Arab: Human Development Project

Carmen Negrin forwards "Faulting U.S., Report Urges Arab Lands to Democratize" b

y Hassan M. Fattah (New York Times, 4/6/05).  Here is an excerpt: A group of Arab intellectuals have called for rapid progress toward democracy in the Arab world and contended that the United States and Israel have impeded such progress, in a report issued in Amman The Arab Human Development Report was released by the United Nations Development Program after a six-month delay, during which the Bush administration sought to block it. Nevertheless, according to its authors, it appeared to contain few major changes from earlier drafts.
The report warns that Arab governments may soon face the prospect of civil strife or change forced by outsiders unless swift and fundamental reforms are begun. But, in a departure from two earlier reports on Arab society in which the group focused almost exclusively on problems within the Arab world, this study says the United States and Israel have also played a part in suppressing Arab freedom. The Bush administration, in Washington, objected to that conclusion. In part, the study blames the dearth of democracy and freedom in the region on the structure of modern Arab states, which have become highly centralized, mostly offering their citizens only a small margin of freedom. Even in the region's limited democracies, the report says, societies and economies are organized in a way that prevents the emergence of an effective opposition.

"The Arab development crisis has widened, deepened and grown more complex to a degree that demands the full engagement of all Arab citizens in comprehensive reform," the authors say. "Partial reforms, no matter how varied, are no longer effective or even possible." The report asserts that Arabs enjoy greater personal and economic freedom than they once did, but that they have little if any political freedom. "The freedoms of opinion, expression and organization, in particular, suffer from repression in most Arab countries," said Rima Khalaf, assistant secretary general of the development program, who led the effort that produced the report. The study is the third installment of the Human Development Report series written by prominent Arab scholars, who have taken an unsentimental eye to their world and offered the most prominent academic study of the Arab condition.

Ronald Hilton 2005


last updated: June 8, 2005