Club of Madrid Recommends Dialogue, Amendment, and Adherence
to the Law
The Club of Madrid is a new and independent organization which
was established in Madrid six years ago. This initiative was put
together with the participation of 50 democratically elected former
Heads of State and Prime Ministers, and currently their number has
reached around 74. The club aims to strengthen democracy, promote
political reforms and establish dialogue between governments and
political oppositions all over the world. This can be achieved by
drawing on the experiences and resources of the club's members as
well as the evaluation of new and emerging democracies in particular.
The Club has decided to direct its interest towards three Arab countries
which have taken major steps towards democracy, and feels that they
can benefit from the club member states' experience. These Arab
counties are Bahrain, Morocco and Jordan, and the Club presented
all three with its suggestions after examining their individual
processes of transformation into fully fledged democracies.
A delegation from the Club visited Bahrain three times last year
and consisted of three former Prime Ministers: from Latvia Mr. Valdis
Birkavs, from Bosnia and Herzegovinia Mr. Zlatko Lagumdzija and
from France Mr. Lionel Jospin. During their visits to Bahrain they
met with representatives from the government and civil society organizations,
conducted meetings and organised debates and workshops, which included
the participation of all interested parties. The delegation presented
their opinions and experiences to the Kingdom of Bahrain in the
form of recommendations included in a report which was handed directly
to the King on 15 February 2009. The recommendations included the
1- The need to institutionalize regular and sustained dialogue
in order to build confidence between the various parties and stakeholders.
In other words, to open channels of dialogue between officials in
the government, civil society organizations and other parties –as
the Prime Minister of Latvia put it- as well as emphasizing that
the genuine change does not come across the decrees, but through
2- The amendment of some laws which restrict public freedoms,
including those related to political societies and freedom of assembly,
to be achieved exclusively through dialogue.
3- The Emphasis on the code of ethics that governs the activity
4- The report recommended that the government provide constant
and regular support to political societies in order to develop their
capacities to perform their required role in advancing the political
5- It also recommended that political societies adhere to laws
in force, and to conduct their activities and national agenda away
from all forms of sectarianism.
6- Finally, the report recommended that the government ensure
the independence of the judicial system.
It is obvious that all these recommendations are fair and balanced
as they fulfil the government’s requirements, such as calling upon
all political organisations to adhere to the law, to refrain from
sectarian bias, and for those working in the media, to adhere to
the code of ethics which governs their activities. These recommendations
do not only concern the government but also political and civil
societies as well. This point was emphasized even more in the announcements
of some officials of the Club of Madrid following the delivery of
the recommendations to the King. During a press conference organized
by the delegation of the Club of Madrid following the meeting with
the King, the former Prime Minister of Latvia said that Bahraini
civil society organizations had asked the delegation to pass on
their own ideas and visions to the political leadership regarding
dialogue with the Government and the freedom to establish societies.
He noted that one should not be hasty during the endorsement or
implementation of the legislations for 'there are some problems
that may impede the process of approving legislation, and this applies
equally to legislations related to media, political societies and
assembly in Bahrain'. He continued by saying that these legislation
amendments are on the agenda of the legislative authority.
Mr Valdis Birkavs also explained that the implementation of the
delegation’s proposals should not lead to a state of instability
in the country, saying that ‘unfortunately, some believe that the
recommendations mentioned in our report should be applied immediately.’
He also expects to return to Bahrain soon saying ‘as we have received
another royal invitation, which is proof enough of the political
authority’s willingness to allow us to continue our recommendations.
It is also clear that His Royal Highness fully supports the project
we have presented to him’.
As for the former Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, he
commented that ‘it is not our job to interrogate or enforce our
opinions; rather it is to contribute to the local expertise here,
so that Bahrain can become a more democratic country’.
Institutionalising the dialogue between the Government and civil
society organisations represents a password of sorts, through which
it is possible to agree upon the required legislative amendments
and others, although it seems that the Government prefers to achieve
this exclusively through the parliament gate, which is not wide