Participants: Dr. Abdel Ghafar Shukr, Dr. Ibrahim El Dessouki Abaza, Ahmed Abdel Hafiz, Dr. Amar Ali Hassan, Dr. Ibrahim Bayoumi, Dr. Amr Hamzawy,
Moderator: Dr. Mohamed El Sayed Said, Deputy director of ACPSS.
ACPSS organized a seminar on political reform in Egypt in which researchers from the centre, political party activists, and a number of intellectuals participated. The seminar focused on the type of reforms needed to meet internal and external challenges and which can provide an adequate national response to American strategies for remaking the region. The following ideas were proposed by participants during the course of the seminar:
1. Political reform should not be tied to the Arab-Israeli conflict. Authoritarianism is the principle cause for the failure of Arab countries to develop and to prevail in their conflict with Israel. Rejecting foreign reform initiatives such as the Greater Middle East initiative without proposing a domestic alternative is a mistaken approach especially that political forces in Egypt have been calling for political reform for a number of decades.
2. Comprehensive reform requires special attention to cultural reform. Cultural reform is necessary for overcoming those norms and traditions that impede change and civil society.
3. Reform must begin with political and constitutional reforms which reflect current realities. There can be no reform without constitutional amendments which remove concepts such as central planning and socialism from the constitution.
4. Democratization involves two processes, one related to norms and the other to mechanisms. Democratization occurs once the ruling elite come to an agreement regarding the nature of the required democratic reforms.
5. Arab regimes must take clear positions regarding the following issues before democratization can occur: minorities, women, religion and politics, peace with Israel and integration in the global economy.
6. The varying responses by Arab countries to American and European reform initiatives reflect their varying degrees of political and social development. But overall there is general scepticism towards foreign reform initiatives especially in light of American practices in Guantanamo, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
7. The principle obstacle to reform is the resistance of many among the masses and the elite to it. One way elites have tried to diffuse the stimulus for reform has been to propose their own reform initiatives which place social and cultural reform as a prior condition for political reform