Lack of reform in the Arab states could lead to chaotic upheaval
Regional, Politics, 4/6/2005
The US has supported what was stated in the UN annual report on the Arab development which tackled issues on freedom and democracy in the region, but refused the criticism addressed by the report regarding the American intervention in the region.
The spokesman for the US Department Of State, Richard Boucher, said that Washington agrees with the criticism on the absence of reforms and democracy in the Arab states, but does not accept the accusations addressed to it on violence in Iraq or being biased to Israel.
The human development report in the Arab states which was issued on Tuesday considered that the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian lands and the American occupation of Iraq" represent a violation of freedom and an obstacle in the way to development in the region.
The issuance of the report delayed for three months because of American objections over what was stated in it of violations of human rights in Iraq because of its occupation, as well as because of Egypt's objection on remarks hinted by the report to the issue of "political inheritance of rule in government," in reference to president possibly handing rule to his son.
Within the delay period of the UNDP report, news talked on American threats to stop its financial contributions to the UNDP, but the director general of the program Mark Brown denied in his introduction to the report that Washington had loomed to stop its contributions in the future to the budget of the program.
The report which is the third of its kind said that there is no genuine progress in the region towards democracy since the end of 2003 till now, stressing that reforms are still fractioned and in their infancy stage.
The report recommended to give "top priority to reforms in three sectors that cannot be delayed: abrogating the state of emergency (laws), eliminating (ethnic and religious) discrimination, and ensuring the independency of the judiciary."
The report said pressure for political change is intensifying within the Arab states and unless Arab governments move much more quickly towards reform they could face chaotic social upheaval and violence.
Urging a rapid acceleration of democratic reform, the “Arab Human Development Report 2004” calls for many far-reaching legal and political changes to fortify the institutional foundations of freedom, limit the monopoly on power currently enjoyed by the executive in most countries and ensure an independent judiciary and total free speech.
“In the absence of peaceful and effective mechanisms to address injustice and achieve political alternation, some might be tempted to embrace violent protest, with the risk of internal disorder,” the report, released in Amman, Jordan, warns.
“This could lead to chaotic upheavals that might force a transfer of power in Arab countries, but such a transfer could well involve armed violence and human losses that, however small, would be unacceptable. Nor would a transfer of power through violence guarantee that successor governance regimes would be any more desirable,” it adds.
The study, written by an independent group of leading Arab intellectuals and sponsored by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) together with the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development and the Arab Gulf Programme for UN Development Organizations, dismisses the notion that the problem is one of culture, rooting it in politics.
Throughout the region, the concentration of power in the hands of the executive -- be it a monarchy, military dictatorship, or a civilian president elected without competition -- has created a kind of political “black hole” at the center of Arab political life, it says.
“The modern Arab state, in the political sense, runs close to this astronomical model, whereby the executive apparatus resembles a ‘black hole,’ which converts its surrounding social environment into a setting in which nothing moves and from which nothing escapes,” the report declares.
It did note some recent progress such as elections in Iraq and the Palestinian territories, domestic political mobilization in Lebanon, municipal elections in Saudi Arabia, the announcement of major presidential election reforms in Egypt, legislative elections with women voters and candidates in Oman and a competitive, multiparty presidential contest in Algeria.
But overall, the pace has been disappointingly limited. “Certainly, incipient reforms are taking place in more than one of the priority areas identified in this report, but for the most part those reforms have been embryonic and fragmentary,” it states. “Some gains are undoubtedly real and promising, but they do not add up to a serious effort to dispel the prevailing environment of repression.”
Among other points, the report argues institutionalized corruption and pervasive “clannism” reinforce the black hole phenomenon and says Arab countries have failed to meet their own peoples’ aspirations for development, security and liberation.
It also notes Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories, which “continues to violate the individual and collective freedoms of Palestinians through assassinations, raids on heavily populated civilian areas, arbitrary arrests, house demolitions and repeated closures.”
And it singles out for condemnation attacks against civilian non-combatants by armed militants in Iraq as well as the civilian casualties of armed actions by United States-led occupation forces, which it faults for failing to meet their obligations under the Geneva Convention to provide security to Iraqi citizens. “After dismantling the old state, the US-led authorities made little progress in building a new one,” it asserts.
The report indicated that the authorities of "the intelligence departments exceed those of any other department," noting that "the intelligence (departments) owns large resources and interferes in the decisions of the executive body so as it has become very common to give the label "Bilad al Mukhabarat (countries intelligence ) to most contemporary Arab states.
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