By Kevin Stoda
The KUWAIT TIMES reported (Feb. 22, 2011) that yesterday the Gulf Civil Society Forum called on the Gulf Monarchies to abandon absolutism and to adopt European-style parliaments and democracies. "It's time the ruling families took the initiative... and transformed into European-style monarchies," said a statement signed by the forum's coordinator, Anwar Al-Rasheed.
In the midst of the rising unrest and popular arrest in North Africa, the Gulf Civil Society Forum had met in Qatar from January 11 through 13 of this year and had had the purpose of gathering "together around 250 representatives from democracy advocates and civil society activists from the MENA Region, was to prepare a common Civil Society platform of principles and goals".
According to the Bridging the Gulf Foundation, the main goals from the inception of the Gulf Civil Society Forum since its founding in 2004 has been:
Strengthening the commitment of the International Community to peace and stability in the region of the Broader Middle East and North Africa.
Promote successful reform through depending on the countries in the region, and avoiding forced change, i.e. imposed, from outside.
Respecting diversity. Engagement must respond to local conditions and be based on local ownership. Each society will reach its own conclusions about the pace and scope of change. Yet distinctiveness, important as it is, must not be exploited to prevent reform.
Supporting reform that will involve governments, business leaders and civil societies from the region as full partners in this common effort.
Supporting reform in the region, for the benefit of all its citizens, and as part of a long-term effort, and requires the G8 and the region to make a generational commitment.
When high-level "officials from 20 countries of the Middle East and North Africa and the Group of Eight and 10 international partners took part" met in Doha in January, an additional; 250 participants from civil society organizations were present as well as representatives of the business sector in the Middle East." According to the KUWAIT TIMES, " The Gulf Civil Society Forum is made up of liberal intellectuals, academics and human rights activists from the six states." On Monday, the statement from the Gulf Civil Society Forum declared that " demands for reforms, fighting corruption and becoming democratic states like other countries of the world" will continue until the calls for the Monarchs and their to step back from their traditional roles.
The KUWAIT TIMES notes, "All six states of the Gulf Cooperation Council are ruled by monarchies which enjoy almost absolute powers, controlling all key government positions and with rulers having the final say in internal and external affairs. The bloc, which groups Bahrain, Kuwait, Qatar, Oman, United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia, sits on around 45 percent of global oil reserves and 30 percent of natural gas deposits.
Together they pump just under a fifth of world crude. Only Kuwait and Bahrain have elected parliaments but their powers are limited. The Saudi Shura (Consultative) Council is appointed by the king."
Currently, Bahrain's King is facing the most political opposition but all Monarchs in the region have been put on notice through the events in Tunesia and Egypt of the past months. This past weekend, the Saudi Government even opened a Facebook page to field citizen complaints.