Cablegate: Third Forum for the Future Planning Meeting


DE RUEHYN #2090/01 3171140
P 131140Z NOV 07





E.O. 12958: N/A


1. Yemeni Prime Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohy
Al-Dhabbi and German Ambassador to Yemen Michael
Klor-Berchtold co-chaired the third Forum for the Future
planning meeting in Sanaa on October 27. NEA DAS Kent
Patton, DRL DAS Erica Barks-Ruggles, NEA Foreign Affairs
Officer Blake Thorkelson, and Embassy Sanaa APAO Megan
Goodfellow participated. Discussion focused on Forum
logistics and agenda, the parallel civil society forum, the
senior officials meeting, a potential BMENA secretariat, and
a potential conflict with the Forum dates.


2. Yemeni Chief of Protocol Ambassador Ibrahim Saeed
Al-Adoofi discussed logistical arrangements for the Forum.
Each delegation will have seven seats (principle six). All
heads of delegation will be housed in the Movenpick.
Al-Dhabbi agreed to recommendations from Bahrain and the US
that civil society representatives be more integrated with
governments, and not marginalized in the main hall.


3. Participants reviewed the German summary of the October
23 Forum subministerial in Berlin. Moroccan BMENA
coordinator Ambassador Youssef Amrani said that the event
fostered good dialogue with civil society and noted the calls
for a regional gender institute and a Helsinki-like process
in the Middle East. Egyptian BMENA Coordinator Ambassador
Raouf Saad complained that NGO interventions had
"overwhelmed" government delegates and called for a balance
among governments and NGOs at the Forum. Saad said that the
Helsinki proposal reflected a lack of information and claimed
that Italy and Russia had said that Helsinki was not a simple
model that could be applied to the Middle East. DAS Patton
said that the Helsinki analogy cannot be too strict, but that
the spirit of Helsinki is a pragmatic partnership with civil
society. Turkish Policy Planning Section Chief Timur
Soylemez said it is time to put the theory of women's
empowerment into practice with a gender institute. Al-Dhabbi
asked for a full proposal to which to react.


4. Ezzedine Al-Asbahy of Yemen's Human Rights Information
and Training Center (HRITC) discussed the 220-person Parallel
Civil Society Forum to be held in Aden November 30-December 1
(Note: The location of the Parallel Forum has since been
changed to Sana'a. End Note). He said pointedly that the
only funding for the meeting has come from the State
Department and asked for other donors to provide more
funding. In preparing, HRITC has developed a regional and
local preparatory committee. The parallel meeting will issue
a report at the Forum on the state of democracy in the
region, focused on freedom of expression and the legal
environment for NGOs. HRITC has sent questionnaires to NGOs
in all BMENA countries to assist in the preparation of the
report. The parallel meeting will include thematic workshops
that will develop workplans. HRITC wants ministers to
endorse the workplans at the Forum and to fund them.
Progress would be assessed at the 2008 Forum. He called for
a permanent working mechanism to support the Parallel Forum's

5. Raouf Saad of Egypt said he wanted to "correct"
Al-Asbahy, that action plans should not be presented by NGOs
and adopted by governments. That is not a real partnership,
he said. Governments and NGOs may not see eye to eye, but
they need to agree on a common purpose and cooperate without
recrimination. Amrani welcomed strong civil society
participation and called for credible, representative NGOs to
participate in the Forum. He said that the reports are a
good idea but asked the civil society groups to avoid
confrontation. Bahraini Director of Bilateral Relations Dr.
Dhafer Al-Umran said that the democracy report should be
regionally focused, not country-specific. The Parallel Forum
themes should complement, not duplicate, the Forum agenda,
and should include more than just political issues. Yemeni
DFM Al-Dhabbi recommended that the meeting be held a few days
earlier to give governments more time to review the report.
He also said that the number of civil society representatives
in the Forum would be the same as in Jordan, plus one.
Al-Asbahy agreed that the report would not be negative, but
would propose workplans with specific policy recommendations
to be implemented. He said that the dates could not be moved
because HRITC did not have the funding to pay for the
additional hotel nights for the delegation before the Forum.


6. Yemen circulated three versions of the agenda, from the
US, Germany, and Yemen, which caused some confusion among the
delegations. Participants agreed that although education is
an important theme of this year's Forum, it would be
impossible to include Ministers of Education in the Forum.
They also agreed that Foreign Ministers should sign up for
speaking slots in advance. Timur Soylemez of Turkey called
for inclusion of the theme of women's empowerment. Egypt
recommended a panel discussion followed by interaction with
the audience. Al-Dhabbi concluded that during the democracy
session, Germany will deliver a readout of the Berlin
subministerial and the Civil Society Parallel Forum will make
a presentation, followed by discussion. In the education
session, Germany and Oman will deliver a readout of the BMENA
Education Ministerial, followed by discussion. The UK and
DAS Patton emphasized that Foundation for the Future chair
Anwar Ibrahim and Mohammed bin Rachid Foundation chair
Mohammed bin Rachid al-Gergawi should make short
presentations of issues to be considered in the democracy and
education sessions, respectively. Yemen will circulate a new
version of the agenda for comment in November, and will
finalize the agenda by November 20. Participants also agreed
that Yemen will draft a chair's summary to be issued at the
end of the Forum.


7. Participants agreed that the December 4 senior officials
meeting will discuss issues in more detail. Yemen will
circulate all papers in advance, although it might be late in
circulating the parallel forum's papers given the date of
that event. Al-Dhabbi said that civil society
representatives will be included in the senior officials
meeting but implied that they would be restricted to a
handful. (Note: NEA followed up later with MFA to stress
that in past Forums, all civil society representatives
participated in the senior officials meeting. End Note).
Egypt agreed that the NGOs should be there to discuss the NGO
principles circulated at the Berlin subministerial. Turkey
said that the senior officials should consider the NGO
principles. DAS Patton said that presentations on BMENA
initiative also should be made. Japanese Deputy DG for
Middle East Shinsuke Sugiyama and Moroccan Director of
Bilateral Affairs Youssef Amrani said that the senior
officials need to be able to exchange views, but should not


8. Bahraini Director of Bilateral Relations Dhafer Al-Umran
raised a potential mechanism for following up on commitments
to civil society at BMENA meetings. He asked that a G8
government to create a website that other participants could
contribute to. DAS Patton, Sugiyama, and Amrani supported a
virtual information center/secretariat. Al-Dhabbi said that
while Yemen had originally proposed a secretariat office, a
virtual secretariat would not conflict with Yemen's proposal.
Raouf Saad of Egypt said that he agreed with the proposal in


9. Dhafer said that Japan needs to know who its co-host will
be for the 2008 Forum, noting that Qatar and the UAE had
offered. Sugiyama replied that it is up to BMENA countries
to select the co-host, but he was hopeful that Japan would be
able to announce its partner in December. Japan does not
want to go through a difficult or clumsy process. Sugiyama
said he would talk to Al-Dhabbi about the selection.
Al-Dhabbi proposed and DAS Patton agreed that Yemen, Germany,
and Japan should make the final decision after interested
hosts had made their case. Dhafer suggested Turkey could
host, but Soylemez said that Turkey prefers that the host
remains a country in the Broader Middle East. Saad said the
selection process should not be ad hoc in future years.
Sugiyama agreed.

--------------------------------------------- ---

10. Dhafer said that BMENA needs a success story. He did
not intend to "tell the G8 what to do," but it would be
unpleasant if Bahrain had to announce at the Forum that its
Entrepreneurship Center had closed for lack of G8 funding.
He appreciated US. and UK support and for talking to other G8
members, and said that he would keep the Center open until
December. Sugiyama noted that Japan has contributed $10
million to the regional IFC facility, and Japan will talk to
the IFC to see how it can support the Center.


11. Before ending the meeting, the German Ambassador said
that his government had received with surprise just two days
earlier an invitation for an EU-Africa ministerial in Sharm
el-Sheikh on the same dates as the Forum. He noted that
Forum invitations had been sent on September 5. Asked to
explain, Raouf Saad said that Egypt believed the Forum had
been postponed until January and that the December dates
would be free. He said that the Sharm dates were now fixed
and that some ministers, including FM Aboul Gheit, would not
be able to attend the Forum unless it was postponed two or
three days. DAS Patton noted that the Secretary and some
other G8 ministers are committed to the NATO ministerial on
December 6 but will be in Sanaa for a successful forum on
December 4-5. He suggested that Germany approach the EU and
others approach Egypt to see if the Sharm dates could be
moved. Dhafer Al-Umran of Bahrain stressed that the Forum
dates have been discussed at all three planning meetings and
fixed on calendars months ago. He noted the IISS conference
in Bahrain right after the Forum and said that a conflict
with an EU event would look bad. Sugiyama and Al-Dhabbi said
that it had never been decided to postpone the Forum, only
discussed in case the Gulf Cooperation Council summit were to
conflict. Amrani, who was not previously aware of dates of
the EU-Africa ministerial, said that it is an important
meeting for the EU. Al-Dhabbi said that changing the Forum
dates was not up for discussion and asked Egypt to clarify
the situation as soon as possible. Germany promised to do
its utmost in the EU but noted that the Sharm invitation was
issued by Egypt, not the EU.

© Scoop Media

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