The 2012 Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) Initiative, chaired by the U.S. and Tunisia, culminated in the 9th Forum for the Future in Tunis, Tunisia, December 11-13. At the Forum’s Ministerial meeting on December 13, over 100 senior officials from 31 BMENA and G8 governments, including government Ministers, as well as 45 civil society and private sector representatives, met to discuss key issues and challenges facing the BMENA region, with a focus on the themes of women’s empowerment, economic governance and entrepreneurship, and freedom of expression and association.
Deputy Secretary William J. Burns led the U.S. delegation and gave closing remarks. The U.S. delegation also included Ambassador-at-Large for Global Women’s Issues Melanne Verveer, Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Michael Posner, and Assistant Secretary of State for Economic and Business Affairs Jose Fernandez.
This is the first year that government, civil society, and private sector representatives actively participated in all BMENA events, including the Forum, as equals – reflecting the goals of the U.S. and Tunisian co-chairs to generate reform-oriented discussions and promote greater citizen-government dialogue. The Forum Declaration stresses the importance of enhanced cooperation amongst government, civil society, and private sector: “Recent developments in the region have underscored that governments, the G8 countries, civil society, the private sector, and multilateral partners all must expand their collaboration to meet the region’s challenges; promote economic growth and stability; reject violence; advance women’s full participation in society; achieve sustained progress on economic, political, and social concerns; and advance the values of democracy, human rights, and participation of all citizens in political and public affairs.”
This year’s Declaration, which was approved by consensus for only the second time in BMENA’s history, enshrines key goals and principles for advancing reform, particularly around this year’s BMENA themes, and is the most substantive BMENA text to date.
The BMENA Initiative creates a unique space for dialogue between civil society, private sector, and government, promoting collaboration amongst all the parties that have a role in making a prosperous and stable society.