Strong Civil Society, but...
It has been argued that the civil society in Bahrain is the strongest
among all six Gulf States. It has certainly exceeded its Kuwaiti
counterpart, despite the fact that the Kuwaiti experience is much
older and has had more freedom to grow and develop. While the Kuwaiti
experience has slowed down, the Bahraini experience on the other
hand shows vitality and substantial public participation in public
affairs. The experience of civil society in Bahrain-despite its
shortcomings- has become a landmark in the Gulf, since the beginning
of the political reform project in 2000.
In his first meeting with the members of the National Institution
for Human Rights on 7 June 2010, the King expressed his great sense
of pride in all the activities of civil society, which he believed
represent an important part of social, developmental, cultural,
political and trade union life of the country. The King also said
that the vitality of Bahraini civil society has always been complimented
by his visitors. This was evident in the participation of both Bahraini
and Kuwaiti civil society in the Fleet of Freedom, which attempted
to break the siege on Gaza. The King also noted that Bahraini civil
society and its various activities have relieved the Government
of some of its burdens, adding that it was very active even during
colonialism in the 1950s when trade unions, political movements
and cultural activities had laid their foundations early. Finally,
the King stressed that it was the responsibility of the Bahraini
Government to provide the appropriate atmosphere and necessary capabilities
to ensure the continuation of civil society contributions.
Despite the fact that civil society in Bahrain is ahead of its
peers, however, it has still not reached its full potential, and
there is still room for improvement in all aspects. Ultimately,
we still have some weak societies with poor performances, and our
society in general has not given enough of its time, fund and effort.
There is also need to establish new civil society organizations
that can adopt and take charge of a number of causes, which have
yet to be championed. The King strongly stressed his confidence
in the ability of Bahraini society to produce and contribute in
good deeds inside and outside Bahrain.
In order for a positive turning point to take place, the Government
needs to follow words with actions, increase its financial and logistical
support for NGOs, and make the necessary amendments to the laws
and regulations that govern the NGOs.