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Social Watch

Arab countries must follow their own models of democracy, not EU’s

5 January 2012

“The European Union (EU) can assist in the process of democratization of Arab countries, but on our terms,” said Kinda Mohamadieh, program director of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND, focal point of Social Watch) at the conference “Democracy & Development”, held in Warsaw.

Activists from North Africa and the Middle East and representatives of Polish NGOs attended the forum that preceded a high-level ministerial conference for partner countries of the Southern neighborhood organized by the Polish government, currently in charge of the Presidency of the EU Council.

Arab NGOs agreed that democracy must be fostered by the societies in an independent fashion. Transfer of European models of democracy to the region may be ineffective, because of the cultural differences. Europe may assist in the democratization process, but without imposing solutions, they warned.

“Arab Spring is not only a social expression of rebellion against political oppression, but also against the prevailing economic and social model,” explained Mohamadieh, who warned that the conditions attached to the aid packages offered by the EU largely serve to sustain this model.

That assistance does not necessarily lead to development, and indeed may hinder the changes demanded by Arab societies, he added.

Behind the relief efforts of European countries often stands an assumption that economic growth goes hand in hand with democratization. This correlation does not always occur. Indeed, several Arab countries with a good economic performance suffer inequalities.

“This restricted way of understanding civil liberties as economic freedom may actually impede the process of social transformation started in the Arab countries,” stressed Mohamadieh.

The proposal of EU member states to involve the European Investment Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development in Arab democratization processes is criticized by civil society organizations from all over the world because of those institutions’ support to controversial projects in developing countries and their lack of transparency.

Syrian activist Mustafa Haid suggested that Central and Eastern European countries should transfer useful experiences related to democratization.

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