The choice of Tunisia to host the November 16-18 second World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) has provoked much controversy. The idea behind the Summit is to bridge the gap between rich and poor countries in a field that has proven to be one of the focal points of present and future progress.
The January 2005 peace agreement has improved Sudan's standing in the international community, as demonstrated by $6 billion in economic support raised at a donors' conference in Oslo in April 2005. Inside Sudan, however, the agreement has revealed new sources of instability.
With its July 2005 establishment of supposedly autonomous commissions to oversee this fall's presidential and parliamentary elections, Egypt joined several Arab countries that have created election management bodies. The ruling National Democratic Party has touted the commissions, headed by judicial figures, as enhancing constitutionally-mandated judicial supervision of the electoral process.
Arabs often question the United States' commitment to promoting democracy in the Middle East, arguing its policies are inconsistent and even hypocritical. In reality, the commitment to democracy by President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is unquestionable, based on a genuine conviction that a democratic Middle East serves the security interests of the United States.
The September 21-23 conference of Egypt's ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) was notable in several respects. First, the proceedings were dominated by Gamal Mubarak, President Hosni Mubarak's 41-year-old son who heads the NDP's powerful policies secretariat, keeping alive rumors that he is being groomed to succeed his father.
In Egypt, the approaching 2005 presidential referendum and parliamentary elections as well as the likelihood that a leadership succession will take place within the next few years—President Hosni Mubarak is seventy-six and was hospitalized in Germany this summer—have energized politics and led to fresh efforts at cooperation among opposition groups.
Donors tend to focus on non-controversial technical issues when promoting the rule of law abroad. In sharp contrast, judicial reformers in the Arab world have plunged into the political aspects of judicial reform far more enthusiastically. Their zeal, however, has not yet translated into success.
At present there are at least three possible readings of Egyptian politics. There is the government version, in which President Mubarak's decision to amend Article 76 of the constitution to permit direct and pluralistic elections for the presidency is an historic reform step approved by a majority of Egyptians, first via the two chambers of parliament and then via the May 25 public referendum.
In recent months, with pressures on the Egyptian government to reform growing, elements of Egyptian civil society have seized the moment to advance longstanding agendas. Among the most surprising and significant groups to press their advantage were judges.