The United States supports the political and economic transitions underway in North Africa and the Middle East. “There is no going back,” said U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs Jeffery Feltman. “People demand dignity, basic democratic rights, access to economic opportunity and an end to rampant corruption. Governments old and new must recognize and respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people if they want to retain their legitimacy to rule.”
The United States is committed to promoting reform in the region, and over the past year, has mobilized over $500 million from the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development budget to support transitions in the region and lay foundations for sustained progress. Mechanisms like the State Department’s U.S. Middle East Partnership Initiative, or MEPI, provide assistance to democracy and civil society advocates striving for change.
In Tunisia, since January 2011, the U.S. has committed over $297 million to support the country’s political transition. Leading up to Tunisia’s historic elections, U.S. government-sponsored programs like MEPI helped build political party capacity, assisted civil society and the media to monitor and publicize election preparations, and increased women’s participation in the political process.
Referring to Egypt, Assistant Secretary Feltman stated, “We have arrived at a crucial moment in Egypt’s transition. Over the next two months, the country is scheduled to elect a president, swear in a new cabinet, devolve power from the military to civilian leadership, and continue drafting its constitution. It is in our interest to help Egypt emerge from this critical phase successfully. We are looking to build a strong relationship with the next Egyptian government in order to engage them effectively on the entire range of our interests, including promoting respect for human rights, preserving the peace treaty with Israel, and building the kind of broad and deep relationship that will ensure that Egypt is a force for regional stability and peace long into the future. We continue to call on the Egyptian government to drop all charges against the employees of non-governmental organizations, or NGOs, and want to work with the incoming democratically-elected Egyptian government to protect basic freedoms, particularly the freedom of association, through a revised NGO law that meets international standards.”
The Arab Spring is an unprecedented opportunity for the people of the region to achieve greater political freedom and economic prosperity. The U.S. is doing all it can to see that these aspirations are met.