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Arab Human Development Report

Sponsored by the United Nations and written by a group of leading Arab intellectuals, the third Arab Human Development Report says that Arab governments have failed to meet their peoples’ aspirations for development, security, and liberation. To rectify these failures, the report calls for speeding up democratic reforms - in particular, reforms aimed at strengthening the institutional foundations of freedom, limiting the monopoly on power currently enjoyed by the executive in most Arab countries, and ensuring an independent judiciary and free speech.

The report also criticizes U.S. foreign policy with regard to Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. U.S. State Department spokesman Richard Boucher says that the U.S. views the report positively, while not sharing all of its conclusions:

"I'm not going to pretend that we embrace everything in this report, but when it sticks to the job at hand, and that's to try to diagnose and identify the impediments to development in the Arab world and the things that can and should be done in the Arab world in terms of reform and change. . . .we think these reports have made a very important contribution and we look forward to reviewing this one in that regard."

Despite disagreements, the authors of the Arab Human Development Report and the United States agree that Arab countries need democracy. "The advance of hope in the Middle East requires new thinking in the region," said President George W. Bush. "By now it should be clear that authoritarian rule is not the wave of the future. It is the last gasp of a discredited past."

The Arab Human Development Report also suggests the consequences for Arab governments of failing to act now. "In the absence of peaceful and effective mechanisms to address injustice and achieve political alternation, some might be tempted to embrace violent protest, with the risk of internal disorder,” the report warns. "This could lead to chaotic upheavals that might force a transfer of power in Arab countries. . . .Such a transfer of power through violence would not guarantee that successor governance regimes would be any more desirable."

The first Arab Human Development Report, issued in 2002, described obstacles to development in the Middle East, including deficits of freedom and women's empowerment. The second report provided an in-depth assessment of the knowledge deficit. These reports provided much of the framework for the U.S.-Middle East Partnership Initiative.

The preceding was an editorial reflecting the views of the United States government.