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UN helps newly democratic States share ideas on transition in Arab region

6 June 2011 – Representatives from countries that have recently undergone transitions to democracy are meeting in Cairo in a United Nations-supported conference to exchange ideas on democracy and development in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world, the UN Development Programme (UNDP) said today.

The conference, International Forum on Pathways of Democratic Transitions: International Experiences, Lessons Learnt and the Road Ahead, is sponsored by UNDP and the Egyptian Government.

In the first session, former president Michelle Bachelet of Chile, former president B.J Habibie of Indonesia and Mac Maharaj of the African National Congress, spoke of their experiences with transition in their countries and shared insights on their contribution, UNDP said.

UNDP Administrator Helen Clark said: “Transition in each country is a unique process which must respond to the aspirations of its people. Across many transitions, however, similar questions have arisen on how to manage the pace of change, broaden political participation, determine economic models, and tackle inequalities. This gathering offers an opportunity to hear first-hand from people who have been prominent in transitions in their own countries elsewhere and gain insights from their experience.”

UNDP said the participants from outside the area are discussing such topics as, “Negotiating Transition Processes: Values, Voice and New Avenues of Participation” and the “Role of Political Parties & Social Movements,” with representatives of government and civil society from Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, and Morocco.

Other subjects include writing constitutions and bills of rights; moving from social movements to political parties and strengthening existing political parties; transitional governments; managing expectations of quick results; forming coalitions to foster national unity, and lessons learned from first post-transition elections, UNDP said.

“The experiences of transitions in countries from other regions of the world, especially in the South, provide a reservoir of lessons to be tapped and utilized, as appropriate,” said Amat Al Alim Alsoswa, Director of UNDP’s Regional Bureau for Arab States.

“We hope that the dialogue we started today will be of benefit to Arab countries that are currently shaping their future.”

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