The concept is promising, and intended to be reassuring, but two factors make it less so: One is the collection of human rights train wrecks that continue to benefit from international aid, like Pakistan, and the Palestinian Authority. The pledge that “no, really, we’re working on it” seems sufficient to mollify the West and keep the money spigot on. The other is the lack of specificity and benchmarks, which helps enable the preceding problem.
What would make this pledge meaningful would be specific assurances of security, opportunity, and equal citizenship and rights under the law. For non-Muslims, those assurances must verbally and explicitly negate the terms of dhimmitude item by item and protect freedom of conscience for all citizens. They must ensure the right of non-Muslims to build places of worship, display their religion’s symbols and propagate their faith as freely as Muslims do, and to never pay jizya. And on the other side of the coin, they must ensure the right of Muslims to change their religion, and leave Islam if they choose to do so.
Most importantly, the verification of conditions for non-Muslims must be done through non-Muslim channels, bypassing the government’s ability to “cook the books.”
The same goes for women’s rights, most specifically the abolition of female genital mutilation in Egypt, and putting an end to child marriage and combating domestic violence. This is a golden opportunity to make meaningful headway on the protection of women, and it would be a tragedy to squander it.
Only specific benchmarks will lead to substantive reforms. Otherwise, we’ll be left with lofty platitudes and empty promises, while the money flows unhindered. “G8 leaders to tie Arab Spring aid to reforms,” by Nick Vinocur and Marie Maitre for Reuters, May 26:
DEAUVILLE, France (Reuters) — Group of Eight leaders were to approve billions of dollars in aid on Friday to new Arab democracies with a program designed to foster change sweeping North Africa and the Middle East.
Leaders were to wrap up their two-day summit in northern France by launching a partnership with the region that ties aid and development cash to progress on democracy and economic reforms by states that have thrown off autocratic rulers.
Tunisia and Egypt, whose prime ministers will meet the leaders of the G8’s seven Western powers plus Russia on Friday, face facing huge economic pressures following popular uprisings that toppled their long-serving authoritarian leaders.
In a report to G8 leaders the International Monetary Fund said on Thursday the external financing needs of oil-importing countries in the Middle East and North Africa would top $160 billion over the next three years.
“The region needs to prepare for a fundamental transformation of its economic model,” Masood Ahmed, in charge of Middle East and Africa at the IMF, told journalists on the sidelines of the G8 meeting in Deauville.
“This will be greatly facilitated if international players including the G8 can enter into strategic partnership with these countries … where incentives are linked to a social agenda.”
The IMF says it can provide around $35 billion to help stabilize countries’ economies but the bulk of financing will need to come from the international community.
The World Bank on Tuesday unveiled $6 billion in new funding for Tunisia and Egypt, whose revolts have inspired popular uprisings in Yemen, Jordan, Morocco and Syria, and left Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi fighting to stay in power.
The funds include budget support as well as lending to shore up the private sector and encourage new investment.
A World Bank report issued the same day said the region needs about 50 million to 75 million jobs over the next decade to absorb new labor market entrants and cut unemployment.
Diplomatic sources said the summit would also back the extension of the mandate of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development into North Africa and the Middle East. The bank, created after the Cold War to help former Communist states become market economies, lends about 9 billion euros a year to projects anywhere from Croatia in central Europe to China.
British Prime Minister David Cameron said on Thursday the G8 summit would show Arabs on the street that the world stood behind the demands for greater economic and political freedoms.
“We will help you build your democracy, we will help your economies … we will help you in all the ways we can, because the alternative to a successful democracy is more of the poisonous extremism that has done so much damage in our world.”
The underlying idea: you can buy off “extremism,” and replace it with the right combination of democratization and aid. Unfortunately, a democracy is only as good as the values that inform its participants.
However, the state of the world economy means the extent of the aid on offer is likely to be modest.
The European Union executive said it had added 1.24 billion euros of fresh grant funding to an existing program that aims to help its neighbors across the Mediterranean.