Forum to Focus on Reforms for Progress, Prosperity

DUBAI — The UAE is set to host, for the first time, the ‘Forum of the Future’ tomorrow, amidst rising global tensions and food crisis.

By Preeti Kannan

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Published: Tue 14 Oct 2008, 12:22 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 7:31 PM

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is expected to attend the fifth session of the forum, held in cooperation with Japan, to focus on political, social and educational reforms, women’s empowerment and sustainable development.

While the parallel civil society meetings of Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) begins in Dubai on Wednesday, the Ministerial meeting, comprising Foreign Ministers of participating countries, will take place in Abu Dhabi this Saturday and Sunday.

Even as the country prepares itself to host the conference, organisers and activists said the forum had lost momentum due to its inability to implement recommendations put forth by NGOs and civil societies after four sessions of the annual forum.

“G8 (Group of Eight) countries do not have the same desire for reform as (their approach towards issues like) terrorism has become conservative rather than open. The forum has lost its momentum as the forum has not been able to find a way to implement recommendations,” said Dr Ebtisam Al Kitbi, Assistant Professor at the UAE University in Al Ain and member of the UAE National Organising Committee for Civil Societies.

She was addressing a Press conference in Dubai on Monday. Explaining the agenda and objective of the forum, she added, “Political reform is the core issue of these forums. Civil societies should also come up with recommendations that are more realistic.”

Representatives from different countries will discuss the progress achieved in the reform process and its future initiatives in the parallel civil society meetings of BMENA in Dubai, open only to civil society organisations and NGOs, after which recommendations will be drawn up and presented to the Ministerial Meeting in Abu Dhabi. Sixty representatives from the parallel meetings, including 12 UAE activists, will take part in the meeting.

Five independent workshops focusing on political reforms, regulatory environment on civil society, women’s empowerment, sustainable development, and cooperation between governments, private sector and civil society will also be held in Dubai.

“As NGOs, we can only raise issues but we cannot force governments (to act). Governments always get offensive or defensive,” noted Dr Ebtisam Al Kitbi, also an activist.

The purpose of the forum is to ease regulations and tackle laws hindering progress, observed Abdul Majeed, also a professor at the UAE University and member of the UAE National Organising Committee for Civil Societies.

“At the end of every parallel meeting, generic recommendations are made. We (UAE) are far ahead in education reforms and the UAE has tried to increase the budget on education every year,” he added.

The UAE hopes to use the Forum to strengthen ties between governments and civil society organisations to achieve universal peace, progress and prosperity.

In June 2008, Dubai hosted the preparatory meetings of the Forum with representatives from civil societies and the governments. The preparatory meeting was co-chaired by the UAE and Japan. Over 150 participants took part in the meetings, which included official delegates from the countries of G8, BMENA and other regions, as well as civil society organisations.

The Forum for the Future was created at the June 2004 Summit of G8 countries and BMENA members. The first session was held in Morocco in December 2004, the second in Bahrain in 2005, and the third in Jordan in 2006. Yemen and Germany organised some of the events of the Forum’s fourth edition in 2007.

preeti@khaleejtimes.com


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