GCC urges reforms for regional progress
Manama, February 25, 2008
GCC states must take further action to promote citizenship and in turn this will open new economic and political opportunities, said a top GCC official.
Collectively, the GCC has been successful in encouraging economic citizenship but this should also extend to the political arena where developments are taking place, said GCC secretary-general Abdulrahman bin Hamad Al Attiya.
Speaking at the opening of the two-day seminar on citizenship being held at the Crowne Plaza, Al Attiya said both political and economic developments are needed to build modern, stable and prosperous nations.
The GCC has given priority to economic citizenship and recently it had entered into a joint Gulf market, said Al Attiya.
But now the promotion of political citizenship is needed, especially when GCC countries are leaning towards political openness and participation as well as adapting democratic reform projects with elections as the main pillar, he added.
Such development will further promote the democratic rights of citizens and encourage them to become active in political planning and participation, said the official.
"Achieving our objectives is not only aimed at economic unity in a world filled with regional and international economic entities, but also for a strong foundation for further political development," said Al Attiya.
"However, this also requires further developments in education and the media to promote the ideals of citizenship as well as the relation between the individual and the country, the society and the decision-making institutions, and planning policies and the tools to implement them.
"A conscious, responsible and developed political education is the bridge that we will cross safely from economic citizenship to political citizenship and towards an Arab and Gulf society with an outstanding regional and international role."
He said Europe had succeeded in creating a unified identity based on equal rights for citizens in 27 countries.
The GCC, he said, is also capable of achieving a similar citizenship that is nationalistic and widespread, where the citizen feels pride in his Gulf and Arab identity. This, in turn, will open new economic and political opportunities.
"There is no doubt that conditions in the Middle East remain sensitive and complicated. However, this is not an excuse to evade democratic rights," he pointed out.
"The region had previously delayed, if not frozen, a comprehensive reform for many years. It only resulted in increasing problems and escalating crisis. In order to avoid repeating mistake under the influence of false perception, democratic development are needed to restore the situation."
Al Attiya said it was a mistake for people to think democratic progress is dictated by foreign countries.
He said this was a shortsighted approach and disregards the right of people to leave in peace with their freedoms and rights being respected.
"I reject any attempt to blame it on the culture of the region founded on the teachings of Islam, which promotes tolerance and human rights - the core of democratic work," he said.
"The nature of the human fibre in our region is one of the riches in the world with its cultural, religious and ethnic content.
"This calls for further co-operation among everyone to stop any attempts for sedition."-TradeArabia News Service