The failure of the Bahrain “Forum for the Future” to issue a final communiqué is evidence of the crisis between Arab governments and civil societies. I took part in all the preceding conference, in Cairo , Casablanca , Sanaa and Doha last week and listened civil society institutions bitterly complaining about government treatment.
There is a mutual lack of trust with governments imagining dangers emanating form civil society and non-governmental institutions refusing to trust the government, even if it is telling the truth, because of past experiences.
In the Arab world, civil society institutions accuse governments of duplicity and are right in doing so, since most Arab countries have ratified international treaties in all domains but have not implemented them. Arab leaders speak the language of human rights and freedom in international meetings, the latest of which was the Bahrain Forum, but speak with its people and civil institutions in a different harsh tone, which rejects reform.
The developed world is run by civil society institutions and one of the signs of a vigorous society is the reduced role of governments in favor of lobbying groups and peaceful non-governmental institutions which believe in diversity and national dialogue. While these groups are interested in a variety of issues, including the rights of men, women and the disabled and the protection of dears and whales, they represent a powerful force in society. Governments encourage these institutions and support them because, in the end, its success gives society its vigor and vitality.
One of the reasons for disagreement in Bahrain was the issue of “illegal” or unrecognized civil institutions. Legalizing these groups and granting them government recognition will ameliorate their quality of work and help balance their views since, as long as these civil institutions lack government support, they will receive public support that might be well- deserved at times and not justified in other instances!
A few months ago, all new applications for non-governmental institutions in Kuwait were declined. It was said their large numbers would burden the budget. When the government took the courageous decision to license these groups, their operations were invigorated and the institutions have become more concerned with their license and legitimacy and respecting the law!
Let a hundred flower blossom. Let people look after their interests and watch them favor civil society and government alike.