23 June 2004
Fight Terror Through Reform
Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Romanowski op-ed
in Forward Newspaper
(This column by Alina Romanowski, acting deputy assistant secretary
of state for Near Eastern affairs, was published in Forward Newspaper
on June 11, 2004 and is in the public domain. No republication
Fight Terror Through Reform
THE VIEW FROM WASHINGTON
By ALINA ROMANOWSKI
June 11, 2004
Support for reform and modernization in the Middle East and North
Africa is not just a matter of promoting shared values or of ensuring
basic human rights, crucial as both of those concerns are. It is
also a matter of practical American interests. As President Bush
declared: "When the entire region sees the promise of freedom in
its midst, the terrorist ideology will become more and more irrelevant,
until that day when it is viewed with contempt or ignored altogether."
Stability is not a static phenomenon, and political systems that
do not find ways to accommodate the aspirations of their people
for participation will become brittle and combustible. Systems
that are characterized by an absence of political choice, transparent
governance, economic opportunities and personal freedoms can create
incubators for extremism. Ignoring the human development problems
of the Middle East is no longer an option.
With the Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiative, the
United States has entered the picture as a force to support and
encourage reforms originating in the region. The initiative draws
upon the message of progress recently articulated by, among others,
the Arab League, which recently cited the importance of reform
in its Tunis Declaration; the Arab Business Council, which spoke
out about building a better business and investment climate in
the region; the United Nations Arab Human Development Reports;
and civil society, through reform conferences in Alexandria, Cairo,
Sanaa and Istanbul.
We understand that reform imposed from the outside has no chance
of conferring lasting benefits. Each country in the region is unique
and at different stages of political, social and cultural development.
We will continue a vibrant dialogue with regional governments and
civil society on how best to support homegrown reform efforts.
Supporting reform efforts is certainly not a substitute for our
other priorities in the region. The resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian
conflict and progress toward President Bush's two-state vision
are essential for stability in the region. We are also fully committed
to working with the Iraqi people to rebuild their country. These
are not objectives from which the United States and the international
community can pick and choose; we must - and we will - pursue each
with determination and vigor.
Reform begins by implementing programs that have a measurable
impact on ordinary people's lives, helping people fulfill their
aspirations. Political, economic, educational and social reforms
reinforce each other, create hope and opportunity, and have a positive
multiplier effect in a society. Even the smallest steps can help
to give people the chance to shape their lives, their societies
and their futures.
Through the Middle East Partnership Initiative, we are already
partnering with governments and civil society throughout the region
to support expansion of political opportunity, democracy, economic
and education reform, and the empowerment of women. This initiative,
a broad partnership between governments, the private sector and
members of civil society, was launched a year-and-a-half ago, and
is a key mechanism to support the president's vision for democracy
and freedom in the Broader Middle East and North Africa.
In the area of political reform, the focus is on strengthening
freedoms, the democratic process and good governance. We administered
parliamentary development programs; funded a regional women's campaign
school in Qatar; co-sponsored (with Bahrain) a regional judicial
forum, and funded journalist-training programs in Morocco, Tunisia,
Algeria, Lebanon and Bahrain.
In line with the president's goal to create a Middle East Free
Trade Area within a decade, the Middle East Partnership Initiative
has provided technical assistance to promote reform in the economic
sector and begin to build intra-regional trade related to negotiating
Free Trade Agreements and Trade and Investment Framework Agreements.
And we are seeing results: in March, Morocco joined Jordan as the
second Arab country to complete free trade negotiations with the
Economic prosperity and strong democratic institutions are not
possible without a well-educated work force. To address the knowledge
and skills gap, the Middle East Partnership Initiative programming
focuses on critical issues such as curriculum reform, teacher training,
and community and private-sector involvement in education. Based
on new, innovative local examples, such as the Jordan Education
Initiative, we are developing and implementing a "Partnership Schools" model
that emphasizes innovative solutions and technical expertise to
enhance the quality of primary and secondary education.
Reducing illiteracy and increasing access to education, especially
for girls and women, is another priority. We are conducting teacher
training and providing classroom materials for early childhood
education in Morocco, Tunisia, Oman and Qatar. Through the Middle
East Partnership Initiative, we are also funding the translation
of 80 children's book titles and accompanying teachers' manuals
for school libraries in Jordan, Bahrain and Lebanon. Across the
board, we are trying to help reduce the barriers - whether cultural,
legal, regulatory, economic or political - to women's full participation
President Bush has noted that reform in the Broader Middle East
and North Africa requires the support of the international community.
When the G-8 countries and the trans-Atlantic community establish
shared objectives and leverage resources and ongoing initiatives,
we are better able to bolster reformers and to make them more effective.
Our efforts to support reform are one part of our broader policy
toward the countries of the region. Make no mistake about it - promoting
reform in the Middle East is an essential element of the war on
terrorism. As new opportunities and personal freedoms grow for
people across the region, we expect that the appeal of terrorist
groups and self-destructive extremist behavior will wane.
The challenge of restoring hope and integrating the Middle East
into a more peaceful and prosperous world is just as important
at the dawn of the 21st century as was the challenge of rebuilding
and re-integrating Europe in the middle of the last century. While
the circumstances are different in many respects, the historic
opportunity is just as critical. Democracy and reform will make
the region stronger and more stable and the world more secure by
fighting terrorism at its source.
Alina Romanowski is acting deputy assistant secretary of state
for Near Eastern affairs.