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Long road to democracy in Arab world: Report

world Updated: Apr 01, 2010 12:37 IST
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Arab world has the institutional means to transition to democratic governments but has not yet universally applied them into practice, an Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) report has said.

The annual report, which is put together by a network of independent Arab research and policy institutes, is named charting the Arab World's transition to democracy.

"There is an initial willingness in the Arab region to democratise, though this tendency remains at an embryonic stage. A large gap exists between the measurement of the means and the practices of democratic transition, a phenomenon that was clearly documented by the Index," Khalil Shikaki, lead editor of the report, said.

The Index, in its second edition, covers ten Arab countries with the mission to eventually cover all the countries in the Arab world.

The study measures forty indicators to gauge four major values and principles relevant to the democratisation process: strong and accountable public institutions, respect for rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and equality and social justice.

The selected indicators measure daily political, economic and social issues, and reflect the entire democratic decision-making process.

According to Bassma Kodmani, Executive Director of the ARI, the experience of the past two decades shows that there is no single formula for democratic transition, regardless of whether it is on a positive or negative course.

"Our purpose, rather, is to gauge political organisation based on the criteria that people are the source of power, and that the system should reflect the popular will. This should occur while ensuring justice and equality through participation in the decision-making process," said Kodmani.

ARI also stated an urgent need in the Arab world to guarantee greater political and civil freedom, not only through more legislation but also by enhancing monitoring functions and the role of human rights organizations.

Additionally, ARI notes a pressing need to make the issues of social justice and social and economic rights the core of the reform process.

This would need to happen while also reforming education by allocating bigger budgets, combating illiteracy, reducing the school drop-out rate, and improving the conditions of education, especially for females.

"Democracy, at the core, is not just a way of thinking, a belief, a set of values, or a cultural trend. To measure it objectively, it must be regarded as a mechanism for participation in the decision-making process, and one that ensures that the decisions taken reflect the will of the people," Kodmani concluded.

The ten countries covered in the report are: Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Lebanon, Algeria, Kuwait, Palestine, Syria, Yemen and Saudi Arabia.