As a reaction to popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, The Dutch Advisory Council On International Affairs (AIV) requested Hivos and other Dutch NGOs on 21st of April to advice it on how the Dutch government could support reforms, democratization processes and rule of law in the region. Today the 28th of June the Dutch parliament debates about the AIV advise entitled Reforms in the Arab Region: Opportunities for Democracy and Rule of Law (Dutch translation) as well as the response of the Netherlands government. This is an executive summary of those recommendations of AIV report that are related to the advice of Hivos.
AIV is an independent body which advises government and parliament on foreign policy, particularly on issues relating to human rights, peace and security, development cooperation and European integration. The AIV produces advisory reports on its own initiative or at the request of government or parliament. All reports are presented to the relevant members of the government as well as to the House of Representatives and Senate. In most cases, the government members in question are the Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Defence, the Minister for Development Cooperation and the Minister for European Affairs. They are expected to send a government response to parliament within three months. The requests for advice, the reports and the government responses are all made public (www.aiv-advies.nl)
AIV presented its report on 22nd of June in the Hague. AIV takes over an important part of the strategic advice of Hivos, particularly the analysis on the emerging regime types and the central role of civil society in transition processes. The strategic advice of Hivos is based on the insights of Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia- policy papers, working papers, book reviews, newsletters, events reports and forthcoming edited volumes- as well as experiences of its Rights and Citizenship and Expression and Engagement Programmes West Asia.
To start with, AIV partly takes over the strategic framework of Hivos’ analysis that the factors that have led to these uprisings seem to be similar, but the transitions will be different depending on the country context and the form of the state that has emerged or is emerging. As a result AIV refers to the emergence of the following state forms: repressive authoritarian states (Syria, Iran, Yemen, Libya, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain), transitional states (Egypt and Tunisia), ‘liberal authoritarian’ monarchies (Morocco and Jordan), dysfunctional democracies (Iraq & Lebanon), diverse other cases (Palestinian territories, Iraqi Kurdistan and Sudan).
AIV acknowledges the advice of Hivos that now the culture of fear has collapsed, there finally is a fee space for liberated civil and political societies to contribute to meaningful social change. This provides real windows of opportunity for international actors. Yet it is also imperative to realize that the supportive role of international actors in any post-authoritarian Arab order will be limited due to that fact these uprisings are indigenous movements with indigenous agenda and hence these movements will shape the future of their region-no matter how well intentioned and –equipped external actors are and will be.
In addition, AIV acknowledges the recommendation of Hivos that support to civil society should be sustainable, long term and programme (and not project) based. AIV embraces Hivos’ advice that this support should be provided to independent and trusted civil society organisations/initiatives and political parties and there should be special attention for women’s rights and marginalized groups such as LGBT, ethnic and religious groups. Finally, AIV recognizes the central role of insightful knowledge that helps to adequately understand and analyse complex and historic developments in the region. In this regards, AIV believes that the support of the Netherlands government to civil society in the region should be based on sound analysis and knowledge on the evolving quick and complex dynamics and societal processes as well as how civil society can contribute to democratic reforms in such a context.