Conferences are important, but not enough [Archives:2004/700/Viewpoint]

January 5 2004

The upcoming conference on “Sana'a Inter-Governmental Regional Conference on Democracy, Human Rights and the Role of the International Criminal Court” is indeed a spectacular event that would bring a great deal of attention to our efforts as a developing country to carry out reforms deeply needed.
In today's world, democracy is no more an option. It is a must, and any person who doesn't think this way will eventually be marginalized in a global trend pushing for more openness and communication and not closure and isolation.
The conference, which will start within a week from now, is indeed a step towards bringing into focus how we can work together as governments, civil society organizations, and people of the region to bring about the change necessary to accelerate the pace of democratization.
There is no doubt that Yemen is willing to adopt more democracy and freedom. But becoming a fully democratic country is nothing that can be done overnight. It is in fact a painfully slow process. This is why friends and neighbors are coming together to discuss with Yemen how to make this happen. The conference is in the same light of the earlier emerging democracies forum the country hosted in 1999. But on the other hand, what makes this event unique is its intention to bring together decision makers and civil society together. We have come to realize that civil society organisations are a major pillar of democracy, and that is why their presence and participation with decision makers in their regions is also of major importance.
But yet again, is the conference as an event enough? Of course not! The conference is a mere starting point in which ideas and opinions can be reflected and exchanged to formulate an introductory phase needed so we can build upon it in future activities.
Not only this conference, but any other conference, congress, summit, or regular meeting should be followed by solid steps to implement the recommendations ore resolutions that the events come up with.
Let us not forget that talking must always be followed by action. But for some reason, I fear that this event may not be followed by the solid steps we are anticipating. Nevertheless, one needs to be hopeful and optimistic that such events will indeed be followed by deeds.
What happened following the Emerging Democracies Forum in 1999 was for an example a disappointment in all points. The event itself was perfect, but it was never followed by the desired steps.
It is not me who is saying this, it is the organizers of the event themselves, including governmental officials who have expressed their frustration for the little outcome in reality that has been observed following the event and until today.
Excuses presented including: turmoil, regional conflicts, instability, wars, and other issues. But in my opinion, all those issues could have been dealt with independently and should not have affected the democratization process in the country.
I have high expectations concerning this event, however, and wish that it will be indeed an arena of freedom of expression and opinion that would reflect our desire to bring democracy and freedom to every aspect of our lives. WE, as the media and civil society organizations must have a greater role to play in this event, and can be the ones who would push for the desired change more than anyone else, because governments cannot do everything alone.
Hence, let us work together to make this event a success, and participate in ensuring that its recommendations would be implemented.