Campaigning for the Protection and Promotion of Human Rights, Democracy, the Rule of Law and International Justice
History of the MENA Program
The Sana’a Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the Role of the ICC
The involvement of NPWJ in the promotion of democracy and the rule of law in the bMENA Region dates back to January 2004 when it organized the Sana’a Inter-Governmental Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the Role of the International Criminal Court. The Sana’a Conference was an unprecedented event for having gathered more than 40 Ministers from countries of the Middle East and North Africa on one hand, and civil society (parliamentarians, NGOs, journalists, human rights activists) on the other, together, for the first time, to discuss democratisation of the region.
The Conference was conducted with the political and financial support of the European Union, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Governments of Canada, France, Italy, Ireland, The Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, and was attended by more than 800 people representing 52 countries. The Conference concluded with the unanimous adoption by Government of the Region of a Sana’a Declaration, where they committed themselves to put into practice the principles of democracy and human rights; reinforce the role of women and their participation; ensure equality before the law and the right to a fair trial; reinforce the role of international judicial institutions and involve civil society in this reform process. The Sana’a Conference was a pioneering moment in that it included the full participation of non-state actors within a regional Governmental Conference on issues of democratic reform and one of the political outcomes was that government participants emphasised in the Final Declaration that, “Proper democratic governance and respect for human rights require a freely functioning, well-organised, vibrant and responsible civil society”.
The Democracy Assistance Dialogue
In the framework of the “Forum for the Future” establish to advance the universal values of human dignity, democracy, economic opportunities and social justice, the Democracy Assistance Dialogue (DAD) program is designed to foster productive dialogue between civil society, governments and parliaments of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), integrating participation of non-governmental intellectuals, political figures, media representatives and civil society experts and facilitating specific reform initiatives on issues relating to political reform, democracy and human rights.
To achieve this objective, the Governments of Italy, Turkey and Yemen, as Government Sponsors of the DAD, have undertaken a consultation process with their NGO counterparts, which led to the presentation of a DAD program at the Forum for the Future meeting held in Rabat in December 2004. The DAD partner NGOs are the Human Rights Information and Training Centre (HRITC) of Yemen, No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) of Italy, and the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV).
In 2005, NPWJ played a coordinating role for the funding and implementation of the first year of activities of the DAD program. Implementing the thematic priority on Political Pluralism and Electoral Processes NPWJ organised a preparatory Civil Society Workshop on Political Pluralism and Electoral Processes in the bMENA region - held at the Monastery of San Niccolo’ in Venice on 21 to 23 July 2005 - attended by more than 120 participants, including political and civil society leaders from nineteen countries of the region as well as from USA and Europe. Participants at the Venice Workshop developed a set of recommendations that formed the basis for discussions between government representatives and non-state actors from the bMENA region, the G8 and other partners at the Rabat International Colloquium on Political Pluralism and Electoral Processes of 1-3 October 2005, organised by NPWJ in cooperation with the governments of Italy and Morocco and the Moroccan NGO, “Maroc 2020”.
The Rabat Final Declaration, approved by more than 400 participants, comprised of government delegations and non-state actors from 32 countries of the bMENA Region, G8 and other partners, as well as representatives of international and regional institutions, emphasised that political pluralism is a universal value that bMENA countries should also safeguard and strengthen, in particular through the promotion of the widest possible participation of citizens in political life and public affairs; as well as the implementation of democratic legislative measures conducive to freedom of expression and association. Participants also underlined the importance of access to the media and to free, public and diversified information as essential to democratic pluralism and emphasised that, within the framework of the political processes specific to each country, an electoral process is deemed satisfactory if it respects the OSCE principles on holding free and fair elections.
The Rabat Colloquium provided an important opportunity for government participants to renew their commitment to strengthen the bases of democracy and to broaden the scope of participation in political life and public affairs. Moreover, it constituted the first high-level meeting devoted to the direct exchange of views on political processes between governmental representatives and non-state actors in the region, in which civil society, in particular political parties and non-governmental organisations, was recognised, in the final statement, as a “legitimate counterpart of dialogue in the democracy-building process”.
The outcomes of the Rabat Colloquium were brought to the second meeting of the Forum for the Future, the annual meeting of the Foreign Affairs Ministers from G8 and bMENA countries, held in Bahrain on 11-12 November 2005. NPWJ, together with the DAD government co-sponsors and its DAD NGO partners, attended the Ministerial meeting to present a joint and common document illustrating the current achievements of the DAD program, including the recommendations proposed at the different events. The Forum commended the work of the DAD program to promote the principle that dialogue and cooperation between Governments and civil society is a fundamental component of the democratic reform processes. Having discussed the recommendations from the DAD meetings, the Forum encouraged further work on these proposals and decided that the process of consultation would continue between the Forum members and the DAD co-sponsors in order to develop further cooperative work in these areas. In particular, the recommendations of the Venice and Rabat meetings were explicitly and authoritatively recalled in the announcement of the Foundation for the Future as one of the main factors leading to the announcement.
As a follow up to the Venice workshop and the Rabat Colloquium, NPWJ carried out additional work on a national and sub-regional level in order to contribute to the strengthening of formal and informal regional networks comprised of professionals, civil society representatives and relevant Government experts to increase awareness of the issues raised and to enable best practices to be shared at this level as well as to assess progress in particular areas of democratic reform. In particular, the “Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center” was created as a direct result of this work, and will continue to be involved in NPWJ activities in the MENA region.
Within the framework of the DAD thematic consultation process on empowering women participation in public life, implemented by the Turkish Government and the Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation (TESEV), NPWJ took part actively in the two seminars held in Istanbul on 20-21 June 2005 and on 6-7 February 2006, and the Intergovernmental Conference held in Ankara on 22-23 March 2006 duplicating the model of peer-to-peer interaction between Governments and non state actors pioneered at the Rabat Colloquium.
In June 2006, NPWJ together with the Government of Yemen and its NGO counterpart, the Human Rights and Information Training Centre (HRITC), organised the Sana’a International Conference on Democracy, Political Reforms and Freedom of Expression, as the major concluding event of the first year of the DAD process. The purpose of the Sana’a International Conference was to assess the progress made in dialogue for democratic reform in the region since the Sana’a Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the Role of the ICC in January 2004, and in particular through the DAD process and other initiatives, facilitating and reinforcing the various initiatives carried out in the region over the past few years. NPWJ played a leading role in the organisation of the Conference and its successful outcome, including an instrumental role during the complex negotiations on the final communiqué, which resulted in its adoption by consensus.
On the occasion of the third meeting of the Forum for the Future, held in Jordan, at Dead Sea, on 30 November and 1 December 2006, an NPWJ delegation comprised of non-state actors from the region, together with the DAD government co-sponsors and their NGO partners, attended the Senior Officials and Ministerial sessions to present a joint and common document illustrating the two years of activities and achievements of the DAD program, as well as the future vision for achieving the objectives of the program and creating a lasting and sustainable impact on the region.
of non-state actors in their monitoring and implementation. This program became the basis of the Italian policy contribution to the G8 Summit of Sea Island in June 2004, leading to the adoption of the “Partnership for Progress and a Common Future”, and the establishment of the Democracy Assistance Dialogue (DAD), led by Italy, Turkey and Yemen within the framework of the initiatives undertaken at the “Forum for the Future”, an informal setting of dialogue among the countries of the broader Middle East and North Africa (bMENA) region, the Group of Eight (G-8) industrialised democracies and others. At the first Forum for the Future meeting held in Rabat in December 2004 the governments of Italy, Turkey and Yemen presented a concrete plan of action for the DAD program, to foster productive dialogue between civil society and governments of the bMENA Region, integrating participation of non‑governmental actors, political leaders, media representatives and civil society and developing specific initiatives on issues relating to political reform, democracy and human rights.
In the course of the year 2007, NPWJ’s activities in the Region aimed at giving effect to the willingness expressed in the Rabat Final Statement “to initiate a precedent of dialogue between governments and non-state actors on profound political issues, with a view to the promotion of political pluralism and electoral governance” by transposing to a national level the same type of effective civil society participation in dialogue and joint decision-making. Activities, aimed at strengthening and reinforcing the capacity of civil society to interact effectively with governments; implementing on a national level the commitments undertaken at the Colloquium on freedom of association and the participation of civil society in the reform process; and, finally, at undertaking specific consultations to attain real progress on the issue of civil society participation in the political process, focused on three target countries in the Gulf, Mashreq and Maghreb sub-regions, notably: Morocco, Qatar and Jordan.
On the 26 – 27 March 2007 NPWJ organised, in partnership with the “Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center” (KADEM), the “Moroccan Organization for Human Rights” (OMDH) and the “Arab Institute for Human Rights” (AIHR), a meeting that gathered democracy activists, selected among academicians and civil society representatives, from Morocco, Algeria, Jordan and Lebanon. The meeting provided an opportunity to institutionalise the transfer and learning processes of the knowledge of democracy transition in the MENA region, facilitating partnership and cooperation between civil society and universities and developing the professional skills necessary for civil society to enter into effective interaction with state structures, as well as mainstreaming and systematizing the contribution of civil society to the decision-making process. The meeting had a primarily civil society character, but the participation of high-level government representatives represented a further example and a model of consultation between civil society and government institutions.
The Doha conference, organized by the Qatari National Human Rights Committee, together with the Ibn Kaldhun Center of Dr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim and NPWJ, took place on the 27-29 May 2007, providing a model of consultation between civil society and institutions, both at a regional and at a national level, also for other countries in the Region, gathering more that 300 participants in all. NPWJ took, in particular, responsibility to organise and elaborate the political and conceptual framework for the themes of the Role of External Actors and Transitional Justice. The three-day conference provided an opportunity to analyse various topics related to political reforms and democratization in the Arab region, offering a further occasion of reflection on the status of the play within the MENA Region and elaborate priorities and strategies aimed at reinforcing and strengthening the democratic process in the Region. The Conference was also the occasion for the launch and for the first board meeting of the Arab Democracy Foundation (ADF), an indigenous and independent non-governmental organisation, with a mandate to support democracy promotion throughout the MENA region, along the lines that were delineated by civil society through the Democracy Assistance Dialogue program in Venice in July 2005 and reaffirmed in concurrence with Governments of the Region at the Rabat Colloquium in October 2005. The ADF reinforces and is complementary to other similar initiatives such as the Foundation for the Future launched at the Bahrain Forum for the Future in November 2005. Italy was represented at the highest level, with the participation of Emma Bonino, Minister for International Trade and European Affairs.
NPWJ, in partnership with the Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center (KADEM) and the Royal Institute for Inter-Faith Studies, organised in Amman a series of "Roundtables on Civil Society organisations' strategic planning for democratic reform" on 17-19 June. The meeting had a primarily "civil society" character, providing an opportunity to develop the professional skills necessary for civil society to enter into effective interaction with state structures as well as mainstreaming and systematising the contribution of civil society to the decision-making process. The roundtables provided a fruitful occasion for gathering democracy advocates from the country and the Region as well as international organisations to exchange opinions and ideas about the current and future activities aimed at reinforcing and strengthening of democratic reform within the Region. The activities of DAD partners, the preparation of this year’s Forum for the Future as well as information about the evolution of the Foundation for the Future and the Arab Democracy Foundation were the core of the three-day meeting.
On 22- 23 October 2007, a delegation of No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ) attended the subministerial meeting of the Forum for the Future, which took place in Berlin (Germany), the annual meeting of G8 and broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) countries, whose aim is to examine the state of play of democratic reform in the Region. The NPWJ delegation was composed by prominent non-state actors from the Region, among which Mr. Saad Eddin Ibrahim, director of the Ibn Kalhun Center in Cairo, Mr. Bakthiar Amin, former Iraqi Minister for Human rights and President of the International Alliance for Justice, Mr. Mohsen Marzouk, general coordinator of the Al- Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center and Ms. Brigitte Chelebian, Lebanese lawyer.
NPWJ, in partnership with its regional partner Kawakibi Democracy Transition Center (KADEM), and in cooperation with the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH), the Centre d’Etudes en Droit Humains et Democratie (MARKAZ) and Freedom House, organised a ten-day meeting Rabat on 18-26 November 2007. The event was an in-depth and intensive workshop, to reinforce the transfer and learning processes of knowledge and skills concerning democracy transition in the MENA Region, to elaborate and test protocols and processes for democratic transition learning programs. Building on the positive and fruitful experience of the Doha Conference, the issue transitional justice was a central theme for discussion during the meeting. The meeting offered a venue for exploring non-violent strategies for political dialogue and democratic reform in the MENA Region and provided a follow-up to previous events organised within the framework of the MENA Democracy program in Rabat (March 2007), Doha (May 2007) and Amman (June 2007).
In the course of 2008, NPWJ focused on the reinforcement of the political contribution and support by civil society in the BMENA Region, for the elaboration of a consensual text that could represent a starting point for the political preparation of the 2009 Forum for the Future. In close cooperation with the DAD partners, NPWJ initiated a process of consultation both with civil society and governments from the Region aimed at gathering the necessary inputs and considerations for the elaboration of a consensual text.
The results of this first phase were presented by NPWJ during the Sub-Ministerial of the Forum for the Future held in Dubai on 9 June 2008, during which NPWJ received the mandate from the Governments of Japan and the UAE (the co-chairs of the Forum for the Future 2008) to elaborate the text further, engaging all delegations, both from the government and the civil society sides, in the elaboration of a compromise text. During the month of July, NPWJ acted as focal point for collecting amendments and proposals from all Forum for the Future’s delegations, elaborating a compromise document, and reinforcing the support by civil society of the Region.
During the month of September 2008, NPWJ activities continued to aim at the elaboration of the compromise text of the “Partnership between G-8 BMENA Governments and The Civil Society”, in particular focusing on opening lines of communications with those government officials who expressed reservations regarding the content of the text. These activities culminated in mission to New York, aimed at maintaining momentum and reinforcing the consensus marshalled on the text.
During the month of October 2008, NPWJ presented the results of the activities implemented until then to the Ministerial Meeting of the Forum for the Future, held in Abu Dhabi on 18-19 October 2008. In particular, the document “Partnership between G-8 BMENA Governments and the Civil Society” was acknowledged in the Chair’s Summary of the Fifth Forum for the Future and the contribution of the DAD partners and civil society was recognised by the participants of the Ministerial meeting as critical for the success and continuation of the process.
In 2009 NPWJ - in collaboration with the Italian and Moroccan governments, co-chairs of the Forum for the Future 2009, and with its local partners in Morocco, Lebanon and Qatar and in coordination with Democracy Assistance Dialogue partnership - worked to further enhance the process of dialogue between civil society and governments, organizing three preparatory meetings on topics related to economic and political reform processes, as well as on topics related to social and human development. The purpose of these meetings was to ensure that the discussion at the Ministerial Meeting held in Marrakech on 3 November 2009 was the result of a process guided by civil society with the participation of governments of the region.
The first meeting organized by NPWJ was held in Beirut on 26 and 27 September 2009 in collaboration with the Lebanese Organization for Civil Activities (OPAC) to discuss issues relating to economic reform and the role of private sector in promoting democratic reform in the region. The second meeting was held in Rabat on 5 and 6 October 2009 in collaboration with the Moroccan Organization for Human Rights (OMDH) to discuss issues relating to democracy, human rights and the promotion of local democracy. The third meeting was held in Doha on 11 and 12 October2009 in collaboration with the Arab Democracy Foundation (ADF) and the assistance of the National Human Rights Commission to discuss issues relating to the promotion of security and human development.
The ministerial meeting held on 3 November 2009, has indeed addressed the topics proposed in the preparatory meetings, and saw the participation of all governments involved in this exercise, including the Italian and Moroccan Ministers for Foreign Affairs, as co-Chairs of the Forum, and the American Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Marco Pannella led the delegation of No Peace Without Justice.