Arab Reforms Forum Opens in Jordan

Foreign ministers from the G8 industrialized nations, Arab, European and Muslim countries on Friday, December 1, opened a conference on the shores of the Dead Sea to promote reforms in the region.

Arab Reforms Forum Opens in Jordan

Jordanian Prime Minister Maaruf Bakhit told the Forum for the Future that political reform and the involvement of civil society and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in the political process were "basic requirements" for economic development and tackling the Middle East's problems, reported Agence France-Presse (AFP).

"I should like to renew our call on all to embark on a concentrated effort to address the existing tensions in our region and to resolve the age-old conflicts which have prevented it from reaching its full potential," he said.

Failing to find "rapid and fair solutions (to Mideast conflicts) casts a shadow on many initiatives and ambitious priorities for our people and slows down reform efforts" Bakhit said.

"This should not be used as a pretext to stop reform, although the absence of a fair and comprehensive solution to the Arab-Israeli conflict weakens moderate forces and reinforces those who stipulate violence, extremism and hatred".

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and his Jordanian counterpart Abdel Ilah Khatib -- the conference co-hosts -- also spoke of the need to address the Israeli-Palestinian crisis as key to improving regional stability.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice attended the Forum along with and British Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett.

Jordan has invited 56 countries and organizations to attend the third annual forum, after Morocco and Bahrain, since Washington launched the controversial Broader Middle East and North Africa initiative at a G8 summit in 2004.

The focus of this year's forum is on issues of political freedom and good governance as well as economic and educational empowerment in the broader Middle East, from North Africa to Pakistan.

Arab activists meeting ahead of the forum have called on world leaders to take urgent measures to resolve regional conflicts before pushing ahead with reforms amid concern that Arab regimes still lack the will for change.

Ahead of the forum Rice met foreign ministers of the six-nation Gulf Cooperation Council, Egypt and Jordan for talks on moves required to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process, and the situations in Iraq and Lebanon.


Rice (3rdL) meets with Arab Foreign Ministers on the eve of the Forum.

Britain's Beckett told the meeting that regional partnerships and the education of the area's youth were key to tackling global problems like chronic underdevelopment, climate change and terrorism.

"If we, through out partnership, fail to meet the aspirations of our people, then the only winners will be the tiny minority, the extremists, who want to see us split apart," she said.

Non-governmental organizations and civil society groups were giving presentations to the gathered ministers at the start of each meeting, officials said.

Barry Lowenkron, the US assistant secretary of state for democracy promotion, said a sign of the progress made in the region since the first forum was held in 2004 is that at that meeting only five NGOs were invited to speak, while more than 50 were involved on Friday.

"That to me is the real story of the forum," he said.

Lowenkron said a second fund of around 90 million dollars was being developed to support small business ventures.

Last year's forum set up a 67-million-dollar-fund, called the Foundation for the Future, to provide grants to NGOs in the region -- a controversial scheme in many countries which frequently view such organizations with suspicion due to their activism on issues like human rights and corruption.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 20 Eylül 2018, 18:16