German Democracy Support in Middle EastOctober 2, 2013
I’ve written before about the difficulties of democracy assistance programmes, so you might be interested in this piece from the International Herald Tribune, Judy Dempsey reports on the view of participants in a German scholarship programme for young people from the Middle East.
While welcoming the programme the graduates comment on who gets to participate –
The German Parliament’s scholarship has particular weaknesses. The Parliament’s administration asked the German Embassy in Cairo for help in finding participants. The embassy then contacted the foundations and other prominent nongovernmental organizations, choosing established, predictable channels rather than reaching out to different strata of society
The problem is that any programme large enough to make a difference is not going to fly because of the expense and because regional governments are not going to allow it. As the report mentions
“Our government, for example, hates the foundations,” said Imen Nefzi, 29, who is involved in a nongovernmental organization in Tunisia. “They think we are foreign agents, that we are trying to undermine the system. It is not easy trying to build democracy even on a small level.”
Some German nonprofit organizations — like the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which is affiliated with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union party — have been under constant pressure by the Egyptian authorities since 2011. Last June, its offices and property were confiscated.
Another issue was who to support
Others said that the Europeans were too selective. They supported only liberal parties while shunning the moderate Islamist movements that represent large parts of these countries’ populations
Well worth a read to get some local perspective on the democracy support activitity.