doha • H E Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabor Al Thani, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs yesterday said that Qatar would host another conference on democracy and reform in the Arab world next May.
In his opening note at the Doha 7th Forum for Democracy, Development and Free Trade, he said that Qatar heeded democracy as a core issue of concern, noting that the 6th international conference for the modern and restored democracies was hosted by Qatar last October.
He added that holding dialogue around the issues on the agenda of the Doha 7th Forum will promote mutual efforts towards progress of humanity as a whole, reform and development at the political, economic and development levels.
In his remarks to the Forum, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that an essential feature of democracy is a free press, able to perform its vital work of informing and educating the voting public without fear, harassment or censorship.
Another, he said, is the separation of powers, in which not all power is invested in a single institution or person.
"In order to function, a democratic government must engage in consultation.
The process of holding elections widens and institutionalises this consultation. It sends a message that men and women are not only political subjects but political actors and decision-makers", said Ban Ki-Moon.
He pointed out that UN support for democracy includes the Democracy Fund which works to strengthen the democratic fabric through alliances with Government, civil society and other partners.
The first round of funding supported projects in 110 countries, with a majority focusing on women's rights since democracy is not possible without women's full and equal participation, he said.
He noted that in undertaking these activities the UN is always respectful of domestic political and social dynamics, and provides assistance only when requested by the government.
"We are also acutely aware of other sensitivities, including the suspicion that calls for democratic reform are simply a disguise for interference by one state in the affairs of another. Let us remember that democracy cannot be exported or imported; rather, it can only be supported, based on the yearning that springs from within each country," he added.
He also said that democracy is not a guarantee of success, either in formulating policies or implementing them. But it is without doubt the most powerful and just means for giving everyone a chance to be part of the debate, for resolving differences peacefully, and for building well-functioning societies.
President Tarja Halonen of Finland noted in her remarks to the forum that the EU looks forward to continuing discussions on various issues with the GCC in the context of economic and political dialogue.
In the inter-regional economic cooperation she said focus is on the negotiations for the EU and GCC free trade agreement and hoped for successful conclusion.
As for the Middle East peace process, Halonen said: "We are committed to continuing to work together with all partners in the region in context of the Middle East Quartet."