The second leg of the Civil Society Planning Meetings for the Forum for the Future was organized with the collaboration of TESEV (Turkish Economic and Social Studies Foundation), NPWJ (No Peace Without Justice) and HRITC (Human Rights Information and Training Center) under the auspices of the Global Political Trends Center (GPoT). The meeting was intended to be the second and last of the planning meetings among the representatives of civil society and government officials before the Forum for the Future that will be held in Dubai between 16-18th October, 2008. The two-day meetings were attended by the members of the civil society from the BMENA region, Turkey and Italy and Government representatives from Japan, UAE, USA and Italy.
During the first session of the meeting, civil society proposals for the ministerial meeting were discussed. It was stressed that the ministers should realize that civil society organizations could actually contribute to the solving of the problems. Especially with such a turbulent region, it was stated that the role of the civil society should not only be protesting but also it can have a positive role to build bridges and create more prosperous societies where human dignity will be respected more. There should be models of organizations or mechanisms to deal with certain problems and therefore it is important that civil society should get more specialized. It was claimed by one of the speakers that although there are many civil society representatives from the region attending the meeting, none of them seem to be specialized and working specifically on a subject. It was stated by many participants that within the DAD framework, both government and civil society support is existing and therefore it would be easier to overcome the problems. Two of the formations to be established by DAD Partners were also discussed thoroughly during the meeting; the gender institute and the diversity center. About the diversity center, it was claimed by Bakhtiar Amin that the diversity issue is not seen as a threat to the societies in the BMENA region nor is it disintegrating. The effort should be towards challenging this diverse nature of the societies and use it as a tool to build bridges between the communities. It was also stressed that multicultural education should be encouraged in multicultural societies. Dialogue, tolerance and acceptance should be promoted. Moreover, both governments and civil society should promote advancement in intercultural, interpolitical dialogue within the BMENA region. This would be a rather important tool for solving the problems rather than using an automatic manner. In addition as there are multiethnic and multicultural societies in the region, exposing how other people went through these problems would be beneficial by means of experience sharing. It was claimed that although the BMENA region makes up seven percent of the world population and it is delivering forty percent of the violence in the world. This was found to be strictly related to the human rights problem. There is a lot to be done in order to lay the grounds for multidiverse culture. The need for the support of the governments and the civil society is undeniable. The main reason for this is also that this region stands outside the main stream of the world. There are both organized ghettos and violence along with nontolerance. It was agreed by all, that the importance of learning from the eminent experiences of the world should be stressed more. In the second session, the guiding principles document was discussed for final commentaries and preparations before it would be discussed at the ministerial meeting. The importance of the document was expressed and it was stressed that it should be endorsed by the partner governments in order for it to be a document belonging to the DAD initiative although it is not binding. In the third session, the structure and formalities of the civil society participation in the ministerial meeting was discussed as the time for the ministerial meeting is very close now. The second day of the meeting was also reserved for the structural details of the ministerial meeting. It was decided by the participants that four themes for the plenary sessions and eleven themes for the workshops should be put in the agenda for the Dubai meeting. For the plenary sessions the themes were assessment of the previous parallel forums, state of democracy in the Arab world with a special emphasis on women’s empowerment, diversity and pluralism and the freedom of speech. For the workshops the themes designated were: rights of migrant workers, freedom of expression, rule of Law and the independence of Judiciary, legal environment for Civil Society Organizations, diversity and pluralism, anticorruption and transparency, role of private sector in democratic transition, educational reform, youth and unemployment; peace, security and stability, endangered environment and depleting resources (water, desertification, oil) and finally women’s empowerment.