GFMD MEMBERS DISCUSS ENGAGEMENT WITH LEAGUE OF ARAB STATES

Engagement and collaboration is at the heart of what makes our network effective. This is particularly true when advocating for greater civil society inclusion in decision-making by multilateral bodies and stakeholders outside of the media sector. In the case in the Middle East and North Africa where journalists, bloggers, civil society activists, and others face some of the harshest penalties for dissent and free expression, that kind of advocacy and policy work has life-or-death repercussions.

Recently, two of GFMD’s members – the Centre for Law and Democracy (CLD) and the Palestinian Center for Development and Media Freedoms (MADA) – joined Transparency Maroc, Maharat Foundation, and the Social Economic Forum for Women Organization to co-organise a consultative meeting in Amman, Jordan, on how to improve the opportunities for civil society organisations to engage with the League of Arab States (LAS).

From 25-26 October, the organisations came together with members of the LAS to review a report on Improving Civil Society Engagement at the League of Arab States, which they launched in September. They had found that the LAS lagged significantly behind other comparable inter-governmental organisations when it came to the issue of engagement with civil society groups.

A key outcome of the meeting was coming to agreement on a Charter for Improving Civil Society Engagement with the League of Arab States (English and Arabic). According to the CLD, the Charter sets out a civil society vision for the steps needed to improve the system of engagement with the LAS building on recommendations in the report. The first set of recommendations calls on the LAS to conduct an open and inclusive process of consultation with civil society with a view to putting in place a new framework for engagement. This includes transforming the current observer status system into a consultative status one, along the lines of other intergovernmental organisations, such as the UN, via a clear and transparent accreditation process. The report and Charter also calls for a number of short-term measures in relation to two key areas: access to information and opportunities for consultation. Regarding the former, they stress the need for transparency, openness, and inclusion as a key way to build trust. This includes publishing the agendas and background documents of  their key meetings sufficiently in advance. Regarding the latter recommendation, they highlight the need of the LAS to develop and implement a framework for reaching out to Arab civil society to discuss the steps that could be taken to improve engagement opportunities and areas where they could collaborate and cooperate.

A number of organisations have already endorsed the Charter, and they seek further endorsements from civil society groups based in the MENA region. For more information see the CLD press release (English and Arabic).