The State of Reform in the Arab World 2009-2010

Arab world at threshold of democracy, however a long road to implementation lies ahead, says Arab Reform Initiative.

The annual report-card, titled The State of Reform in the Arab World - The Arab Democracy Index, shows that the region has developed the institutional means to transition to democratic governments but has not yet universally applied them into practice. Think tank warns of need for progress in the area of practices extending to all aspects of life, or advances could be lost

The ADI, in its second edition, covers ten Arab countries with the mission to eventually cover all the countries in the Arab world. The study measures forty indicators to gauge four major values and principles relevant to the democratization process: strong and accountable public institutions, respect for rights and freedoms, the rule of law, and equality and social justice. The selected indicators measure daily political, economic and social issues, and reflect the entire democratic decision-making process.

Data gathered for the Arab Democracy Index cover three different dimensions: the legal aspect, public opinion, and practices of regimes. Measurement is therefore based on monitoring performance and behavior rather than just examining intentions and structures, since intentions may be good but performance poor.

The Arab Democracy Index goes further than pre-existing reports in two respects: it takes into consideration both impressions and patterns of behaviour, and measures their impact on citizens’ daily lives. It revolves around the centrality of the notion of citizenship, instead of political authority, and thus takes limited steps towards the social and economic impact that changes in the country’s political system have on people’s lives.

The report found that genuine change requires transformation in three areas: (1) laws and an electoral process that integrate all sectors of society and eliminate discrimination; (2) the development of tax systems based on progressive taxation and a just distribution of wealth; (3) the development of an education system with firm moral and social foundations and based on the principles of pluralism and secularism.

Accordingly, ARI states an urgent need in the Arab world to guarantee greater political and civil freedom, not only through more legislation but also by enhancing monitoring functions and the role of human rights organizations. Additionally, ARI notes a pressing need to make the issues of social justice and social and economic rights the core of the reform process. This would need to happen while also reforming education by allocating bigger budgets, combating illiteracy, reducing the school drop-out rate, and improving the conditions of education, especially for females.

On a scale of 0 to 1,000 points, Jordan topped the list of the countries covered in the Index, with a score of 620 points, followed by Morocco with 601 points and Egypt with 596 points. Lebanon was ranked fourth with 583 points, followed by Algeria with 570 points and Kuwait with 553 points. Palestine was placed seventh with 506 points, followed by Syria with 461 points, then Yemen with 457 points, and finally Saudi Arabia with 402 points.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.