A- Concerning the civil society:
After reviewing the report of Ottawa, I found out that all were talking about the positive and active participation of the civil society as a main stakeholder and party in the process of both socio-economic and socio-political reform in BMENA, in addition, advising governments to give extra-space for them to play such role. However, according to this, there are several problems surrounding and undermining the role of the NGOs and Civil Society in our region represented in the following:
There are lag and lack concerning the awareness of the role of the civil society in our region resulted by the fragility of the state’s structure, because the stronger state’s structure we have, the stronger civil society shall be found.
The legislative and legal framework of the civil society in our region is neither accurate nor transparent and comprising a lot of contradictions between its articles.
There are a lot of restrictions on the positive civil society, who works hard to achieve change and reform in society, especially human rights, syndicates, parties and development NGOs (NGOs Supreme Council – the coercive governmental supervision and control on the active NGOs – approvals – opportunities of fund raising – independence and support). However the charitable NGOs are most welcome, in spite of assumptions that affirming that such type of NGOs have a lot of corruption and violations inside it (please revise the charitable commercials in Ramadan in this regard and the profits and money obtained in this regard).
The figures of the NGOs in our region still very limited, comparing to its counterparts in developed countries e.g. USA itself contains about 1 Billion NGO, that means (3 NGOs/Capita) and the same figure is might be achieved in Europe and Canada, also there is a lack in both cooperation and networking among the region’s NGOs.
All were talking about establishing a following up mechanism committee, but nobody asked about the regulatory framework thereto represented in the incorporation of such committee, powers, authorities, independence, subordination and location thereof.
B- Respecting and executing the international human rights laws:
The 2nd founding principle provides that “change or reform should not imposed from abroad”, however all the member states of the region have to respect the international declaration, laws and codes of human rights, because when anyone is discussing freedom issues, it will be whether opposed or hindered all times from officials under such principle under the argument of both public order and distinctiveness.
C- The other stakeholders and partners in reform process:
The 4th founding principle provides that “support for reform will involve governments, business leaders and civil society” however it should involve also universities; as it is considered as one of the main stakeholders and partners in such change and reform process; and Media, whereas I proposed 3 years before an initiative concerning “Academic, Civil Society and Media Freedom” and the unexpected outcome of such freedom in only 5 years term.
D- Where is Iran?
According to my quick revision, I found out that Turkey having a strong role in such forum and initiative as a main player state in the BMENA region, on the other hand, there is no existence for Iran in this regard, when Iran is considered as one of the biggest and main player state in the region, and also has a very strong track record and experience in both technology and scientific research that could be extended to all the region. (Need an explanation for this – because such forum could improve the Arab-Iranian relationship and could broad the dialogue especially between youth from the two sides, when youth is the main and the final beneficiary in this regard).
E- Private Sector and Social Responsibility:
Such topic is very debatable, because there are several main sub-issues related to my region as follows:
1- Kafala/Sponsorship system that is applicable in most of Gulf States except Bahrain and in some emirates in UAE, which is not acceptable any more from employees as it is considered as slavery system, which is not expressing at all as a part of social responsibility.
2- The double standard used in Arab countries in treating with Inter-Arabs employees, because, companies and private sectors pay foreign employees /expatriates always more than Arab specialists and experts, even if the latter could be much better and having the same or better practical and academic experience, background and language, and I can give you several examples from reality, whereas we do not know why?
3- Most of the Arab labor laws and legislations not conforming with the codes of International Labor Organization (ILO) especially after selecting the businessmen to be ministers e.g. amending the Egyptian Labor Law No. 137/1981; which was in the favor of the employees and very fair for them and conforming with the regulations and principles of ILO; to be Law No.12/2003 which is in the favor of the private sector and businessmen 100% and does not allow to reintegrate any employee, even if the court decided to reintegrate him/her again.
4- Blockage of labor’s syndicates, whether for political reasons or for pressures of private sectors and businessmen on governments, lest claiming for all labors and employees rights. “Thanks to the Egyptian Constitutional Court that decided ultimately on Jan 2nd 2011 to release and free all vocational syndicates in Egypt and hope that tempest of change reaching our entire region”.
5- Before the private sector and the businessmen having a social responsibility, as they do some sort of charitable work, and then urging people to pay charities to help poor people in rural areas, to improve the environment, to build a new hospital for cancer etc……., they are obliged to pay off their tax duties to the government. Unfortunately, the interference between money and power made some sort of corruption; when it is very difficult for the Arab parliament members to interpellate businessmen ministers, when there are no fair and transparent elections, and also parliaments’ majority all times from governing parties (the judge and the litigant).
Also, Arab tax systems, as well as Arab banking credit system, grant businessmen and private sector extraordinary exemptions and allowances could be used in non-productive business activities, on the other hand not treating in the same way with the ordinary citizens. Therefore, the ordinary citizens are aggrieved/victim all times; however, private sector has the opportunity to make tax evasion, and after doing such unpardonable crime in US, it may resettle and re-conciliate such matter with the authorities in the Arab states according to very facilitated installments.
Furthermore, tax duties imposed on the ordinary citizens are the same imposed on the private sector and businessmen, which is considered as an unfair standard, because in all the developed and transparent states worldwide, businessmen pay aggregated tax duties that may reach 70 % in some countries like Finland or Canada, also Arab businessmen investing in such developed countries respecting and applying voluntary such codes without any opposition, lest being expelled from there.
Accordingly, we can imagine if the Arab states imposing tax duties amounted to not 70%, let us say 40% – 50% on the private sector, there will be a lot of surplus amounts in our national balances that can help us in all sustainable development programs.
6- Private sector and businessmen also stigmatized that they support monopolist practices, once they become in power, on the other hand not supporting the consumer protection legal tools, therefore, the prices of the basic commodities in our region is getting increased all times without any possible reduction, and then what we remark in media, especially TV channels, that they corrupt specialist academic economists to justify such illegal practices and increases before the region’s audience. Assuming that the prices/rates are getting increased worldwide, however when such prices of commodities getting increased, a counter increase in salaries and pays should be occurred. Whereupon there is an evident mutual mistrust in between private sector and consumers as long as there is no transparency in business practices.
F- Where are the banks?
Banks supposed to have a very strong role in such process, and I just want to remind you that one of the Egyptian intellects “Talaat Harb Pasha” at the beginning of the 20th century in Egypt established “Banque Misr” and made it as the milestone of investment in Egypt and the bank was the motive to establish later both Studio Misr, Mahallah Spinning & Weaving Company and the Egyptian Stock Market. However, banks are being used now as just a coffer to keep savings in it, or giving higher loans for consumption to buy real-estate, houses or cars and lower loans to micro-business and youth who use such micro-business. In my point of view, banks should have an impressive role in building strong national productive investments, in universities and in NGOs in order to shake stagnant water in society.
G- The Role of Youth?!!!!!
From the very beginning “the word of youth is very debatable” because we talk about a category represents almost 70% of our region and until now neither having the right representation in decision making, nor empowered. Also, here in our region when we talk about youth, the policy makers in our region always thinking that such few rights given to youth is considered as a grant from them, however, youth are entitled to obtain all possible and available rights in this region. When youth can make change everywhere, because they are very active, enjoying dealing with high-tech better than the elder generation, having their cyber-world that can express themselves in it, like Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin etc….
Whereas the problem represented in the big gap and conflict between the elder generation, who enjoys all rights and powers, and a younger one striving with the elders all time to only obtain their fundamental rights. Also youth are stigmatized of having lack of experience, irresponsibility and irrationality, however elder generation in our region always resorting to such words in order to keep their trusteeship and censorship on youth all time “the main feature of the patriarchal societies”. However, the same elder generation was the main reason of draining the water from the pool, when they imposed their censorship, restrictions and trusteeship on all of universities, NGOs and Media, and who also denied the standard of the social justice and equity, and also who used some religious streams in politics, in order to distort youth away from its actual and effective participation in society. The elder generation forgot that one day they were youth and struggled for their self-actualization, however now they became more oppressive and not allowing to younger generation to take the leadership.
Whereupon, all the above elements were the reason of the region’s youth disaster in this time being, and make it very difficult to supply 100 Million jobs for unemployed youth by year 2015, in order to achieve at least one of those MDGs.
Finally, thinking that this forum and the coming forums should be addressed more to youth, as a party, and to decision makers represented in: governments, international and regional organizations (AL & OIC) officials, private sector, universities and media representatives as a counter party.
Whereas approved and issued resolutions and recommendations should bind both parties in this regard.
Please be guided accordingly.
Member of Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (www.codesria.org)
Socio-economic Specialist/Researcher/Legal Translator at (www.eldibadvocates.com)
Human Rights Activist/Blogger/Youth Trainer
International Law Association (ILA) Coordinator in Egypt
Work Tel: 002-03-4950000