New report: Arab world is democratic "black hole"

8 April 2005

The third Arab Human Development Report was released this week after three months delay, allegedly due to American and Egyptian objections to the report's criticism of the war in Iraq and the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank (download it here).

The report is on freedom and governance in the Arab world and is written by Arab scholars. It is certain to cause fury among Arab leaders too. It calls for immediate reform of "black hole" dictatorships, and comes down hard on US policies that tolerate authoritarian governments for the sake of regional stability. The UNDP has been nervous about publishing under its own name.

The World Bank says: "Despite much criticism of the US in the report, the authors backed international efforts to promote democracy in the region, describing them as potentially the most pragmatic way to sustain momentum for change."

One could only wish America's commitment to democracy extended so far as to accept criticism from the people who live with the results of it's policies. Sadly, it seems unlikely the region will speed towards democracy before the publication of the next and fourth report in 2006 on empowerment of Arab women.

(Thanks to Daniel Makar in Sweden for emailing me about the report)

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