The Experience of Political Reform in the GCC States: Evaluation & Analysis
Joint Workshop sponsored by the
Gulf Research Center (GRC)
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Dubai, United Arab Emirates
November 16 & 17, 2005
The Arab Gulf States have been undergoing a deep process of transformation for several decades: their population has increased sharply; levels of education have risen dramatically; their economies have been integrated in the new global system and the political consciousness of their citizens has been altered by the IT revolution and the unprecedented exposure to information it entails.
The process started well before the Iraq war of 2003. To be sure, the conflict was a wake-up call for much of the region, not only because it confirmed the need for broad-based social and political change, but also because it raised significant doubts about the so-called US “forward strategy of freedom” and the reasons behind it. Both domestic pressure and external events have led many regimes to take additional steps towards creating a more participatory political order. Furthermore, citizens in all countries in the region are actively discussing the necessity for political reforms and have set forth demands for new measures.
Because of the rapid pace of change in the region, the Gulf Research Center and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace will convene a new joint meeting in November 2005 to discuss recent developments that have taken place in a number of countries and to analyze their significance in the overall process of political reform in the Gulf region. The first GRC-Carnegie meeting, held in September 2004, made an important contribution to the understanding of the reform process by discussing the broad issues that affect political transformation in the area. The second workshop will look more closely at specific countries; it will focus primarily on the domestic process of political change: what is driving the reform process, how far it has progressed in different countries and how the transformation is likely to unfold in the short and medium term. To a lesser extent, the workshop will also consider the impact of external factors: the Iraq crisis; the shift, if any, within the US democracy agenda under a second-term Bush Administration and possible roles to be played by other external actors such as the European Union and the UN.
The workshop has been designed to incorporate the presentation and discussion of brief working papers covering the experience of political reform in each one of the six GCC States. Each paper will put forth a general evaluation of the conditions and status of the process of political reform in the concerned country and bring up major issues and questions linked to reform. Papers will also discuss key opportunities for and the most prominent obstacles to political reform.
The workshop will provide an opportunity to draw comparative lessons among the experiences of the GCC States as well as put forward ideas or feasible suggestions regarding the means and requirements for the reinforcement of political reform process and strengthening of civil society organizations (CSOs) in the GCC countries.
Objectives of the Workshop:
• Placing the reform movement in an overall comparative perspective
• Examining the salient domestic factors driving political reform in the GCC States.
• Tracing and analyzing the various political and social forces demanding political reform in the GCC countries in terms of their respective orientations, visions and their power of influence.
• Discussing the major issues and obstacles related to political reform in the GCC countries.
• Formulating comparisons among the reform experiences in the six GCC countries with the objective of identifying and elaborating upon common denominators shared by the six GCC States along with the nuances of specific cases.
Articulating feasible suggestions to support the process of political reform in the GCC States.