Arab governments and civil society activists have, in the past eight months, produced half a dozen declarations on the need for broad political, social and economic reforms. The most noteworthy have been the declarations at Alexandria and Sanaa, the Arab summit statement and the recent Doha statement. These were preceded by the two Arab Human Development Reports in 2002-03 that diagnosed basic ailments and distortions in our societies, the separate US and European proposals for Mideast reforms, and the G8 summit statement issued in the US this month after meetings with a few Arab heads of state. We will soon get further statements on Arab reform from the US-EU and NATO summits.
I hereby propose a reform initiative on Arab reform initiatives: We should declare a moratorium on new Arab reform plans, and instead work for practical implementation of reforms, rather than only advocating them. In the past month, during and since the World Economic Forum gathering in Jordan that brought together 1,000 reform-minded officials, businesspeople and civil society activists, I have spent many days speaking with Arab individuals deeply involved in the drive to reform the region's politics and economics. My aim has been to come down to earth from the haughty level of grand declarations and ambitious statements, and to understand the real-world, nuts and bolts practicalities of what happens when individuals set out to change the old ways of doing things.