Friday, December 24, 2004


The U.S.'s pricipled committment to democratic reform in the Arab world

You may remember the UN Development Programme report on the Arab world from a couple of years ago. It played an important role for many supporters of the war in Iraq, demonstrating as it did the terrible political, social and economic malaise suffered by the Arab countries and thus tied in with what Chris Young calls the Chomsky-Wolfowitz Root-Causes theory.

This is from Reuters:

"The United Nations has distanced itself from the Arabs who wrote this year's report on reform in the Middle East, after reports that the United States has threatened to cut funding to the U.N. agency which sponsored it.

The U.N. Development Programme said the writers did not express U.N. policies and the agency favours giving them an "institutional home" independent of the United Nations.

It was responding to reports that under financial pressure from Washington, which did not like what a draft version says about Iraq and Israel, this year's report will break with past practice by not carrying the U.N. logo.

The reports, known as Arab Human Development Reports (AHDRs), are the work of independent Arab specialists, mostly development experts, social scientists, liberals and reformers, but UNDP has financed and sponsored their work.

The lead writer of this year's report, Nader Fergani, said on Wednesday he no longer expected it to come out under the UNDP name because of a U.S. threat to deprive UNDP of funding. UNDP said in a statement received by Reuters on Thursday that reports of a U.S. threat to cut contributions to the UNDP budget were inaccurate and no government had asked for the suppression of the report.


This year's report, which criticises U.S. policy in Iraq and Israeli policy towards Palestinians, was meant to come out in October but it has been delayed because of the controversy. The UNDP statement gave no date for its release and did not say whether UNDP would let the report carry its name.


Fergani said on Wednesday: "My understanding is that the UNDP will not publish it under its logo, but they will not prevent it from being published under the names of the authors."

"It seems that the pressure that was put on the UNDP (by the U.S. and Egyptian governments) was too heavy to bear," he added. Egypt objected to the report's advocacy of complete freedom of expression and association in the Arab world, he said.

Ironically, the United States repeatedly cited previous reports, written by largely the same team, as evidence for the need for reform in the Middle East. Fergani said the United States had misused the reports."

Ironic indeed.

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