PROGRESS: Where there is no peace, progress is difficult. For example: “our organization, based in the non-violent intervention in Palestine has seen a REGRESSION in our domain of action during now 4 years of our existence. More than 100 missions and 2000 citizens sent there register day after day the decay of the different aspects of the life situation of the Palestinians, the growing lack of hope. The most important obstacles that have prevented progress are the obstinacy of the Israeli government to deny the fundamental and national rights of the Palestinian people, the violent politics applied by those who call for a violent response.” And a response from an organization that tried to maintain a peace center in Iraq: “In the beginning we in the Iraqi peace center thought that things will work out very well … We have planned to do so many programs in terms of peace culture and cultural exchange, but no one of them have been done. All of that happened because of the current financial situation of Iraq, and the huge waves of violence that have destroyed the country.”
But progress is not impossible. For example, one organization working in Palestine says, “Peace is elusive. At the same time, there are more and more people that are getting involved in peace work. There is a record number of organizations that are trying to promote peace.” The Palestinian/Israeli project “Good Water Makes Good Neighbors” by the international NGO Friends of the Earth Middle East has achieved “concrete and practical reconciliation actions on the ground implemented by volunteer youth water trustees created by the project in each community based on the common water and environment issues that they share.” A conflict resolution institute in Ramallah has promoted “peaceful conflict resolution techniques among a generation of future leaders through the design and implementation of unique programs and services … reaching more than 50,000 beneficiaries in Palestine through the development of relief projects and programs.” And in Iraq, a commission for civil society enterprises has “established a wide organizational network to arrange the work and activities of the different organizations to promote political participation, develop the community’s capabilities and contribute to sustainable development.”
In the rest of the region, progress is reported by all civil society organizations. There is an increase both in number of projects and in the number of organizations involved. Improvements are reported in democratic participation, the role of women and human rights activities, as well as dialogues for tolerance and inter-faith understanding. For example, “Yes, we have made progress. We have conducted a programme for dialogue between the diverse opposition parties, including
Islamists, and together we worked out a national formula for political reform in Yemen. We have also managed, in cooperation with Yemeni women associations and international organizations operating in Yemen, to get an initial obligation from all political parties, including the governing party, to adopt a quota system for women participation in the coming elections.” Many organizations recognize that the empowerment of women and the establishment of gender equality are essential to progress in democracy and a culture of peace, but only a few are working on women’s political rights or civic education.
In general the growth of the role for civil society organizations in some countries has become an important element in policy formulation, and in blocking some public activities not in conformity with the Culture of Peace, e.g. in Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Yemen and Morocco. Also there has been success in certain partnerships between civil society organizations and governments in some countries such as in Algeria, Jordan and Egypt.
OBSTACLES: Insufficient, inadequate funding is a universal obstacle. Another major obstacle concerns human expertise. More technical assistance is needed to deal with building capacity, project implementation, sustainability and marketing to target more participation from civil society and the private sector.
Networking is increasing, but remains weak for joint activities and solid cooperation, especially for cooperation with NGOs abroad: “Another technical challenge is the lack of actual coordination on the ground either between international concerned institutions and local NGOs, or between the local NGOs themselves.” Although a majority of Arab civil society organizations say they are part of networks with other Arab organizations, they do not report common projects that might give them a chance to expand their activity geographically or to benefit from their common potentials. Government cooperation depends on the country, but in general it is better for education, sustainable development and international peace, and more problematic for human rights and equality of women.
The mass media is found to be a major obstacle. Examples: An obstacle is “local and international media indifference to our activities” and the international media, “seems to be more interested in the region’s violence and bombings while we would prefer to highlight the fact that there does exist dialogue, cooperation and joint activities between Israelis, Palestinians and Jordanians.” Related to this is “mutual misunderstanding and lack of accurate information between the Arabs and the West, which has created an unhealthy environment for the achievement of our goals.”