‘One Million Strong in the Middle East and Beyond’

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An International Rally for Freedom, Prosperity, and Justice
July 1 and 2, 2011 
   
Executive Summary

1) Given the popular uprisings that are now sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, a rare historical opportunity exists for activists from around the world to unite in solidarity.
 
2) It is long overdue for the international community to think outside the box with regards to humanitarian development in the Middle East and North Africa. For too long, deliberately corrupt and ambivalent political processes have tied up any hopes for change. It is clear that existing international power brokers will not effective in bringing about the desired speed of transformation on their own.
 
3) Current fast-growing social revolutions throughout the Middle East and North Africa carry an authentic moral voice as well as immense popular support. However, they need support from a larger international community of scholars and thinkers that can create effective policy mechanisms for sustainable change. There must be an international team of activists that can help parties from different countries to unite in cooperation towards common goals.
 
4) We need this stronger transnational movement in order to invalidate corrupt elements of society that are waiting to exploit failures or weaknesses.  Without powerful problem-solving mechanisms, nations in transition and crisis will most likely fall into the quagmires of continuous tugs-of-wars involving different interest groups — such as radicals and extremists, sectarian religious leaders, societal elites, selfish business interests, or international partners looking solely after their own self-interests.
 
5) We need an initial first step in order to inaugurate this transnational movement of activists from each of these Middle Eastern and North African nations undergoing social revolutions, in solidarity with other social justice activists from around the world. One of the best ways to foster this solidarity — in the spirit and style of the last few months — will involve LARGE rallies to be held on the first days of July (July 1 and 2) in 2011, simultaneously in Cairo and other major cities in nations undergoing social upheaval in the region. These rallies shall have similar slogans, T-shirts, themes, etc. that emphasize the need for international solidarity in this critical time. Similar large rallies will be held in Western cities such as Washington DC and London.
 
6) This rally on July 1 and 2 has four major goals: 1) To build stronger bridges between all Middle Eastern and North African nations undergoing social upheaval, thus underscoring common goals seen in each separate social revolution; 2) To build stronger ties between Western activists for Middle East peace and social justice activists residing in the Middle East and North Africa themselves; 3) To create an event that can capture media attention at a critical time for many countries undergoing parliamentary elections, regime changes, etc. in order to ensure adequate transparency under the public eye; 4) To provide a spirited forum for each individual nation to voice their own needs regarding establishment of authentic social reforms during the process of upheaval in these nations.  
 
7) An initial ‘solidarity committee’ must select members with impeccable records of credibility, professionalism, and dedication to collaborate in restructuring and assisting these Middle Eastern and North African nations in crisis. This ‘solidarity committee’ must include representatives from each of the major social movements sweeping the nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Syria, etc. It must also consist of other individuals who are relatively free from conflicts of interest — academics, members of NGOs, political activists, ordinary citizens, local business leaders, university experts on Islam and religious conflict, policymakers, religious leaders from many faiths — from both the East and the West. This committee should convene regularly to coordinate and plan an upcoming international conference. In addition, this committee should consult with one another regarding Western assistance to these regions, in order to come to a mutual understanding regarding how Western aid can be adequately and equitably distributed to ensure prosperity for these countries (i.e. to create a ‘Marshall Plan for the Middle East’ rather than a system that only benefits elites). 
 
Resolution and Key Objectives
 
Given the popular uprisings that are now sweeping the Middle East and North Africa, a rare historical opportunity exists for activists from around the world to unite in solidarity. More than ever before, individuals throughout this region of the world believe that human rights, sustainable economic growth, and transparent and accountable governance can prevail in these societies. In addition, we all hope that these positive changes can repair the long-confrontational narrative existing between Western societies and this region of the world. If we remain visionary and decisive, this new era can establish a win-win state in human affairs.  
World powers have failed so many times in these regions in the past, leading to far too much anger, polarization, and despair. We must turn the tide towards constructive engagement if we wish to bring back trust and confidence between these sides of the globe.

In this unique situation of massive uprisings and regional transformations, many changes can take place that will not be possible in other times. Sweeping reforms, shared goals, and mutually beneficial and cooperative projects are all possible now, and the current political environment can give us the dynamism and speed of progress necessary to fix things for the better. 
 
Arab rulers or leaders might theoretically have the financial means to make a difference, but there exists little political will or united sentiment among rulers in different countries to create an effective movement for change. The West has both the means and political will to make a difference, but it lacks the moral voice due to past failures as well as conflicts of interest regarding both oil and Israel.
 
The activists and growing popular movements throughout these regions have the most authentic moral voice and the collective will, but they need support from a larger international community of activists, scholars, and thinkers that can build bridges in order to create effective policy mechanisms for sustainable change. There must be an international team of activists that can help parties from differing countries to unite in cooperation, generating a speed of transformation that could match or surpass the achievements of the Marshall Plan six decades ago. 
 
Time is of the essence. No longer will a fast-growing young generation tolerate a long-drawn trial-and-error process of sociopolitical change that involves merely the ‘changing of hands.’ They have waited and suffered far too much. If real changes do not occur fast, increasing turmoil could drag the entire region, if not the entire world, into economic catastrophe and social volatility. The stability of the region can no longer be maintained through old ways.
 
While injustice cannot and will not be tolerated in these regions, we must also realize that authoritative power, speedy decision-making processes, and effective oversight are essential in order to follow through with calls for change. We need a stronger movement in order to invalidate corrupt elements of society that are waiting to exploit failures or weaknesses.  Without powerful problem-solving mechanisms, nations in transition and crisis will most likely fall into the quagmires of continuous tugs-of-wars involving different interest groups, such as radicals and extremists, sectarian religious leaders, societal elites, selfish business interests, or international partners looking solely after their own self-interests. When these tugs-of-war end, the end result will very likely be a compromise in proper governing systems, thus marginalizing the true interests and welfare of the people.
 
If a network of internationally recognized activists and leaders had built a similar transnational movement for social change in the Middle East a number of years ago, it is possible that Iraq could have been saved from bloodshed and turmoil. If Iraq’s political system had been designed to ensure proper balance of power among ethnic and religious groups as well as among local, provincial, and national governments, we might have seen a much more stable and progressive Iraq today. If Iraq had been guided and supervised by an international civil authority with support from both smaller and larger global powers, this would have transcended local politics and thus built up confidence among local Iraqis regarding the validity of the new government. In the absence of honesty, leadership, and the collective popular will, all kinds of other nasty special interests begin to take the process hostage. After a while, an entire nation becomes victimized. In a critical time — as an ex-official wrote in his book, in ‘the Golden Hour’ — global powerbrokers blundered the opportunity to set Iraq in a positive direction, which could have been enormously positive for both the country and the entire region, as well as for international relations. Another critical opportunity lost. We cannot miss these opportunities again.  
 
It is long overdue for the international community to think outside the box with regards to humanitarian development in the Middle East and North Africa. For too long, deliberately corrupt and ambivalent political processes have tied up any hopes for change. This region is inundated with one crisis after another — one day a financial crisis, another day an environmental crisis; one day a political crisis, another day an ethnic or religious crisis. Most existing international power brokers are ridden by serious conflicts of interest. The UN remains dominated by the Security Council and the veto mechanism of selected powers. The Arab League and African Union have often benefited from existing troubled regimes. America once held moral leadership in the world due to the Marshall Plan, the space race, and other forward-thinking programs, but military conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, diplomatic standoffs involving Iran, and events related to the Israel-Palestine conflict have all damaged America’s credibility in this region of the world.
 
True leadership must not respond by merely going along with the status quo. Leaders must respond in compliance with their conscience, utilizing visionary and bold methods to ensure that peace and justice prevails. If Middle Eastern rulers had satisfied the demands of their people rather than eliminating human rights for decade after decade, they might have enjoyed the support of the people. Instead, all of them now face the demise of their own regimes. If regional and international powers had utilized their own power and moral responsibility at the correct time, tragedies such as the Rwandan genocide and Saddam Hussein’s post-Gulf War slaughter of his own people could have been prevented. If Iraq and Afghanistan had been handled with tact and vision even somewhat similar to the conflict in Bosnia and Kosovo in the mid-90s, we might have seen a better future today. How can we ensure that the sweeping changes currently occurring throughout the Middle East transition into positive and permanent change?
 
It is clear that existing international power brokers will not be effective in bringing about the desired speed of transformation on their own. The NATO is divided about how Libya should be handled.  Many NATO members have benefited from Gaddafi’s Libya for many years. We are seeing deep hesitation about Syria, for well-known reasons. Traditional power brokers are not going to be credible, as they possess conflicts of interest. Besides, these are the power brokers who have helped to make this world polarized, confrontational, and cynical, and therefore they cannot be trusted.
 
Once the dictatorial regimes in the Middle East and North Africa are gone, the struggle and difficulty for transformation begins. In this power vacuum, negative elements will try to rock the boat, and they very well might drown the boat. Many will compete to gain the upper hand, including the old guard that benefited from the previous system as well as radicals who think that they can manipulate the new system. International powers and multinational corporations will also draw their dice in the shuffle. The ugly head of politics might make people tired of the uprising in general, thus creating a vicious cycle of fear, apathy, and cynicism that will not bode well for political change in the region.   
All of these negative forces must be marginalized and defeated by a group of activists and thinkers of varied backgrounds, emerging from transnational people-to-people alliances.
 
We need an initial first step in order to inaugurate this transnational movement of activists from each of these Middle Eastern and North African nations undergoing social revolutions, in solidarity with other social justice activists from around the world. One of the best ways to foster this solidarity — in the spirit and style of the last few months — will involve LARGE rallies to be held on the first days of July (July 1 and 2) in 2011, simultaneously in Cairo and other major cities in nations undergoing social upheaval in the region. These rallies shall have similar slogans, T-shirts, themes, etc. that emphasize the need for international solidarity in this critical time for change. Similar large rallies will be held in Western cities such as Washington DC and London. This rally has four major goals: 1) To build stronger bridges between Middle Eastern and North African nations undergoing social upheaval, thus underscoring common goals seen in each separate social revolution; 2) To build stronger ties between Western activists for peace in the Middle East and social justice activists located in the Middle East and North Africa itself; 3) To create an event that can capture media attention at a critical time for many countries undergoing parliamentary elections, regime changes, etc. in order to ensure adequate transparency; 4) To provide a spirited forum for each individual nation to voice their own needs regarding establishment of authentic social reforms following the upheaval in these nations.  
 
This transnational group of activists must have some important characteristics. An initial committee must select members with impeccable records of credibility, professionalism, and dedication to collaborate in restructuring and assisting these Middle Eastern and North African nations in crisis. This committee must include a number of representatives from each of the major social movements sweeping the nations throughout the Middle East and North Africa – Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Bahrain, Syria, etc. It must also consist of other individuals who are relatively free from conflicts of interest — academics, members of NGOs, political activists, ordinary citizens, local business leaders, university experts on Islam and religious conflict, policymakers, religious leaders from many faiths — from both the East and the West.  Widespread support must be solicited from both popular social movements within these regions as well as the greater international community. The main goal of this coalition-building is to foster a new coalition of activists that can help to establish transparent and accountable processes of governmental engagements in these regions. The end goal must be to hand over systems of governance that are legitimate, sustainable, progressive, and worthy of the satisfaction of the people. Many international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) exist today. While they provide indispensable service to the global community, they often have rather limited and compartmentalized objectives, lacking the comprehensive approach required for a Marshall Plan or ‘Great Reconstruction’ at the heart of the Middle East that can earn favor from the people in the region. The presence of such an international network of thinkers will not compromise the sovereignty of these nations. To the contrary, it can help to enhance the nations in the long run. A nation is sovereign only when the people are empowered to be the masters of that nation. It is systems of governance and well-balanced political infrastructures that can become the insurer of the power of the people, serving as roadblocks to those who wish to sow disorder in the earth.
 
Let us not get bogged down by arguments about sovereignty. Let us aim to reinforce the values of the revolutions occurring throughout the Middle East, through constructive and deliberate involvement by an educated transnational network of activists that can work together for authentic and coordinated change. We cannot tolerate tyrants any longer, as they as their autocratic regimes have held their respective societies hostage for far too long.

Higher levels of awareness of human rights and dignity exist in the mindset of humanity today, and there is an ever-increasing need to comply with these principles. The uprising in the Middle East is but a manifestation of this need, among people long deprived of these values, long-suppressed by autocratic rulers who have long disregarded the needs of the people. If we want to make the most of this serendipitous moment, we need to band together from all around the world — right now.

Ruby Amatulla, the Executive Director
Matthew Cappiello, the Outreach Director
MPJP