Held annually since 2004, the G-8 Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Initiative's Forum for the Future brings together G-8 and BMENA governments, the private sector, and civil society leaders to work toward political, social, and economic progress. The 2012 Forum was the first year that government, civil society, and private sector representatives actively participated in the Forum as equals -- reflecting the goals of the U.S. and Tunisian co-chairs to generate reform-oriented discussions and promote greater citizen-government dialogue.
Yesterday morning, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs Nazanin Ash and Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies Tomicah Tillemann connected with Moroccan civil society leaders in Rabat by video conference to discuss the Forum. In their conversation with the participants, Ash and Tillemann recognized Moroccan Minister of Relations with Parliament and Civil Society El Habib Choubani’s participation in the 2012 Forum, along with several Moroccan civil society organizations.
As Deputy Assistant Secretary Ash mentioned during their conversation yesterday, a key achievement of last year's Forum was the Consensus Declaration, which includes strong commitments on many important fronts, including:
- Advancing gender equality and greater political, social, and economic rights and opportunities for women
- Ensuring freedoms of expression and association
- Promoting religious tolerance and reject violence
- Engaging in more open, transparent governance
- Making regulatory environments more conducive to entrepreneurship and economic growth
It is stunning to consider that twenty-nine governments - in vastly different regions and with vastly different political systems and experiences - agreed by consensus on the principles outlined in the Declaration. This is a testament to the changing dynamics in the BMENA region and an increasing recognition of the roles that civil society and the private sector can and must play.
There is still much more to be done. We hope that civil society organizations and private sector leaders across the region will use the Declaration as they continue the dialogue with their governments to fully implement these commitments to drive reform. This is the message Deputy Assistant Secretary Ash gave to Moroccan civil society leaders, and it is a message that every citizen in the region must hear.
About the Author: Emily Fischer serves as the U.S. BMENA Coordinator at the Department of State, and helped organize the 2012 Forum for the Future preparatory workshops, including one in Morocco.