PROMOTING DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS IN THE MIDDLE EAST FOCUS OF HELSINKI COMMISSION HEARING
(Washington) - The United States Helsinki Commission will hold the following hearing:
“The Middle East:Would the Helsinki Process Apply?”
Tuesday, June 15, 2004
As the United States and the international community – especially the G-8, NATO and the European Union – explore avenues for advancing democracy and human rights in the broader Middle East region, some have suggested that the 1975 Helsinki Final Act and related institutions could serve as useful models for promoting reforms in that region.A provision of the 1994 bilateral treaty between Israel and Jordan actually envisioned the possibility of creation of a Helsinki-like framework for the Middle East.
The Final Act, a politically binding agreement, included specific provisions on military security, economic cooperation, and human rights. Many credit the Helsinki Process with contributing to the end of the Cold War and dramatic political, social and economic change in Europe and Eurasia.Today, 55 countries from Europe, Eurasia, and North America, including the United States, are signatory members of the Vienna-based Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
Could this model be used by countries of the broader Middle East region, including Israel, to ease tensions and provide a viable framework for promoting cooperation while advancing reforms?To what extent are leaders from the region willing to take ownership of such a process?Is Islam compatible with democratic governance?Would such a process be comprehensive, encompassing military security, economic cooperation, and human rights?Which countries would or should be involved in such a process?
These and similar issues will be covered at the hearing.
Testifying before the Commission:
H.E.Natan Sharansky, Israeli Minister of Diaspora Affairs and former Soviet dissident
Amb. Max M. Kampelman, Chairman Emeritus, Freedom House and former Counselor of the Department of State, U.S. Ambassador to the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, U.S. negotiator with Soviet Union on Nuclear and Space Arms
Peter Jones, Research Associate, Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto and Policy Analyst, Canada’s Privy Council
Amb. (ret.) Craig Dunkerley, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University who has recently published a paper on the matter. In the early 90s, he served in Vienna as Deputy Chief of Mission, U.S.Mission to the OSCE
Prof. Michael Yaffe, Ph.D., Near East-South Asia Center for Strategic Studies, National Defense University who has been a consultant on the Greater Middle East Initiative. From 1993 to 2001, he served as a Foreign Service Officer on the U.S. delegation to the Middle East Peace Process
Background: Since its inception the OSCE has included a Mediterranean dimension. Algeria, Egypt, Israel, Jordan, Morocco and Tunisia are currently designated as Mediterranean Partners for Cooperation, a special status similar to that of observer status in other multilateral organizations.
As Mediterranean Partners, none of the countries is obligated to implement the OSCE human rights commitments contained in the Helsinki Final Act and other documents. Representatives of these countries may attend Council of Ministers meetings, review conferences, regular meetings with the Troika and, on a case-by-case basis, to seminars and other ad hoc meetings in which they have an interest.
The Helsinki Commission held a briefing on October 11, 2003, where the human rights situation of the Mediterranean Partners was discussed.
Additional information on Commission activities on these matters may be found at http://www.csce.gov. An un-official transcript will be also be available on the Helsinki Commission's Internet web site within 24 hours of the hearing.
The United States Helsinki Commission, an independent federal agency, by law monitors and encourages progress in implementing provisions of the Helsinki Accords. The Commission, created in 1976, is composed of nine Senators, nine Representatives and one official each from the Departments of State, Defense and Commerce.