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BMENA Civil Society


Broader Middle East and North Africa
January 2006

BMENA Civil Society Makes Progress in Reform Agenda

"...the Foundation for the Future... looks to indigenous reformers to draw upon their ideas and their ideals to nurture grassroots organizations that support the development of democracy.The Foundation will provide grants to help civil society strengthen the rule of law, to protect basic civil liberties, and ensure greater opportunity for health and education." 
-- Secretary Condoleezza Rice announces the Foundation for the Future at the second Forum for the Future meeting in Manama, Bahrain, November 2005

Democracy Assistance Dialogue (DAD) Activities in 2005

  • Istanbul: Symposium on Women's Empowerment (June)
  • Venice: Civil Society meeting on "Political Pluralism and Electoral Processes (July)
  • Sanaa: "The Role of Arab Civil Society in Advancing Reform (September)
  • Rabat: Civil Society/Ministerial Colloquium on reforming electoral and political processes (October)

Civil society organizations continue to make impressive gains in advancing their agenda for local reform in the broader Middle East and North Africa. The 2005 Forum for the Future, held in Bahrain on November 11-12, marked a dramatic increase in the role and participation of indigenous civil society (more than 40 civil society representatives participated as opposed to just five at the initial Forum in Rabat in 2004) and focused discussion on democracy and political reform. BMENA civil society representatives outlined priorities and needed next steps in the specific areas of the rule of law, transparency, women's empowerment and human rights. Many regional NGOs also participated in a parallel civil society conference in Manama on November 9-10 as a means to further advance their role and voice in this initiative.

Through the BMENA Democracy Assistance Dialogue (DAD), one of the initiatives announced at the 2004 G8-BMENA Summit at Sea Island, hundreds of civil society activists are working with each other and with their governments to address issues including women's empowerment, election reform and the strengthening of democratic and independent political parties.

Led by the Governments of Italy, Turkey and Yemen, in partnership with their civil society counterparts No Peace Without Justice, The Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), and the Human Rights Information and Training Center, the DAD has pursued an active agenda in its first year, focused on advancing dialogue and reform in the areas of women's empowerment and electoral and political processes (see box). To date, hundreds of civil society leaders have participated in the DAS's work, which was highlighted at the Bahrain Forum. The DAD will pursue these themes in 2006 and add in-country follow-on activities, an expanded website, and a list serve.

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice announced the launch of the Foundation for the Future at the Forum in response to the calls from regional civil society for a mechanism to ensure follow-up on its recommendations for action. The Foundation will provide grants to civil society in the BMENA region to advance freedom and democratic values and practices.

The United States government is working to advance genuine cooperation and commitment between the region's governments and civil society to promote freedom, democracy and prosperity, both through its support to the creation of the Foundation for the Future and through the expanding work of its Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI). In addition to its expanding regional civil society programs, MEPI is supporting the work of the DAD, both in 2005 and 2006, and also supported the work of the rule of law delegation to the Bahrain Forum.

  

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