The seventh Doha Forum on Democracy, Development and Free Trade kicked off on Monday with an opening speech by the emir of Qatar.
The Qatari foreign minister made a speech in which he described the forum’s activities since its inception in 2001.
“Regular conferences ensued with expansive and comprehensive discussions on the activation of democracy, free trade, economic rights, human rights, freedom of the press, the role of women, dialogue among religions and civilizations, education, and the fundamental relationship between free trade and development,” he told the participants of the meeting.
Qatar will be holding another conference on democracy and reform in the Arab world in May.
As U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice recently observed, democracy cannot be exported, and thus such conferences on democracy provide a foundation for efforts to reach a political consensus between the West and Arab states.
In response to Western pressure on regional countries within the framework of the greater Middle East initiative, regular meetings on democracy were initiated.
The regional countries welcomed democracy but opposed the Western plan to implement it.
As the pioneer in arranging such conferences, Qatar has always spent huge sums of money and created much publicity to attract international dignitaries to such meetings.
Yet, such conferences are political in nature. The democratization of Middle Eastern countries will only be possible if political development is allowed.
Since development is an effort to set things in balance, establishing democracy in Arab states is only possible through the creation of equilibrium between various sectors which suffer from imbalances.
A glance at the political structure of Arab states, especially the countries on the southern shores of the Persian Gulf, shows that economic inequalities are less egregious compared to those in other sectors.
In order to become developed, these countries should focus primarily on political issues, since power is concentrated in the hands of one family in their political systems and there is no mechanism for the transfer of power.
The structure of such political systems can only be changed through political reform.
In monarchist systems, the smallest step in opening up to democracy is transformation to a constitutional monarchy.
Most Arab countries have rubber-stamp parliaments as a symbol of democracy, but they cannot be viewed as instruments for real political change.
In light of the fast pace of change in the modern world, the need for political reform is felt more than at any other time.
However, the implementation of such reforms is very difficult since those in power are extremely reluctant to step down, and that is why such propaganda mechanisms in the framework of seminars on democracy can temper the intense international pressure.