Project on Middle East Democracy
The POMED Wire Archives
Secretary Clinton’s Upcoming Visit to the Middle East
January 7th, 2011 by Kyle
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton
will meet with King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz
of Saudi Arabia and Prime Minister Saad Harir
i of Lebanon in New York City on Friday. Clinton will then travel to the Middle East from January 8th to January 13th visiting the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Qatar. Mark Toner, acting deputy department spokesman, said the focus of the trip is to, “consult with government officials on a full range of regional and bilateral issues and emphasize the importance of government - civil society engagement.” Clinton will, “engage with civil society and community leaders in each country working to help citizens realize shared aspirations for progress.” The topissues in her agenda will be Middle East peace, Iraq, and Iran and will be addressed at the seventh Forum for the Future in Doha, a meeting of government, civil society, and business leaders from around the region to promote reform in the Middle East.
Update: Senior US State Department Officials gave a background briefing on Clinton’s visit, and answered questions regarding recent political developments in the region. In regards to Tunisia, one official stated the US “expressed our concern about both what is happening with regard to the demonstrations and encouraged the Tunisian Government to ensure that civil liberties are protected, including the freedom to peacefully assemble.” In response to criticism that the Forum for the Future had not produced valuable outputs in past meetings, one official noted, “One of the biggest [outcomes] is the Foundation For The Future, which is based in Jordan and which is an independent NGO that supports civil society development throughout the BMENA region.”
Human Development Report Finds Inequality Persists in Arab World
November 5th, 2010 by Anna
The United Nations released its 2010 Human Development Report yesterday, titled “The Real Wealth of Nations: Pathways to Human Development.” This year’s report, which includes new indices to adjust for inequality, women’s disadvantage, and multidimensional poverty, found that of the countries measured, Oman’s Human Development Index (HDI) score improved the most over the last 40 years. Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco also improved considerably. Overall, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, and Bahrain ranked
the highest in the region; Egypt
came in 101 out of 169, and Sudan ranked close to the bottom.
Inequality remained a significant issue, and Jeni Klugman, the report’s lead author, observed that “the most significant losses for Arab countries in the Inequality-adjusted HDI can be traced to the unequal distribution of income.” Yemen and Qatar ranked very low on gender equality, but the report also notes that women’s representation in Arab parliaments has risen in recent years. On civil and political liberties, the authors report that there is considerable room for improvement across the region.
Poll Shows Strong Pro-Democracy Sentiment
March 9th, 2010 by Josh
The second annual Asda’a Burson-Marsteller Arab Youth Survey reveals overwhelming support for democracy among those between the ages of 18 - 24, ranging
from a low of 85 percent in Oman to a high 99 percent in Kuwait. Also notable are the figures relating to technology and preferred methods of communication
: Four out of five own a mobile phone; 60 percent use the Internet at least once daily; Google, Facebook, and Yahoo are the most frequented websites; and most youth rely upon online social networking as their primary way of keeping in touch with friends and family, with one-third
using these tools daily. Commenting on region-wide views of civil society, Karen Hughes — Burson-Marsteller’s global vice-chairwoman — reported that “Increased public participation was seen as either ‘very important’ or ’somewhat important’ by the vast majority of young people across all the countries surveyed.”
Oman: Growth of Media Outlets
December 15th, 2009 by Zack
Middle East Online reports that the media scene is growing in Oman after a royal decree “heralded a new era in broadcasting, bringing to an end more than three decades of dominance by the state-owned electronic media.” The country now boasts four English newspapers and several mainstream Arabic papers and journals. There are now three privately owned radio stations and the government is attempting to draw new investment into the broadcasting industry.
Programs on these stations cover economics, politics, culture, and sports while the “local flavour […] is of prime importance.” The article explains that “media plays an important role. It helps build public opinion, promotes national development, works as a mirror of day-to-day activities and serves as voice to the Omani citizen.”
Caught Between Tradition and Modernity in Oman
May 15th, 2009 by Cecile
The NY Times
has an interesting article on the “stirrings of discontent
” in Oman. Michael Slackman explains, “as the quiet calls for change spread, there are some signs that Oman is taking the familiar approach of authoritarian states in the Middle East, relying on security services and restrictive laws to silence and frighten the people. A recently amended law allows the government to prosecute anyone associated with a web site or blog that posts anything objectionable, not just the writer…Perhaps more ominously, one political analyst said that top government positions, once filled with academics and prominent members of society, are increasingly being filled by former security officials.”
However, there are also signs of hope as a writer’s association recently held a two-day workshop to discuss freedom of speech. Yet, with many positive changes over the years “Oman has also discovered that it is difficult to open the doors to modernity, especially to education, without also fostering a degree of cynicism about authority and a desire for more freedom. That, and the reality that its oil may soon run out, is what Oman is wrestling with today.”
De-Centralization of Power in the Middle East
February 6th, 2008 by Nicolas
The control of central governments is growing weaker throughout the Arab world writes Rami Khouri
from the Daily Star. The power has begun to shift “into the hands of Islamized urban quarters, armed militias, ethnic-based parties, neighborhood thugs, autonomous regional authorities, multinational corporations, and private-sector commercial real estate firms.” The influence of non-state actors was shown during the 2006 battle between Hezbollah and Israel, when Israel was forced to accept a U.N. ceasefire. This dissipation of state power, according to Khouri, can be attributed to the “declining credibility of state authority; the determination of concerned citizens to take charge of their own life needs and well-being; and the enormous power of the globalized commercial marketplace.”
Signs of Change in the Gulf?
November 2nd, 2007 by Celest
, in an article in the Daily Star
, points out that for the first time in their history the Gulf states are setting aside more money for education than for arms. He suggests this will lead to more reform. However, he points out that “while those driving the education train see it as the start of an Arab renaissance, religious conservatives see an assault on traditional values.” Despite some resistance, he suggests that these are changes that can not be stopped.
POMED Event - “The State of Reform: Human Rights, Democratic Development and Individual Freedoms in Saudi Arabia and the Arab Gulf States”
November 2nd, 2007 by Celest
Yesterday, Project on Middle East Democracy and Freedom House presented a panel of speakers addressing the issue of reform in Saudi Arabia and the other Arab Gulf states. Thomas Melia, Deputy Executive Director of Freedom House and former Director of Middle East Programs at the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs, and Ali Alyami, Executive Director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia, spoke on reform in Saudi Arabia. David Mikosz, Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at the American University in Washington, D.C., and Nathan Brown, Professor of Political Science at George Washington University and Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, spoke about reform in the other Gulf states.
The overall consensus of the panel was that Saudi Arabia and the other Gulf states are among the least free in the world and the minimal reforms that have taken place are largely symbolic. However, there is some hope that democracy could develop gradually though accretion of power by parliaments or other consultative bodies. The panel also encouraged US pressure on the Gulf states to support reforms.
Date: November 1, 2007 2:30pm
Thomas Melia, Deputy Executive Director of Freedom House
Ali Alyami, Executive Director of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights in Saudi Arabia
David Mikosz, Associate Director of the Center for Democracy and Election Management at the American University
Nathan Brown, Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Stephen McInerney, POMED’s Director of Advocacy
to read POMED’s full notes on this event.
to watch a video transcript of this event on fora.tv or use the embedded player below.
Posted in Bahrain, Democracy Promotion, Events, Kuwait, Oman, POMED, Qatar, Reform, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Yemen | Comment »
Women’s Place in Omani Elections
October 30th, 2007 by Celest
Ellee Seymour contrasts the election of Argentina’s first woman president with the election in Oman where no women candidates were elected. She notes that it is particularly disappointing because a record number of women ran this time and it is reported that more women than men turned out to vote at some polling stations. She gives some possible explanations for this result.
An article in The Peninsula, an English language newspaper in Qatar, points out that Oman was the first conservative Muslim Gulf Arab state to give women the right to vote and run for public office, and two women are in the outgoing council. It also discusses the lack of real power of the Majlis Ash-Shura, or Consultative Council, but says that most Omanis are satisfied with it.
October 29th, 2007 by Sean
On Saturday, Omani citizens voted for representatives to their country’s consultative council, which serves in an advisory role to the monarch and government ministers. Despite a record number of female candidates, no women won a seat on the council
, though a high voter turnout has been hailed as a positive sign by Oman’s government.
Oman’s Democratic Body has No Power
October 12th, 2007 by Celest
Rafiah Al-Talei, in the Daily Star, argues that Oman’s Shura Council, though touted as a step toward democracy, has no power and is essentially meaningless. He discusses many problems with the council, including that the president is appointed by the Sultan and that its role is not even truly consultative.
Carnegie’s Arab Reform Bulletin - September
September 18th, 2007 by Celest
The September issue of the Arab Reform Bulletin
of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace is now available. It includes a look at scenarios for the presidential election in Lebanon, an examination of the election in Morocco
, and an article about aspirations for electoral changes in Oman. It also contains news and views about human rights issues in the Middle East. The whole issue is a highly recommended read.
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The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the authors, and do not necessarily represent the views of POMED as an organization