Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Freedom for the Arab World

In its third Arab Development Report, a group of Arab scholars under the auspicies of the UNDP analyses the state of freedom in the 22 countries of the Arab world.

The picture the report presents is a depressing one - although one where there is some reason for hope.

There has been some genuine advances. Apart from elections in Palestine and Iraq, the report notes legislative elections with women voters and candidates in Oman, competitive multiparty presidential elections in Algeria, the formation of Human Rights Commissions in Egypt and Qatar and the adoption of a new family law safeguarding women's rights in Morocco

But overall, most reforms so far have been embryonic and fragmentary. The report notes that a State of Emergency has been continued since decades in Egypt, Syria and Sudan.

Nevertheless, the report states that "we are moving with greater confidence in a new direction now, and there is a strong awareness of the irreversibility of change - change driven by the Arab street, not change adopted from afar."

It could be worse - in fact, it used to be far worse.