International Conference on Democracy, Political Reforms and Freedom of Expression

Final Declaration - Sana'a, 25- 26 June 2006

Under the auspices of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, President of the Republic of Yemen, the Sana’a International Conference on Democracy, Political Reforms and Freedom of Expression was convened in Sana’a on 25-26 June, 2006. The Conference, which attracted more than 500 participants from both governments and civil society from countries throughout the Region, was hosted by the Government of Yemen in collaboration with the non-governmental organisations Human Rights Information and Training Centre (HRITC) and No Peace Without Justice (NPWJ). The Conference participants included representatives of governments of the Region, the G8 and other democratic partners, as well as international organisations and nonstate actors, including politicians, parliamentarians, academics, intellectuals, democracy advocates, opinion makers, NGO and media representatives. The Conference was held in the framework of the Democracy Assistance Dialogue (DAD) to offer a viable platform to consolidate free dialogue among participants over vital issues pertaining to democracy, political reforms and freedom of expression. The gathering fostered the free exchange of ideas and provided a valuable opportunity for participants to critically review the achievements made within the Region since the launch of the BMENA initiative, including in particular the two sessions of the Forum for the Future held in Morocco in 2004 and Bahrain in 2005, along the path of democratisation and political reforms. Other achievements made within the framework of the on-going DAD dialogue were also reviewed.
The participants
- Acknowledge the successful experience of Yemen in democratic practice and in involving civil society organisations as partners in the DAD program;
- Emphasise the contribution of non-state actors as essential counterparts of dialogue in the democracy-building process, sharing an important responsibility alongside governments;
- Renew the commitment of the countries of the Region to strengthen democracy and to broaden the scope of participation in political life as well as the commitment of the G8 and other partners to accompany and support effectively these reforms, in a spirit of partnership and mutual respect. In this respect participants welcomed the announcement of the establishment of the board of directors of the Foundation for the Future and recommended that it operate in consultation and cooperation with other regional and international initiatives supporting democracy in the Region and in particular the DAD;
- Reaffirm their intention to continue the current and future political reforms and to undertake concrete action to implement the commitments made within the DAD processes;
- Reaffirm their commitment to advancing the implementation of all recommendations made jointly by Governments and non-State actors at the Rabat International Colloquium on Political Pluralism and Electoral Processes of October 2005 and those made in plenary at the Intergovernmental Conference on Empowering Women in Public Life, in Ankara in May 2006;
- Welcome the commitment of the Government of Yemen and HRITC to propose a mechanism of consultation between governments and non-state actors, identifying clearly defined timeframes and benchmarks, to pursue the DAD theme to promote freedom of expression in line with international standards;
- Encourage the expansion of DAD activities and partnerships in order to enhance its operational reach across the Region, based on the positive experience of the involvement of other actors in the process;
In reference to the implementation mechanisms of democratic development, the participants emphasized the following:
First, to call upon governments to accelerate the pace of reform and to include civil society in order to overcome the multiple challenges faced upon the path towards democratic development; and, to provide enabling conditions for the development of good governance by removing those obstacles which impede the peaceful, free and transparent organisation of civil society and political parties.
Second, the need for all governments in the Region to establish timeframes for the realisation of peaceful democratic transition.
Third, to commit to the following basic mechanisms for peaceful democratic transition:
- remove restrictions from all forms of media - whether audio, visual or print
- and allow the private ownership of media through the breaking of state monopolies;
- through legislation, guarantee the security of judges and the independence of the judiciary, the latter being the underpinning of the rule of law and one of the cornerstones of democratic transition;
- recognise that the freedom to establish civil society organisations and political parties is the backbone of democracy, while empowering the independent judiciary to monitor and evaluate their performance in public life.
Fourth, with the practical involvement of civil society, establish national and regional watchdog institutions, the goals of which would be to monitor and report on the accomplishments and failures of democratic transitions, and the protection of basic freedoms throughout the Region.
The participants also take note of the repression experienced by professional associations in the Region, and call for this situation to be remedied through respect for the independence of these associations in all their affairs, in conformity with the aims of this conference.
Finally, request that the results of the Sana’a Conference be presented during the third meeting of the Forum for the Future (Jordan, December 2006); Acknowledge the important support of Italy, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, the U.S.Middle East Partnership Initiative and United Nations Development Programme for their financial contributions to the successful organisation of the Conference. In concurrence with the above, the participants welcome and endorse of the recommendations of the three thematic sessions.