By Karima RHANEM | Morocco TIMES 12/11/2004 | 10:13 am
Haydon Warren-Gash, British Ambassador to Morocco, stated that Britain want the Arab world to be stable and prosperous. The challenges differ from country to country across the region - but there are worrying common threads.
The British Ambassador insisted that it is high time to look for concrete results, not other sessions and fine speeches and no follow-ups.
Relations between the two countries have tripled in the last decade. H.E. Haydon Warren-Gash, British Ambassador to Morocco gave Morocco Times this interview.
Morocco TIMES: Morocco is hosting the first meeting of the Forum for the Future on Dec. 11, a gathering that is closely linked to the question of reforms in the Arab world. How do you see this event?
Haydon Warren-Gash : I think it is important to talk about the context first. We are living in a world that is changing all the time. For instance, Britain today is very different from Britain 25 years ago. It is a completely different society. We think differently; even our attitudes have changed. Dealing with change is something we all have to do all the time. It is a global phenomenon not just regional.
I am really impressed at how Arab governments and NGOs are thinking about what the New World means for them; how they need to adapt to it; and how they need to respond to aspirations, which equally have changed enormously in the world in the past few years. Only last week in Marrakech, there was a conference that brought together Arab intellectuals and thinkers to discuss different aspects of change in the Arab World. This is particularly valuable as the initiative came from Arab states.
As for me and for my government, the Forum for the Future is a valuable opportunity for the G8 countries and the Arab states to come together and think of what are our common major concerns, how we can tackle them, and how we can create real partnerships.
MT: What do you expect from this Forum?
H.W.-G.: We are committed to the success of this Forum. After the Sea-Island meeting, this is the first opportunity after the meeting for the G8 and representatives of the region to come together and to look at specific issues, and consider how we can give concrete expression to some of the recommendations that the Sea-Island meeting set forth.
There are a lot of initiatives under consideration, including the establishment of entrepreneurship and business training centres and the creation of literacy training programmes.
The Italian, Turkish and Yemeni governments are also developing a Democracy Assistance Dialogue to provide a forum for discussion of democratic political reforms. These are areas of work where we are going to see how we can work together, how we can add values; how can the expertise of the G8 on the one hand and the will of Southern partners on the other hand be brought together in a common endeavour. I cannot emphasize that we are talking about partnerships. You may feel that the G8 is coming to tell others what to do. This is wrong. Nothing is further from the truth; it is absolutely not what the G8 was about, and not what the Sea-Island initiative was about; and it is not what my government is about. Instead, we are looking forward to creating partnerships.
MT : It has, in fact, been said that this Forum will only serve the interests of the G8 countries but not the Arab World. How do you react to this?
H.W.-G. :I think there is a misunderstanding about what this Forum is about. This is a Moroccan initiative. We are very keen to see initiatives from the people of the region themselves. There are universal values to which we all subscribe which are written in the UN charters; there are aspirations which are clearly felt throughout the world, including the Arab World. How we turn these into reality is the question?
These ideas should come from people in the region. We should talk about what has been done and what has not been done, what we have done right and what we have done wrong. This is how we should move forward together .We are looking for concrete results not other sessions and fine speeches and no follow-ups.
MT : Last week, many people protested against the organization of the Forum for the Future in Morocco. How do you see this?
H.W.-G. :Everybody has the right to protest. This is a democratic freedom. I defend the right to protest, but I would also like to argue that it was misguided, based on a misunderstanding about the Forum goals.
MT : You have recently appointed a special envoy "Nick Abbott" in the Middle East, based in Cairo, to be in charge of reforms in the Arab World. Since you will preside over the G8 and the European Union for the next term, I would like to know your agenda for reforms in the MENA region.
H.W.-G. :We have set up a unit in Cairo to look at possible ways of establishing partnerships with the Arab world; what are the issues that need the greatest assistance, where NGOs and governments are already involved but need expertise and assistance. That might need even financial assistance to turn their aspirations into reality.
In Morocco, we are involved in a project with the Ministry of Justice to look at alternative ways to resolving disputes, which means they don't have to go through the court all the time. There are other ways of dealing with several disputes which are much simpler and faster. We are also concerned with women's education, and we are working with NGOs to help make sure the Family Code is well understood
MT : I know that Britain is financing a lot of projects in Morocco, particularly in the field of Human Rights. What do you think about Human Rights records in Morocco?
H.W.-G. :I think there are a number of positive things happening. Clearly the human rights issue in Morocco is not perfect; there are things that need to be done and Moroccans say this to me all the time. I think it is important that Moroccans say this and feel comfortable in saying it. We are already along the road to dealing with some of these problems. What Reconciliation Committee is doing regarding public hearings is important. However, what is more important are the lessons to be learnt from what has been done wrongly in the past. These lessons should not only refer to past events, but should be taken as benchmarks for the way the society should operate today.
MT : How do you see reforms in Morocco during the past five years?
H.W.-G. :I think that a quick response to this question is that Morocco is hosting the Forum for the Future. Why is it appropriate for Morocco to be in this position? That's because Morocco has shown the way in a number of important areas, and it is very clear to look at what time to suggest economic reforms. If you look at the aspirations which have been articulated in a number of speeches including those by H.M King Mohammed VI, you are looking towards a very different society.
MT : How do you see the visit of Morocco's Prime Minister Driss Jettou to Britain?
H.W.-G. :Relations between Morocco and the UK had developed remarkably. I had the privilege of being with Morocco Prime Minister Driss Jettou. His visit was evidence of a new dynamic in relations between the two countries. Bilateral trade exchanges between Morocco and Britain have tripled in the last decade and several British companies were particularly interested in the Tangier-Med Port project.