programs and initiatives which were always aborted as a result of the systematic oppression in the Arab world to the interior calls for reform.

After three hours of continued discussion, the participants agreed on the necessity of preparing a collective memorandum signed by a hundred from the trusted and weighty Egyptian Intellectuals involving calls for comprehensive reform and expressing the ambitions of the different patriotic and democratic actors for building a secular patriotic democratic state and saving the state from the dangers and challenges facing the country.

Within this context, they emphasized that the partial and timely solutions and compromises such as the move toward the canceling of freedom-restricting penalties in some publishing issues, the canceling of some Military orders, or even the canceling of the emergency state, are no longer workable in the face of the internal challenges which can lead the country to chaos and collapse.

The participants also emphasized the necessity of basing the memorandum primarily on the principle of the self-desire for reform and the establishing of a democratic society that can achieve the overall uprising in the different aspects of the Egyptian life among which the political reform and the economic, educational and social uprising.

The participants confirmed that fact that there are vast self and objective capabilities for the re-arrangement of the internal Egyptian state of affairs in a democratic manner warning from the desires of and the efforts exerted by some for the sake of maintaining the status quo, currently characterized by chaos in the different fields for so many years.

Some of the participants called for addressing the state, and the wider spectrum of the people which objects to the from-outside imposed change; yet it also refuses the continuation of the current stagnant and worsening conditions, confirming that a lot of people project the possibility of re-arranging the current state of affairs in the light of the available resources under the condition of the transfer to the state of law and the grass-rooting of rationality in performance and policies and setting the machine of the state within the framework of law and the re-vitalization of the society.

Moreover, many of the participants returned the responsibility of spreading the chaos and its disability to put into action its banners back to the failure of the state in the issue of the societal organization starting 1952 giving such proofs as the state&#146s putting in vein the laws it issues, something that led to chaos in the Egyptian political and social structure.

The directions of the participants fluctuated between calling for a brief memorandum dealing under certain banners such as independence, democracy, secularism and social justice and dealing with the principal issues as the political system and the constitution and addressing it to both the intellectuals and the state, and calling for a detailed statement identifying the Egyptian case with a focus not only on the enlisted requirements but also on moving towards grass-rooting the philosophy of reform and the its implications on the different structures of the Egyptian society.

Some opinions criticized the intellectuals&#146 repetition for previously-mentioned speeches and initiatives on reform and stopping at the stage of analysis and theorization and directing their speech to the state disregarding in this respect political forces and movements striving for achieving this reform. And these opinions called upon the intellectuals to work for formulating a pressuring power and proposing a detailed view for reform and contacting it with the people whereas defended other opinions this repetition referring to the absence of a common background among the different stated opinions with regard to the issue of reform till now.

And despite the fact that the release of the formal project of the Greater Middle East Initiative is still to be done next June where the summits of the G8 and the European Union and the NATO are going to held in the American, Dublin and Istanbul respectively, part of the attendees confirmed their refusal to the initiative being part of the American policy. Meanwhile, others&#146 opinions highlighted the timing of the release of the American initiative which comes after one year since the war on Iraq and its accompanying changes adding that the European initiative was discussed exclusively by the governments; where the American initiative was not discussed by the Americans neither with the governments nor the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the region, something that makes it some sort of arrogance and not determining the counterpart party to it; being the governments, the political parties, the NGOs or the Military power.

In addition, these opinions referred to the point that what weakens the American initiative is its disregard for the Palestinian Issue. Yet, these opinions also directed the attention to the fact that the details of the initiative do not include what can be refused, seeing it dealing with the issues of liberties, development and reform; issues that are raised from within the area.

Some of the participants mocked of the weakness of the Arab reasoning refusing the American initiative, and in front of it that of the particularity of the area, emphasizing that this reasoning carries an insult for the culture of the area and accuses it with being responsible for the existence of torture and corruption, referring to the fact that these reasoning are not raised in case of having security-related agreements with the outside world.

Finally, some participants called the political forces and the Arab Civil Society to become effective parties in addressing the Coming Arab Summit, which will discuss feeble projects for reform, and proposing initiatives on the part of the Arab Civil Society to the public opinion and working for influencing what is currently prepared in Washington, in the Arab Summit and in the three summits that are going to held next June.

This post is also available in: العربية

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