Interview with Ms Muna Abbas Radhi, Chargé d’affaires a.i. of the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Bahrain in Geneva

11 October 2011

Q: What do you consider as the most important challenges facing the Arab world?

One of the most important challenges faced by the Arab countries, like many other nations around the world, is the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

The Arab countries are, indeed, making efforts to achieve these goals by the deadline. For instance, it is worth mentioning that His Royal Highness Prince Khalifa bin Salman Al Khalifa received the Prime Minister Prize of the Millennium Development Goals in New York last September. On this matter, Bahrain submitted a report to the current session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on the implementation of the Millennium Development Goals. Currently, the country exceeds the objectives to be implemented by the year 2015.

Another important challenge facing the Arab world is the Arab-Israeli conflict. There have been periods of hope, followed by failure and frustration. However, we will certainly not lose hope in the achievement of a just, lasting and comprehensive peace that restores rights to the owners, and that will opens doors to accepting one another as neighbours, friends and partners –– all of which require the respect and commitment of everybody.

Among other real challenges, we should not forget common security and terrorism. In this regard, I would like to emphasize what was stated in the speech of His Excellency Sheikh Khaled bin Ahmad bin Mohammed Al Khalifa, Minister of Foreign Affairs, at the sixty-fifth session of the General Assembly of the United Nations on 27 September 2010 in New York. He stated that terrorism is a phenomenon affecting the whole world, and that it has multiple facets. It could take the form of a vicious terrorist attack, such as those experienced by many countries in the world, or the use of preaching to foment violence and hatred between states and communities, or the use of the media for the same purpose. Perhaps the best way to fight terrorism is to monitor and detect sources of funding. This would require the agreement of the international community so as to regulate the movement of funds with complete transparency. Another challenge is that of devastating natural disasters.

In order for the international community to succeed in overcoming these serious challenges and threats, our nations are required to play their roles to the fullest by promoting the concepts of political participation, the rule of law, as well as legal and institutional reforms, such as freedom of opinion and expression, consolidating democracy and human rights, and the involvement of the whole society so that it can assume its responsibilities.

Q: What are the most important challenges facing Bahrain?

As I mentioned, the most important challenges facing the Arab countries, including Bahrain, is to achieve the Millennium Development Goals –– considered as one of the most important challenges we face in our world today. Within this framework, Bahrain has made positive progress. This particularly concerns social organization, health and the provision of free education –– especially basic and quality education –– promoting the role of women, providing equality of opportunity between the sexes, expanding social security, introducing unemployment insurance, promoting vocational training –– all of this is being done to develop Bahrain’s human resources.

Bahrain is active in the international domain and takes its responsibilities seriously. It continues to make progress in the political, social, cultural and economic domains, and is considered as an example of good governance. This situation is encouraged and supported by initiatives and visions aimed at capacity-building and the creation of institutions capable of promoting the principles of modern society. This community is loyal to its values, based on the institutions that guarantee all citizens the opportunity to create, innovate and participate actively in the contemporary world.

The vision 2030 of the Kingdom of Bahrain, launched by His Majesty Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa, King of Bahrain, on 23 October 2008, represents a historic turning point and a gateway to economic reform, along with political reforms. It was designed to ensure the transition from the current economy, which relies heavily on oil revenues, to the market economy in a world of competition and productivity. This move has been planned by the government, in collaboration and with the leadership of a vibrant private sector. The result is a growing middle class of Bahrainis who have a high standard of living due to increased productivity and good opportunities for well-paid work. This vision aims to create a society based on the principles of competitiveness, sustainability and equity.

Q: What was the impact of the last general election in Bahrain?

We carried out legislative and municipal elections, which ended on 30 October 2010. The elections were considered to be a great success with a high level of participation –– about 67%. In addition, the huge presence of the media covering the electoral process guaranteed that it was conducted in a democratic manner. It is an example of the democratic process that is currently taking place in Bahrain. It was an important day in the history of the kingdom, during which the citizens chose their representatives in the House of Representatives and the municipal councils, and thus participated in the running of their country.

We believe that the current composition of the Council promotes democracy in the country.

As for the negative aspects, although Aalmroh did obtain a seat in the parliament and municipal council during the last election, the majority of candidates did not achieve the desired results.

Q; What are the pillars of Bahrain’s foreign policy?

One of the pillars of our foreign policy is our determination to restore security and stability in our region, and support development. In this regard, we look forward to a peaceful and prosperous Iraq, able to survive without any foreign interference in its internal affairs. We hope to see a country proud of its Arab and Islamic identity, including all ethnic and cultural affiliations. Bahrain has expressed its satisfaction with the agreement reached to form a government by the political blocs in Iraq, enabling the Iraqi people to participate in building and achieving progress and prosperity. Bahrain has expressed support for initiatives to solve every problem facing the formation of the government, including the initiative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques.

With regard to Palestine, we are committed to the Arab peace initiative and all of its provisions, so as to achieve real peace. We look forward to a lasting and comprehensive solution to the conflict in the Middle East based on two states living side by side in peace.

With regard to Somalia, Bahrain supports the decisions of the Arab League Council, which aims to activate national reconciliation including all components of Somali society, and empower the Somali government to run the national institutions.

Q: What are the ambitions of joint African-Arab co-operation?

Bahrain participated in the Arab-African Summit on 10 October 2010 in Sirte, Libya. We support good relations and strive to promote and develop this relationship in all areas. The meeting adopted the Sirte Declaration reiterating our commitment to enhancing Africa-Arab relations, boosting cooperation between Arab and African nations, and establishing a strategic partnership. This also included the draft Joint Africa-Arab Action Plan (2011–2016). At the same time, a joint Arab-African fund for disaster relief was established.

Q: In the Review Conference of the Human Rights Council last year, what were the aspirations of Bahrain to make the Council more effective?

For Bahrain, the Human Rights Council is a quantum leap in the field of human rights, emphasizing the consolidation of the principles of respect for human dignity enshrined in the Charter of the United Nations. The Council, which began its first session in 2006, based on Resolution 60/251 of the General Assembly of the United Nations, is the international platform which seeks to protect and promote human rights in the international community. At the same time, the Council acts as a cornerstone in the application of the foundations of the Charter of the United Nations, the International Declaration of Human Rights and relevant international instruments. It emphasizes the need to strengthen the dialogue between the countries, on the one hand, and respect for human rights, on the other. It also demonstrates the need to improve coordination among the various human rights mechanisms in order to avoid overlap and duplication in their work and recommendations.

As a member of the Arab Group, the Non-Aligned Movement, the Group of the Organization of Islamic Conference and the Asian Group, we look forward to playing a more effective role in the Council. We believe that our task is to assess the work and performance of the Council, and not to reform and restructure it, while maintaining the text of the Council Resolution No. 5/1 on Institution Building. A delicate balance must be maintained. Bahrain confirms the great importance it attaches to maintaining the Council’s agenda in its current form, since it is a balanced treatment of all dimensions of the mandate of the Human Rights Council. Bahrain participated in the “Ambassadorial retreat” of the Human Rights Council, which was hosted by the Thai Government in Bangkok from 8 to 10 December 2010.