US Assistant Secretary of State urges Arab reforms “from within”
Stressing the need for Arab governments and societies to enact democratic and economic reforms "from within," US Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs William Burns warned of the "hard reality" of the 21st century that countries which "adapt, open up and seize the economic initiative will prosper" while those that do not "will fall further and further behind."
Burns, speaking at the US -- Arab Economic Forum in Detroit on September 29, 2003 stressed that enduring democratic change and economic modernization "cannot be imposed from without" by the United States or any other party, reported Washington File.
While the United States can play a key role, "success in these endeavors requires real partnership," he said. It must be a "two way street in which we in the US government actually listen to advice and criticism and proposals from the region."
Burns added that he is encouraged by "the extent of self examination under way" in the Arab world today, as well as tangible steps some countries in the region are taking toward political and economic reform. He said the present time is critical for the region, as many people in the Arab world and the United States are questioning their relationship and hold doubts about the other side.
The United States, he said, has a clear four-part agenda for the region: reconstructing Iraq as a prosperous democratic nation, bringing about peace between Israelis and Palestinians, combating terrorism and the spread of weapons of mass destruction in the region, and "supporting homegrown efforts for economic and political reform in the region, which has for too long known too little of either."
Burns said democratic change in the region would be gradual, due to many challenges and political pressures. "[S]ome people may try to interpret our use of the word ‘gradual' to mean just cosmetic or constantly postponed changes. That would be a mistake," he said. The Bush administration is calling for real changes that would help the development of civil society, reduce corruption, create an independent judiciary, and ensure free and credible elections, he said.
The assistant secretary cited Jordan as an example of how reforms are "making a difference." Between 1998 and 2003, that country's exports to the United States grew from two million dollars to over six million dollars, and as a result, more job opportunities were created, including for Jordanian women, he said.
Offering a private sector perspective, Chairwoman and CEO of Hewlett Packard Carly Fiorina said earlier in the day that the Middle East "could be the economic story of the next decade." "As a business leader, I can tell you that we see this region as a potentially powerful trading block of more than 200 million customers," she said.
The role of the private sector is to commit its energies and resources in order to help build more prosperous communities and nations throughout the world, she said, adding that it could be particularly effective in demonstrating how new technology could be used and in offering its managerial expertise to better enable its Middle Eastern counterparts to maximize that new technology. — (menareport.com)
© 2003 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)