CAIRO: The UN Development Programme (UNDP) will back a controversial
report on freedom and governance in the Arab world despite US
objections to parts of the text, the main writer said on Tuesday.
The dispute reflects differences between the US view that the Arab world’s problems are mainly internal whereas the Arab consensus is that external factors have contributed significantly to oppression and poor governance in the region.
Egyptian sociologist Nader Fergany, the report’s main writer, said Washington had pressed the UNDP not to endorse the Arab Human Development Report because it did not like sections on the US occupation of Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
He said the United States had threatened to cut its contribution to the UN agency if it published the report, though this was denied by the UNDP.
“I really can’t say but it seems that the top management at UNDP decided to publish anyway. They must have felt that the damage from not publishing would be even greater. It’s good that they came out with the right decision,” he said. “It is coming out under the UNDP logo and we are scheduled for a launch in March.”
Asked whether the UNDP has made changes to placate Washington, he said: “Normally there are changes to conform to UN standards but the substance is exactly the same.”
The report is the third in an annual series. “They (UNDP) haven’t said anything specific about subsequent years but the assumption is that this clears the way for work on the fourth report,” he added.
An official at the UNDP office in Cairo said he could not comment because the agency’s New York headquarters was handling the report. Ironically, the United States used the 2002 Arab Human Development Report as the basis for its first detailed proposals on reform in the Arab world.
Fergany said at the time the United States had abused the report to give its ideas some credibility. Past reports have said lack of freedom in Arab nations, repression of women and isolation from the world were stifling creativity, economic growth and development. But Fergany and many other Arab reformists say they favour home-grown solutions which serve Arab interests, rather than US proposals which they say are designed to serve Washington and Israel. reuters
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