‘Forum for the Future’ meeting, Morocco:Yemen reiterates commitment to reforms [Archives:2004/799/Front Page]

December 16 2004

Rabat, Dec 15 – The 'Forum for the Future' meeting held in Rabat, Morocco on Dec. 11, has proposed the creation of a Democracy Assistance Dialogue organization to promote the consolidation of democratic institutions in the region.
Yemeni Foreign Affairs Minister Dr. Abu-Bakr al-Qirbi, and Finance Minister Alawi al-Salami, reaffirmed Yemen's commitment to the democratic reforms that began with unification in 1990. Participants welcomed their initiative and affirmed their commitment to work with civil society.
Representatives from Yemeni civil society organizations expressed their expectations that Yemen lead as an example in implementing democratic and legal reforms.
“The laws that regulate civil society organizations need to be revised and enhanced to allow greater freedom of NGOs and remove any obstacles that may hinder their efforts to better serve the community in the grassroots level.” Mr. Izzeddin al-Asbahi, head of the Human Rights Information and Training Center told The Yemen Times.
The conference called for the Forum to provide “an informal, flexible, open and inclusive dialogue, devoted to strengthening democracy and the participation of civil society, to developing skills training, and to encouraging the growth of modern economies that generate wealth and that are well integrated into the global economy.”
Yemen also reiterated its commitment to carrying out several pending economic reforms and stated the need for continued progress in establishing free trade areas.
The Yemeni delegation welcomed the creation of an enterprise development fund at the International Finance Corporation (IFC) designed to provide technical support and financial assistance to small private enterprises in the Middle East and North Africa. The participants set an initial funding goal of $100 million for the IFC. There has already been a total of $60 million pledged by a number of countries and the Islamic Development Bank.
Government officials also endorsed the conclusions of the business dialogue group stating the need to establish higher standards of governance in the region, including greater transparency, respect for property rights, the rule of law and effective, independent judiciaries.
Despite several small protests against the US government and the idea of externally promoted reform, the event witnessed no serious incidents.
The leaders gathering in Rabat also agreed to meet again at the second Forum for the Future to be held next year in Bahrain. The majority of the region's foreign ministers will also have another opportunity to discuss the implementation of reform plans at the March 2005 meeting of the G8 and Arab League ministers in Cairo.
U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell said that while the initiatives discussed were not necessarily a radical departure from previous bilateral and multilateral programs, the Forum for the Future “is way of bringing it all together and coming up with a solid plan of what the needs are for each of these countries.”