‘Arab Spring’ bad for pro-democracy cause: UAE evicts NGOs

Special to WorldTribune.com

ABU DHABI — The United Arab Emirates has become the latest Middle
East state wary of Western non-governmental organizations.

The UAE, despite appeals, has forced at least two leading Western think
tanks to leave the emirates. They were identified as the American-based
National Democratic Institute (NDI) and Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation, both
of which promote democracy in the Middle East.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton raised concerns over the UAE's closure of the National Democratic Institure. /Getty Images

“We very much regret it,” U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who met her UAE counterpart on March 31, said. “I expect our discussion on this issue to continue.”

NDI has been aligned with the U.S. Congress and targeted in other Arab states, particularly Egypt. Earlier this year, Egypt sought to prosecute American staffers of the institute, which led to warnings by Congress of a halt in U.S. aid to the military regime in Cairo.

On March 29, Germany’s Konrad Adenauer Foundation chairman Hans-Gert Poettering said the foundation would close its office in the UAE capital of Abu Dhabi. He said the UAE decision to end the activities of Adenauer was unexpected and without warning.

“There were no comprehensible reasons given,” Poettering said.

The German government appealed to the UAE, a leading procurer of Western
arms, to reverse its decision. But Western diplomats and German officials
said the closing of Western NGOs marked a trend throughout the Arab world.

“This is not directed against the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, but
involves the overall closure of foundations,” German Chancellor Angela
Merkel said.

Adenauer was invited to open an office in the UAE in 2008. But
authorities never issued a formal license to the foundation, which began
operating a year later.

Over the last year, the UAE, alarmed by unrest in neighboring Bahrain,
Kuwait, Oman and Saudi Arabia, has cracked down on foreign-affiliated
organizations. They included the revocation of the license of the Gulf Research Center, which moved from
Dubai to Switzerland.

“After our experiences in Egypt, we not only regret this decision, but
consider it an alarm signal if non-governmental organizations and political
foundations are increasingly unwanted in the Arab world,” Poettering said.

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