The Doha Declaration, 2004

The Doha Declaration for Democracy and Reform was issued on 4 June 2004 at the end of a two-day conference conceived by Egyptian reformer Saad Ed-Din Ibrahim and hosted by Qatar University’s Gulf Studies Center. The Qatari government also supported the conference. More than one hundred participants from across the Arab world, representing a broad spectrum of journalists, activists, and politicians, signed the declaration.

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Democratic change has become an essential requirement and a non postponable option. It is not acceptable any more to meekly witness any rights' violations on the political and civil levels, especially that Arab people have so long suffered from this situation under different arguments. Meanwhile, many other countries, including Islamic countries, have achieved a spectacular democratic change. However, the last decades have proved that a pluralist system that protects political freedom is not restricted to a particular culture. Thus, the arguments presented by some parties to resist or postpone the democratic change in our Arab countries are invalid excuses.

Furthermore, the recent history of some Arab countries in the last quarter of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century demonstrates that it is possible to apply democracy despite the economic and cultural differences between the countries.

The participants confirm the responsibilities towards the Palestinian cause, but stress on the idea that these responsibilities shall not hinder the required political reform. In fact, the experience of the liberation movements proved to the world that democratic reform and giving the people the freedom of expression and practice is the ideal system to free the nation. Actually, despotic systems are unable or simple unwilling to deal seriously with external threats and take over plans. Moreover, experience has showed that such systems could be ready to concede and surrender to ensure its continuity. Besides, democracy is considered a necessary condition for peace between states and a previous condition to achieve real development, since democratic governments are closer to peace and avoid attacks and wars in addition to their compliance with the legal systems and legitimacy. Eventually, the practices of dictatorships oppressing their people give an opportunity to external occupation and interference.

What we mean by democracy is the possibility for citizens to cyclically elect those who represent them in setting laws governing the society freely, in addition to journalistic freedom and respect for human rights along with a pacific rotation in authority providing national and social security as well as protecting individual freedom, personal security and environmental security in order to reach a global development serving the people's needs. Therefore,

First: we call upon countries that do not have constitutions or basic laws to legislate them as soon as possible as long as the Arab World knows many professional constitutionals. Besides, many Islamic, African, Asiatic and Latin American countries have democratic constitution that could inspire us. We ask the Arab regimes that possess a constitution to submit it to changes and amendments concerning their texts and articles. Eventually the royal autocracies will be transformed into constitutional monarchies, where there is separation between hereditary kings and executive authority. The king is actually a symbol of the state, legitimacy and continuity while the prime minister is elected and chosen by the people cyclically and changed with its party peacefully through universal suffrage or parliamentary majority.

Second: we ask for regular free and reliable elections according to the international norms for executive councils and that they function under unconditional legislative supervision.

Third: we ask the republican regimes that have a constitution to amend the articles concerning the choice of a president through direct elections in addition to reducing the powers of the president with the stipulation of expressed articles acting like mechanism of supervision and accountability for the president. It will be then be possible to withdraw confidence from the president, his representatives and assistant. We also ask the royal constitutional systems to organize the governor's competences to enhance the function of the legislative and executive authorities in decision making.

Fourth: we ask the Arab governments whether royal or republican to abolish emergency states and the different exceptional and state security courts. Also, we call them to go back to regular laws and normal jurisdiction as we ask them to respect the law, the independence of the judiciary and its judgments without any selection or discrimination.

Fifth: We call for abolishing the laws binding journalism or giving the state the right to possess them, the right of interfering, or deceiving the equity in dealing with governmental systems including licensing, financing, information re-sourcing, or through its productivity interference. Only the judiciary has the right to supervise and account in order to protect the freedom of expression on one hand, the nation's interests and the citizen's reputation on the other hand.

Sixth: We call for abolishing laws binding citizens concerning the establishment of parties, associations, syndicates and civil society organization. In this context the custom should be allowance and any restrictions ought not to be but exceptions. Thus, the government should study each of these restrictions separately and individually.

Seventh: we ask the governments in charge and the opposition forces to comply with national charters specific to each state and that stipulate expressly political participation's rules, respecting people's rights including the right to authority, majority's compliance to the constitution and not depriving any citizen from his civic rights because of religion, confession, gender, race or language. Religion, for instance should respond to people's rights, preach about human rights and fundamental freedoms as well as accept the other and encourage living peacefully with him without abusing him for purposes of racism, despotism, and denial of historic movements.

Eighth: we ask for women participation's in political role, stressing her important role in democratic change as well as her representation in different levels of the political life, representative bodies, parties and civil society.

Ninth: we ask every armed force in Arab country not to interfere with politics since its main obligation should be the nation's protection. However, these forces shall be careful not to become a tool for a governor or a system violating the constitutions and laws. Similarly, the judiciary’s function is to serve the nation and the people equally.

Tenth: we implore the democratic forces and the civil society organizations in the world to support the efforts of people trying to establish democracy in the Arab World. Such forces can benefit from the freedom in their countries to exert pressure in the governments, not only for a final and fair solution for Palestine and Iraq, taking into consideration the right of these people to live in freedom and independence, but also to pressure Arab tyrannical systems not to exploit these issues in order to evade political reform and to hinder the democratic changes in the Arab World and the Middle East. In this context we denounce the terrorism targeting innocent people and destroying future generations, as we ask the international community not to confuse between terrorism and legitimate liberation movements.

Eleventh: the participants recommend the establishment of a practical mechanism to detect and follow up recommendations, initiatives and valuable opinions that were suggested during the Reform and Democracy Conference or any other Arab reform initiative such as the Initiative of Sanaa, Alexandria and Beirut. These suggestions are to be left for the Gulf Center for Studies in Qatar with the cooperation of the concerned parties.