While the West’s democracies are failing to live up to commitments to aid Arab transitions to democracy, the Gulf’s monarchies are channeling funds to maintain the status quo.
In May 2011, the G8’s Deauville summit in France generated promises of almost $40bn in assistance for Egypt and Tunisia, with additional sums to aid democratic reforms in Morocco and Jordan.
But “according to research by Barclays, only more than $18bn has been disbursed in 2011 and so far in 2012, with even some of that possibly stemming from commitments that predate Deauville,” the FT reports:
What is also interesting about the figures, notes Roula Khalaf, is that Jordan has received almost as much – $4.9bn – as Egypt ($5.9bn), much of it through bilateral funding. Yet Egypt’s economy is more than 10 times larger than Jordan’s. And, while Egypt’s revolution mesmerised the Arab world, Jordan is taking one step forward and two steps back on its promised political reforms.
While democracy assistance has come under attack in Egypt, with NGOs prosecuted for allegedly compromising the country’s sovereignty, funding from the region’s monarchies is notably more partisan and intrusive.
Qatar in particular has come under fire for providing substantial amounts of assistance to Islamist groups across the region, including both the Muslim Brotherhood and ultra-conservative Salafist groups.
“Politics dictate aid from the Gulf,” says Khalaf. “As far as the Gulf states are concerned, monarchies such as Jordan represent more reliable allies worth investing in. No matter that Jordan’s reforms have been more talk than action.”
According to a recent report from the European Council on Foreign Relations, “Despite a promise of rapid reform in early 2011 and subsequent tinkering of the legislative system, the King [Abdullah] has nonetheless resisted meaningful change that would loosen his absolute hold on power.”
Jordan could become “a positive model for the wider region – but only if it acts soon,” says Julien Barnes-Dacey, the report’s author.
“Europe should take a more assertive stand to persuade King Abdullah to liberalise before it is too late [and] be willing to back up the new prioritisation of its southern neighbourhood with more meaningful action,” he contends.