For the Common Good: Revitalizing Multilateral Cooperation for Political Reform in the Middle East
Project on Middle East Democracy, June 2010.
Edited by Tuqa Nusairat
Full text (pdf).
In May and September of 2009, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES) and the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) gathered twenty American, European, and Middle Eastern leaders to discuss challenges and opportunities for multilateral efforts to support reform in the Middle East. The workshop participants also discussed specific platforms for such multilateral efforts and provided recommendations to policymakers for improving these mechanisms in order to effectively promote democratic reform in the region.
· Adjusting Western policies
· Strengthening civil society
· Promoting political inclusion
· Advancing human rights and liberties
· Addressing issues of migration
Discussions of these priorities included steps for moving forward in their implementation as well as potential obstacles facing the parties involved. With these in hand, the participants went on to discuss existing multilateral frameworks and emerged with a set of recommendations to address the loopholes and weaknesses in five prominent multilateral initiatives:
· G8 Broader Middle East & North Africa Initiative (BMENA)
§ Restructure as a state-to-state initiative that complements existing civil society initiatives rather than including civil society directly.
§ Rebrand the initiative by dropping the “B” in order to focus on the Arab world.
§ Strengthen incentives for Arab participation and support.
§ Support sustainability of initiatives by rotating presidencies.
· OECD Governance for Development Initiative (GfD)
§ Increase transparency regarding initiative’s purpose, activities, and participants.
§ Incentivize participation of additional actors and broaden agenda beyond modernizing governance to include political reform and human rights.
· European Neighborhood Policy (ENP) and the Union for the Mediterranean
§ Expand focus on migration to include addressing political reform issues.
§ Emphasize civil society-to-civil society component.
§ Expand opportunities for educational exchanges between the regions.
§ Promote accountability of regional governments through civil society organizations.
· UN Arab Human Development Report (AHDR)
§ Address concerns about authors’ credibility and external intervention in report’s conclusions.
§ Provide policy prescriptions for regional governments based on the diagnoses highlighted in the reports.
§ Utilize the findings of the AHDR to shape the structure of donor programs in the region.
· Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI)
§ Conduct an independent review to assess and study MEPI’s regional impact.
§ Address the issue of fluctuating funding to make programs more sustainable in the mid- to long-term.
§ Explore the potential for more cooperation, communication and coordination with other national, international, and multilateral donors and initiatives.
In reviewing the aforementioned priorities, participants concluded that some could not be addressed by existing multilateral initiatives. Suggestions emerged for an “Arab Social Forum,” a non-governmental, non-partisan, open platform for regional organizations and individuals to share experiences and success stories, and to organize around shared interests.
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About the Editor:
Tuqa Nusairat is Director of Dialogue Programs for the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). Prior to that, she worked at the National Endowment for Democracy as well as the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on International Organizations, Human Rights, and Oversight on Iraq-related legislation and inter-parliamentary initiatives. Her graduate research has focused on democratic reform in the Middle East in general and on the role of Islamist activists in particular. Nusairat received her M.S. in Foreign Service from Georgetown University and B.A. in Government & International Politics from George Mason University.