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“Ethical Responsibility of Civil Society in the Arab World and the Right to Association”: Conference under the auspices of the Arab League

Under the patronage of His Excellency Mr. Amr Musa, Secretary General of the Arab League, and with the support of the European Union, Arab governments and CSOs took the floor at the Arab League premises, on October 18-19, 2008, to discuss and debate the phrase "Arab particularity" which is often used to justify the inapplicability of international standards and criteria in the Arab context. The ensuing attitude has resulted in marginalizing civil society, weakening state institutions, and failing to deliver development plans, to say nothing about human rights violations.

The conference on the "Moral Responsibility of CSO’s in the Arab World & the Right to Freedom of Association" was advertised under the slogan of "Freedom of Association". To voice their willingness to self-regulate, CSO's introduced three different contributions: a Code of Conduct for the NGO Sector, a Charter containing the principles of democratic political practices, and a set of Guiding Principles for internal regulations of labor unions.

More than 140 participants from the various Arab and other countries attended the conference 16 of whom are Palestinians including the Minister of Justice, Dr. Ali Khashan. Other Palestinian participants included PLC and SCO representatives.

AMAN, the Palestinian partner of the host organization, Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FN), assisted in the logistics of the conference and in the preparation of the documents presented at the conference including the book “Guiding Principals on the Right of Assembly and Organization in the Arab World”, launched during the conference. Furthermore, the Palestinian delegation participated actively during the conference. Dr. Ali Khashan participated in the session on Reform Efforts: role of CSO and governments, Dr. Allam Jarrar presented the regional Code of Conduct, and Mo’een al-Barghouthi presented the policy paper on the Legal Framework for NGOs, unions and political parties. Furthermore, each participant took part in the workshops on the various codes as well as providing comments when applicable.

It is worthy to note that the conference constitutes one of the activities of the project “Enhancing the Legal Framework of Association in the Arab World through National Dialogue and Empowerment of Civil Society”, implemented by AMAN and FN and funded by the EU.

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Rami Mousa
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