Alexandria 13 March – Dr. Ismail Serageldin, Director of the Library of Alexandria, reviewed at a press conference today the work program of the first day of the Arab Reform Conference organized by the Library from 12 – 14 March.
Dr. Serageldin said that the conference was not in response to any external initiative or suggestions. “It comes as a result of a strong belief in the Arab civil society that it is time to define a general collective vision of the course of reform; a vision that is based on the role the civil society itself can play rather than leaving the responsibility of reform entirely to governments”, he said. Dr. Serageldin confirmed that the conference represented a commitment by the civil society rather than being a request addressed to governments for solutions.
In response to questions by media representatives, Dr. Serageldin confirmed that there was no official governmental participation from any Arab country in the conference. He said that President Hosni Mubarak attended a special session that was held before the official inauguration of the conference. He added that the President gave his full support to the Arab civil society that aims at laying the cornerstone of Arab reform as seen by the Arab nations by identifying the views and proposals of a distinguished group of civil society leaders and Arab intellectuals. A wider range of participation will be ensured in the following stages, he added.
About the timing of the conference, Dr. Serageldin said that preparations could have taken more time but the participants were committed to presenting a unified Arab document to be transmitted to the Arab Summit conference scheduled for the end of March 2004 in Tunisia. The document, he added, will represent the civil society’s views on how to prepare for the next stage with all its relevant challenges.
Answering another question on the agenda of the main themes committees, Dr. Serageldin stated that the committees were working on drafting a final document, which will present the collective vision of the members of the committees in regards to the problems that were being discussed as well as the follow up mechanism. This draft will be used to prepare for the final statement of the conference, which will be announced at the closing session on Sunday 14 March.
Dr. Serageldin pointed out that all participants agreed on the fundamentals that reform has to be home grown, driven by forces of the society whose problems they address and that they all strongly believe that external reform plans can never be successful. He added that setting priorities for some of the issues might be debatable but that disagreements only reflect the participants’ diversity, which is the first element of democracy.He announced that the envisioned follow up mechanism would include a number of initiatives linked to establishing a forum for Arab reform, and forming a network of civil societies organizations that would be entrusted with the follow-up process.
Final Statement of “Arab Reform Issues: Vision and Implementation”