What is the role of the Civil Society in the Forum for the Future?

In International Advocacy Programby

The Conference of the civil society which was parallel to the “Forum for the Future” closed its proceedings in Rabat yesterday. It ended up with recommendations and a comprehensive document on the demands of reform in the Arab world and the comments of the civil society on the initiative of the G8 and the Forum for the Future to be presented to the Forum today.

The delegation of the civil society to the Forum for the Future consisted of 7 members, two of whom forcibly did not appear, namely: the head of the International Organization for Criminal Reform, Ahmed Othmani and the head of the Committees for the Defense of Human Rights in Syria, Aktham Naissa. The former died after a grievous accident on the evening of the first day of the conference and the Syrian government did not allow the latter to travel. They were added to the delegation in honor of their struggles for reform and enhancement of human rights. The participating members are:

1- Amna Abu Ayaash, the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights
2- Bahey El-Din Hassan, Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies
3- Charles Odwan, the Lebanese Transparency Organization
4- Morad Allal, coordinator of the Euro-Mediterranean Civil Forum
5- Nihad Abul Qomsaan, the Egyptian Center for Women’s Rights

The conference was held in Rabat, December 8-9 upon an initiative by the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights, the International Federation for Human Rights and the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network. It was attended by civil society NGOs and actors from 13 Arab countries with the participation of 9 international organizations. The conference was held based on the pursuit of dialogue with all the international, regional and national parties relevant, whether governmental or non-governmental. Such dialogue is always pursued by the civil society NGOs. The conference was also held for providing positive interaction with the G8 initiative on reform in the Arab world and presenting proposals and recommendations to the first official meeting of the Forum for the Future.

The recommendations of the conference underscored the following:

1- The civil society NGOs and actors firmly believe that the process of reform in the Arab world is an internal affair to be undertaken by all the national, governmental or non-governmental, actors aspiring for real reform to fulfill the peoples’ aspirations for progress, development, democracy, human rights, security and peace. However, they condemn the attempts to forcibly suppress the calls for internal reform in the Arab world over decades. The main obstacle hindering reform is the lack of the necessary political will on the part of the most of the Arab governments.
2- Readiness for constructive interaction with the initiative of the G8, the “Forum for the Future” and the representatives of Arab governments participating in this Forum. They previously cooperated with the similar regional and international initiatives. This is due to their commitment to work through the mechanisms available to contribute to a real reform in each state. This is based on an independent status and within an agenda and a strategy partly concluded by the civil society over the past years through declarations and programs of action.
3- The Palestinian and Iraqi issues can not be invoked as pretexts not to start reforms. However, the continuation of the Israeli occupation with its crimes against the Palestinian people and its properties, double standards towards its rights and postponing the full hand over of sovereignty to the Iraqi people negatively affect the dynamics of the process of reform.
4- The G-8 governments are urged to revoke the double standards policy towards the issues of the Arab world, violations of human rights and democracy in each state and take individual and collective stances towards it. In addition to monitoring public elections and opinion trials, rendering the relations of political and economic reform pending on proceeding in reform and the abidance of each state by its commitments.
5- Activating the role of the Forum for the Future and that of the civil society are intertwined. The civil society should be considered an equal partner in all phases of preparation for the meetings of the civil society. The requirements for a deep discussion of the visions and proposals of the civil society should be provided. The Arab governments should not practice security harassment of the civil society NGOs and delegations participating in the Forum and all international for a.
6- Deeming the civil society as an equal partner should not be restricted to the occasion of the Forum, it should be a daily reality. Arab governments in each state should manage an equal and effective dialogue with the civil society on the means to implement the plans and timetables for reform. Such dialogues should not require a mediator from the G8 in order to take place. The heads of the G8, when visiting the Arab states should be keen on holding meetings with the civil society actors and NGOs in such countries.
7- The real examination of the intentions of the Arab governments towards reform is that such governments declare their commitment to immediate revision of the laws governing the establishment of NGOs and amending them as per the international criteria, cease conscience trials and releasing advocates of reform.

In this context, the conference highlighted a number of priorities helping the development of the forces of reform:
– Launching the freedom of ownership mass media and the flaw of information.
– Launching the freedom of establishing and running political parties, syndicates and NGOs.
– Launching freedoms of expression, particularly the right to assembly and meeting.
– Ending the state of emergency – wherever applied – and repealing the laws and exceptional courts.
– Ensuring the rights of women and ending all forms of inequality and discrimination against women in the Arab states.
– Immediate release of the advocates of reform, human rights defenders and prisoners of conscience.
– Adhering to the rules of transparency and accountability and combating corruption.
– Confirming the relation between the economic reform and comprehensive political reform based on the respect of democracy and human rights.
– Devising policies and mechanisms providing effective insurance network for the vulnerable segments affected by structural reforms particularly women, the poor, children and the historically marginalized ethnic groups.
– Urging governments to revise the contents of religious discourse in the religious ad secular curricula and feeding them with the renewing ideas. All religions and creeds should be equally treated in the media and educational curricula.

The conference pointed out that activating the role of the civil society with all its groups in the partnership with the states participating in the “Forum for the Future” necessitates developing institutions and mechanisms relevant to its organization. This requires the following:

1- Developing mechanisms for the participation of the civil society in the “Forum” as per definite mechanisms including; increasing the number of its representatives and involving it in all phases of preparation of the agenda and the meeting and all issues relevant to political, economic, social and educational reform.
2- Adopting the structure to be established by the civil society to participate in the Forum for the Future so that it becomes a channel for a dynamic, institutional and stable follow up with the G8 and the governments of the region on the development of the issue of reform.
3- Establishing an index for democratic reform to measure the progress of the Arab states in the process of democratic reform, equal integration of women in the public life. It would issue an annual report to that effect. It works on monitoring and evaluating election processes in the Arab world as per the international standards.

Furthermore, the document adopted by the conference 27 programs of action for civil society on national, Arab regional and Euro-Mediterranean levels to enhance reform.

 

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