Under the patronage of H.H. Sheikh Mohammed
bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE
and Ruler of Dubai, the fourth ASF aims to create an environment that
is as extraordinary as it is essential to the Arab world. It connects
global and regional decision-makers for a strategic purpose to engage
in a hands-on, comprehensive program along four critical program
CEO Agenda, Socio-Economic, Governance and Arab Society.
The three-day program of working sessions will
bring together Arab and international heads of state and government
with more than 600 of the most influential leaders from business,
government and civil society from the Arab world and the rest of the
world. Being developed around the theme "Creating Opportunity from
Change", ASF builds on its prestigious track record to propose an
innovative, new format.
It aims to nurture a unique type of community
that will develop concrete strategies that tackle the most pressing
issues faced by the Arab world today. Through a powerful network,
facilitated working sessions, state-of-the-art technology, exclusive
knowledge and informal platforms, the ASF, being held on the 4th to
the 6th of December 2006, will provide participants with the tools
they need to create opportunities from change in their own
environments, and so to make a crucial difference to the future of the
Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo have Eroded Trust in
Thursday, December 7, 2006 8:57:00 am:
The revelation of practices at US-operated prisons such as Abu
Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, have led to disillusionment with the
American system of democracy, according to Raghida Dergham, Columnist
and Senior Diplomatic Correspondent of Al Hayat in USA.
She was speaking on the concluding day of the Arab Strategy
Forum 2006 during the session on good enough governance: What kind of
democracy? The session was moderated by Ghassan Tahboub, Media Advisor
at The Executive Office of Dubai.
Dergham said: American actions after September 11, 2001 have
eroded our trust in US democracy.
She urged the Arab people to work towards democracy instead of
looking at externally imposed democracy or hoping for regimes to bring
about democratic change.
We have to work for our democracy. We are allergic to the ideas of
democracy if imposed by outside. Change should be effected internally,
she said. Referring to Iraq and Lebanon, Dergham said: I never
believed that the invasion of Iraq was to bring democracy. It produced
the opposite. It encouraged and made it possible for extremists to
Lebanon was the opposite. It had internal democracy, which was
supported from outside, Dergham pointed out saying that Arab
governments have missed a lot of opportunities to institute democracy
and should act quickly now.
She called on the Arab people to assume responsibility for
bringing about democracy in the Arab World.
Abdebari Atwan, Editor-in-Chief of UK-based Al Quds Al Arabi,
was also of the view that democracy in the Arab World should be based
on our principles, which include freedom of expression, human rights,
total separation of the powers between the legislature and the
executive, economic development and equitable distribution of
resources and rule of law with a fair and independent judicial system.
He pointed out that the practice of democracy in the Arab World
was limited to elections, which time and again brought in and cemented
Democracy means peaceful rotation of power from one regime to
another, Atwan said. He claimed that the West was using democracy as a
tool to exert pressure to advance its own interests. Atwan said the
result of democratic moves in Iraq were hundreds of thousands of
deaths and millions of refugees. The same was true for Afghanistan. In
Palestine also, US supported democracy, but when elections returned
Hamas, the Palestinian people were made to suffer without salaries.
"Democracy is used whenever needed and however needed" Atwan
In rebuttal, Joshua Muravchik, Resident Scholar of American
Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in the US, said that
policy in the West is determined after a debate between idealists and
realists and not by one single person. It is wrong to think that there
is a conspiracy to harm the Arab World.
He said that there is a deficit of democracy in the region. out
of the 172 sovereign states outside the Arab World, 123 have
governments elected in free polls. Of the 22 Arab states, until one
year ago, there were none. Today, there are freely elected governments
in Lebanon, Iraq and Palestine but all are under siege and challenged
by armed groups within society that are not under control of the
Muravchik said the prospects of democracy in the region were excellent
but it will have to have four main elements selection of a government
by free and fair polls; freedom of expression and the right to public
assembly; rule of law where the government is not above the law; and
the ability of every citizen to participate.
"Peaceful change is good. Revolutionary change is almost always
bad" Muravchik said.
The ASF, which has attracted more than 600 distinguished
participants and 115 worldwide speakers, is a vehicle for change and a
key driver in the reform and policy shaping of governmental and
business organisations throughout the Arab world.
Through a powerful network, facilitated working sessions,
state-of-the-art technology, exclusive knowledge and informal
platforms, the ASF provides participants with the resources needed to
create opportunities for change in their own environments.
Among those participating in this years event are influential
personalities from the region business, government and civil society
sectors, and internationally-renowned politicians and business
Developed under the theme, Creating Opportunity from Change
this years sessions are underpinned by bespoke knowledge and research
on the Arab world, providing a unique information platform for the
continued strategic development of the Middle East and North Africa on
the global stage.
Focusing on four distinct tracks: Governance, the CEO Agenda,
Arab Society and Socio-Economic; the ASF is the leading Arab platform
for strategic thinking and the main launch pad for regional programmes
Arab World Entering Era of Self-Determination
Thursday, December 7, 2006 10:31:00 am
On the concluding day of the 4th Arab Strategy Forum (ASF)
in Dubai, delegates discussed major trends impacting the Middle East
and North Africa including the decline of US presence, the rise of
Arab youth and the rapid development of technology.
Speaking at the closing panel session, 'The Top 10 Trends in
the Arab World' David Ignatius, Associate Editor and Columnist,
Washington Post, said: It is the dawn of the era of self determination
for the Arab world. He added: That dream moment for the Middle East
has arrived and we hope that you use it wisely. He elaborated that
whether it is the issue of Iran or the wider Arab world, the decisions
have to be ultimately taken by the people of the region.
Ignatius said that the second important trend emerging is the
widening gap between the elites and the masses resulting from
Another major trend, according to Ignatius, is the decline of
United States after the invasion of Iraq. He urged the Arab world to
help reduce collateral damage by helping the US learn from its
Raghida Dergham, Columnist and Senior Diplomatic Correspondent,
Al Hayat, USA, said that an important trend was the death of the 'We
the Arabs' concept, or a 'one collective mindset'. She said that other
important stories to watch in the region will be Iran, vis-a-vis the
United Nations Security Council and the relations of Russia and China
with the United States.
Dergham, citing youth polls done in the region, said that 90
per cent of the Arab youth are optimistic about the future. 'Let this
be an allegory for the people of the Middle East' she added.
According to Rami G. Khouri, Editor-at-Large, The Daily Star,
Lebanon, a key trend emerging in the region is the increased fraying
and fragmentation of the Arab states. This is apparent in Palestine,
Lebanon and Iraq which have seen the development of multiple internal
factions. He said that another trend coming into fruition is the
intrusive nature of foreign intervention demonstrated by the largely
British and US presence in the region.
Khouri also went on to say that although violence is being used
increasingly as a strategic tool, people will have to look at peaceful
ways of finding long-term solutions.
Riz Khan, Anchor, Al Jazeera International, USA, said that one
of the main trends in the region is the rapid growth of technology,
which underpin the confidence of the Arab world. Technology is a
double-edged sword and its influence on the youth might be resisted by
certain sections, Khan said.
He added that broadband will bring online communities together
and will dispel negativity and increase understanding of other
According to Abdul Hamid Ahmad, Editor-in-Chief, Gulf News,
nuclear competition in the region will dominate the year to come, with
no easy solutions to the situation. He said this will pose big
challenges for Arab countries.
Andrew Marshall, Bureau Chief, Reuters, UAE, summed up the
sentiments of the panel in his comments. 'The only certainty for the
next year is that it will be a momentous time marked by huge economic
opportunities coupled with great risks and uncertainty'.