The Domestic Dimension of Arab Reforms

  • 21 October 2008

In the closing statement issued at the end of the fifth session day before yesterday in Abu Dhabi, the “Future Forum” sent out an important message—both in its content and timing—that reforms must emanate from within the domestic setting and must conform to the “cultural, historical and religious characteristics of the area”. The importance of this message emanates from many important considerations. Firstly, reforms emanating from within have the ability to sustain and develop themselves because they are based on internal dynamism and interaction within a society in all its forms. This provides strength and durability to the reform movement in the face of obstacles that usually confront its path. Secondly, one set of reforms cannot be applied to all countries and societies as they would not be successful in achieving the intended goals in all cases. Formulas and arrangements vary from one society to other depending on their different political, economic, social and cultural circumstances, as what applies to one society may not apply to the other, and what is achievable in one place might not be successfully achieved in another, as despite the broadly applicable outlines for political, social and economic reform, there remain special considerations that cannot be ignored, bypassed or glossed over, as these would obstruct the path for reforms and even distort them. The third point to be noted here is that when reforms emanate from within a domestic setting they encompass various facets and dimensions and ensure the stability of countries and societies, preventing them from being subjected to sudden upheavals that could lead to dangerous outcomes. The fourth point is that effective and successful reforms must be based on adaptable social, cultural and economic structures, based on a well-studied and gradual approach pursued by the countries of the region, particularly the UAE. This is important because such a gradual approach would link each step with the requisite social circumstances necessary for its success and for achieving the intended objectives. Moreover, reforms in the Middle East are an internal and national concern in the first place, as pointed out by His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Minister of Foreign Affairs. Important steps have been taken for its fulfillment, especially in the field of education, human development, women’s empowerment, freedom of the press, and other fields. These lay down a strong foundation for the political and social reform programs.

However, some seek immediate and quick execution of reform concepts based on ready-made programs and formulas. However, experience shows that such an approach at times affects the stability of societies and even fails to achieve reforms because it does not take into consideration the specific social needs. It is not linked to popular reactions. This underscores the importance of the message made by the “Future Forum” after its last meeting in Abu Dhabi.