Regional Conference in Kuwait on Freedom of Association in the Gulf

Press release
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The Arab Institute on Human Rights and the International Federation for Human Rights welcome the conclusions of the seminar on Freedom of association for NGOs, political parties and trade-unions in Yemen, Kuwait and Bahrain, that they organized in Kuwait City, on November 17 to 19, 2008.

The objective of the event, which gathered representatives of the civil society and the governments of the three countries as well as international experts, was to present a study on the status of the legislations pertaining to freedom of association in these countries, that have entered into a reform process. The aim was also to reflect on common strategies to bring laws in conformity with international standards.

"Participants agreed on common recommendations on the necessity to adopt a declaratory regime for the creation of associations by nationals and foreign residents alike, provided the latter do not intervene in political affairs. Consensus was also reached on the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of an association, free access to funding - provided it is unconditional and transparent - and the competence of the judiciary for issues relating to suspension and dissolution. Affiliation of national NGOs and trade-unions to regional and international organizations was also recommended. These recommendations will serve as an extremely useful advocacy tool at local, regional and international levels, that – we hope – will lead to positive reforms in the three countries" according to Kuwaiti participants.

A plan of action was defined to disseminate the study on freedom of association among the NGOs, trade-unions, political parties and the public opinion at large, to raise awareness among the legislative and executive authorities regarding the recommendations, and to closely follow-up the question through periodic progress reviews, public events and meetings with experts, members of Parliament and governments.

"This seminar was the occasion to highlight the national legal provisions regarding trade-unions and associations that still need to be enhanced in order to be in line with international standards. We hope that the contacts that were made with the civil society organisations over the past three days will reinforce constructive dialogue and lead to the adoption of a satisfactory legislation" according to the Yemeni delegation.

"I was amazed by the quality of the discussions. We definitely need to continue and enhance cooperation and to build on each others’ actions. To that extent, the continuation of meetings of such nature will be more than needed" said Abbas Al Omrane, from the Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR).

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