Dues must be paid [Archives:2006/960/Opinion]

July 3 2006

Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh
For the second time, Sana'a hosted this international conference where those concerned with democracy in the Arab nation gather. The importance of the gathering, similar to the previous one, was signified by the large numbers of intellectuals, journalists, broadcasters, government personnel, and opposition members who attended. From June 25-26, the conference discussed three key issues: democracy and political reform; democracy and freedom of expression; and democracy and the situation of women. From my standpoint, it was quite enough to focus on one issue, allowing all attendees to present their opinion, instead of being limited to a few minutes of discussion on each topic.

The conference was not without of interesting statements. Among them was a reference that stressed that talk about democracy and political reform had been so frequent so as to cause monotony. Until now, democracy remains mere talk. The essence of something lies in what is seen, rather than in what is heard or read. It is a fallacy that Arabs are satisfied with talk and are unconcerned about action.

Furthermore, it is not surprising that a number of conference attendees emphasized that they had attended more than 15 meetings of conferences to discuss a project of democracy and political reform with the same dissertations. Nevertheless, they have not witnessed the application of one item discussed at all those conferences. It is not surprising that these attendees remain interested in preparing for listening to the same working papers again and again.

There were many first-rate working papers presented at the Sana'a conference, but I cannot hide my admiration of the paper submitted by Dr. Abdulkarim Al-Eryani. The paper contained a genuine and highly important description of the reality of democracy in the Arab nation through his evaluation of the practice of Arab states. Al-Eryani notes that the Arab states implementation of democracy remains halfhearted. Arab states either have democratic systems that are beginning to emerge, are still incubating, or are embryonic.

This frank description springs from profound political experience and accurate reading of the Arab nation's reality. Though Al-Eryani has not named the regimes reviewed in his paper, the reader can discern which states Al-Eryani is talking about. His assessment confirms that the achievement of democracy in the Arab nation is a long way off. There are many obstacles that hinder reaching this goal. Dues inevitably will have to be paid both before and after so that such an achievement is realized.

Dr. Abdulaziz Al-Maqaleh is a prominent Yemeni poet and intellectual. He is the director of the Yemeni Center for Studies.