UN report survives US objections

The UN Development Programme (UNDP) will lend its name to a controversial report on freedom and governance in the Arab world despite US objections to parts of the text.

    The US and Arab world view regional problems differently

    Egyptian sociologist Nadir Fargany said the Arab Human Development Report, the third in an annual series, would come out in March under the UNDP logo without substantive changes.

    The nature of the dispute centred on differences between the US view that the Arab world's problems are mainly internal and the Arab consensus that external factors such as US foreign policy and Israel's treatment of the Palestinians have contributed significantly to oppression and poor governance in the region.

    Fargany said last year that Washington had pressed the UNDP not to back the report because it did not like sections on the US presence in Iraq and the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    He said the US had threatened to cut its contribution to the UN agency if it published the report, but this was denied by the UNDP.

    Right decision

    "It seems that the top management at UNDP decided to publish anyway. They must have felt that the damage from not publishing would be even greater. It's good that they came out with the right decision," he said.

    "It seems that the top management at UNDP decided to publish anyway. They must have felt that the damage from not publishing would be even greater. It's good that they came out with the right decision"

    Nadir Fargany,
    Egyptian sociologist

    The US has denied it tried to censor the report, with US Department of State spokesman Tom Casey saying last month the Bush administration had not seen the survey, although another US official acknowledged having a copy.

    Mark Malloch Brown, the UNDP administrator, said earlier: "No US official has asked us to suppress the report nor has any US official suggested that their contribution would be eliminated or cut because of this year's report."

    Asked whether the UNDP made changes to placate Washington, Fargany said: "Normally there are changes to conform to UN standards but the substance is exactly the same."

    More reports

    "They [UNDP] haven't said anything specific about subsequent years but the assumption is that this clears the way for work on the fourth report," he added.

    The US used the 2002 Arab Human Development Report as the basis for its first detailed proposals on reform in the Arab world.

    Fargany said at the time that Washington had abused the report to give its ideas some credibility.

    Past reports have said lack of freedom in Arab nations, repression of women and isolation from the world were stifling creativity, economic growth and development.

    But Fargany and many other Arab reformists say they favour home-grown solutions which serve Arab interests, rather than US proposals that they say are designed to serve Washington and Israel.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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