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Cablegate: Bahrain: Post Support for Mepi Program Implementers

This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 02 MANAMA 001782

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: AMGT EAID ECON KDEM KPAO PREL KMPI BA
SUBJECT: BAHRAIN: POST SUPPORT FOR MEPI PROGRAM IMPLEMENTERS

REF: STATE 238836

1. (U) Post appreciates this opportunity to provide feedback
on our experiences working with MEPI implementers. For the
most part our experience has been positive, however, we would
like to see better coordination on implementer travel
including advance notice and contact information for those
arranging logistics. Embassy Manama would also like to be
better integrated into the process of selecting MEPI projects
for approval, to include regular updates of what topics are
discussed at inter-agency pillar specific meetings in
Washington. As an example, we particularly appreciate the
timeline of trade-related assistance provided by
MEPI-Washington and suggest one be done for each pillar and
be distributed to posts regularly. We look forward to
working with the MEPI regional office in Abu Dhabi on these
kinds of issues. Many of the challenges Embassy Manama faces
in implementing MEPI programs are due to restrictions placed
on the operation of both local and international NGOs by the
GOB. Comments are keyed to questions in para 4 of Reftel.

-----------------------------
Registration of Local Offices
-----------------------------

2. (U) At present there are two MEPI-funded implementers that
have established offices in Bahrain, the National Democratic
Institute (NDI) and the American Bar Association (ABA). In
the coming year we hope to have a resident representative
from Junior Achievement and expect a representative from the
Beyster Institute to head the BMENA entrepreneurship center
for its first year. There are no MEPI-funded implementers in
Bahrain under existing USAID or other bilateral agreements.

3. (U) Without a GOB mechanism for registering international
NGOs, representatives from NDI and the ABA operate in Bahrain
without being officially registered. In addition, the ban on
the funding of any local NGO by a foreign government or
international NGO further limits implementation. Both NDI
and the ABA have developed unique mechanisms to cope with GOB
restrictions, and we expect that post will have to work
closely with the GOB and future MEPI implementers seeking to
establish offices in the country to ensure they are able to
operate effectively.

4. (U) NDI partners with local NGOs implementing its
programs. NDI was originally in Bahrain at the behest and
with the permission of the King's Court. NDI was later
requested to register with the Ministry of Labor and Social
Affairs (MOLSA). However, after a period of negotiation it
became clear that NDI would be not be able to register with
MOLSA as a local association and has begun to negotiate a
Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Ministry of
Foreign Affairs. The MOU remains under review and until
finalized NDI has been asked to refrain from scheduling any
new activities. However, projects already underway are being
implemented.

5. (U) The ABA, here at the behest and with the permission of
the Minister of Justice, works within the Minister's office
and keeps a low profile in order to avoid a request to
register similar to that faced by NDI. In order to operate,
the ABA also spent a considerable amount of time negotiating
an MOU with the MOJ.

--------------------
Significant Barriers
--------------------

6. (U) Expat staff of MEPI implementers in Bahrain must
qualify for an identity card. With an identity card an
individual can rent housing and office space, get a phone and
establish a bank account. In the past we have found that
MEPI implementers, while not prohibited from obtaining an
identity card, do face significant red tape. We understand
that NDI has purchased liability coverage, but are not aware
of any requirement that they do so.

-----
Costs
-----

7. (U) Post is not aware of local MEPI implementers being
forced to pay higher costs than those imposed on local
organizations. Bahrain is a tax-free environment and fees
(municipal fees or commercial registration fees) tend to be
minimal.

---------------
Security Issues
---------------

8. (U) While visiting and locally resident MEPI implementers
have expressed concern about the security situation in
Bahrain, particularly after post went to authorized departure
last summer, to date the RSO has nor received specific
inquiries from implementers.

-----------------------
Use of Embassy Services
-----------------------

9. (U) To date there has been no request for commissary
access or accommodation exchange.

-----------------
Misrepresentation
-----------------

10. (U) To our knowledge none of the MEPI implementers have
presented themselves to the GOB as anything other than MEPI
grantees.
ZIADEH

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