Amine Gemayel

President of Lebanon 1982-1988

A Guiding Charter for Arab Democracy


Tuesday, December 10, 2013

After the Storm: Democracy and Development in a New Middle East



Dear colleagues, ladies and gentlemen,

Thank you for participating in this seminar, convened jointly by the German Marshall Fund of the United States and the Maison du Futur in Lebanon.

As founder and director of the Maison du Futur, it is my profound hope and expectation that today we inaugurate a long and fruitful collaboration between the MdF and the GMF.

To my dear friend, President Craig Kennedy—and to the GMF’s Vice President, Mr. Ivan Vejvoda—I say a heartfelt “thank you.” It has been due to your distinguished leadership that this conference and related initiatives have been launched.

And I must also express gratitude to my friend and colleague Dr. Hassan Mneimneh, who has worked tirelessly to give shape and form to the shared GMF-MdF goal of improving conditions in the Middle East.

* * *

As you all know, the Arab world is experiencing a great transformation of vast proportions and import. But the question that cannot be answered yet is this:

“Are we witnessing the dawn of a new era of stability and prosperity,
or the first eruptions of another long cycle of war and destruction in the Middle East?”

Evidence can be marshaled to support both pessimistic and optimistic visions. Yet the MdF and the GMF are determined to seize every opportunity to keep faith with the brave reformists pursuing fundamental change in the Arab world.

The MdF-GMF partnership accepts the challenge of helping to build a better Middle East defined by peace, stability, and human rights.

The narrative of the Middle East as a zone of conflict and instability finds easy confirmation in the big war now raging in Syria and in a set of smaller violent conflicts that simmer and flare up in other crisis zones, including Lebanon.

And yet a counter-narrative also exists, even if it receives far less attention than it deserves. This is a story of the Middle East as a zone of growth; in fact, remarkable growth in key indicators like human capital, natural resources, and Information Technology.

And so on the one hand, raging turmoil has led to the atrophy or outright collapse of governmental and social institutions in places like Yemen, Libya, Egypt and other Arab countries…

Yet on the other hand, the Arab word is well positioned to launch and advance initiatives to rebuild best governance, enhance transparency and accountability, and—finally—ensure liberty, pluralism and freedom. Reform efforts must focus on post-conflict reconstruction, new systems of education, economic development, and quality of social welfare.

The growth narrative that the MdF-GMF partnership must embody has the potential to improve not only the Middle East, but also the world economy and even global geopolitics. But the positive narrative must be nurtured and empowered from within the region.

Arab champions of the growth narrative —including political leaders, technocrats, and academics— must cooperate with counterparts from the liberal democracies to build momentum based on new patterns of partnership, not the discredited practices of paternalism.

Even amid “the storm,” it is necessary—as we are doing here today—
to glance ahead and consider the dictates and necessities of the post-tempest,
post-crisis period that will eventually arise.

The institution named in honor of George Marshall can claim a special heritage and expertise in the vital enterprise of forging transformative coalitions.

Mindful of General Marshall’s legacy, let us reflect for a moment on three parallels between conditions of post-World War II Europe and realities that will prevail in the Middle East, post-Arab Awakening:

First, the requirement for physical reconstruction and economic development;

Second, the necessity for what can be called “inspirational moderation”
to check the dangerous appeal of extremism.
In Europe the threat came from political extremism named Communism,
in the Middle East it is religious extremism called terrorism;

Third, the need for new systems of governance, both domestically and on the level of regional cooperation.

Just as the historical Marshall Plan was an accelerator of economic development, political moderation, and international cooperation, I firmly believe that today what I call an “Arab Marshall Plan for Freedom, Pluralism & Governance” could help transform the troubled Middle East.

In terms of freedom and pluralism, the proposed “Arab Marshall Plan” could give priority to education and dialogue to promote solutions of togetherness and respect for pluralism. These and related education measures can be bundled under the theme, :
“evolution of minds while maintaining identities.”

In terms of governance, the “Arab Marshall Plan” could focus on issues of openness, transparency, and the rotation of power. We can call this approach,: “reform of institutions.”

Above all, the “Arab Marshall Plan” must emphasize the promise of partnership as something separate and distinct from the old paternalism. The historical Marshall Plan succeeded because it encouraged Europeans to cooperate with each other and—based on that cooperation—to build enduring partnerships.

Likewise, the “Arab Marshall Plan” must encourage talented Arabs in key sectors of state and society—especially the youth—to cooperate with each other across sectarian, ethnic, and national boundaries, and then to build lasting relationships with international partners, especially in Europe and North America.

Programs and activities of the new, “Arab Marshall Plan” should be designed to strengthen the Middle East’s growth narrative. This can be done by utilizing Information Technology and media to open up new public spaces and to energize the forces of moderation in their just struggle against extremism.

Civil society actors, especially those supported by the youth, have already transformed the region’s political landscape. The old military dictatorships are dead, dying, or —as in Egypt— forced to negotiate and compromise with the youthful forces of change.

In the Middle East the growth narrative and civil society are co-dependent; they will rise or fall in tandem. To prevent the worst, a coordinated and long-term effort is needed.

Ladies and gentlemen,

To achieve success our Maison du Futur-German Marshall Fund joint initiative
must be conceived and implemented as a long-term process involving study, reflection, and action.
This inaugural meeting must be followed by other conferences involving an ever-expanding array of partners representing a diversity of interests, institutions, and constituencies.

To survive and thrive, the “growth narrative” I mentioned a moment ago must attract a network of supporting actors—Arab, European, North American, Russian, Japanese, and others.

During today’s proceedings and others to be held in the future, the MdF and GMF invite a broad range of individuals and institutions to contribute their ideas and resources to the great tasks before us.

Thank you.