Through distributing democratic values and human rights AFDC aspires to become a leading centre in the transformation process within the Arab world. This in turn will promote the concept of citizenship, and the strong values of human rights will be the basis of development, whether it is to be political or economic.
Citizenship is the central issue for the Foundation’s work. We believe an individual’s belonging to the state as a citizen cannot be realised unless he or she attains his or her legitimate rights as set out in The International Bill of Human Rights. If however, the citizen does not attain their rights then pre-modernist affiliations, such as those based on religion, sect, ethnicity, or sexuality would prevail, which would cause a catastrophe.
Despite the fact that citizenship is associated with the provision of rights, we do believe that education on citizenship is crucial in this respect. Each citizen should be aware of his or her rights and should be willing to fight for them as opposed to being given imaginable rights by a powerful leader.
The society in most Arab states is patriarchal ruled by the rich elites where citizens do not have a say in anything. The ruler is above the law and therefore is the one and only decision-maker.
At AFDC, we believe that what is right and fair takes precedence over the good, and that opposing utilitarian arguments has led to unacceptable violations of unalienable rights. Recent history has revealed that the ideal of community was too liable to manipulation by fascist, totalitarian or theocratic regimes. Therefore, the promotion of citizenship as a means to achieve justice as an end in itself is essential in our struggle for development and emancipation.
Reading contemporary political history, the pertinent observation would be that basic human rights, equal political participation and the ideal of citizenship were often jeopardised in the name of national security and the ‘common good ‘, even in the application of democracy through a simple majority rule to justify depriving minorities of their basic human rights and freedoms.
A democratic practice that does not cherish citizenship is a distorted and selective one, and without proper democracy, corruption cannot be combated and eliminated. Democracy also has an influence on development. Limited access to information limits the capacity for innovation and renovation, and makes citizens less likely to make the correct decisions, even when they are given the chance to do so. In addition to this, limited levels of participation in prioritisation and decision making increases the risk of deviation and the misuse of resources. The concentration of authority inevitably leads to corruption. A concentration of power in the state’s institutions and corruption in the Arab World as a whole are intimately related to the continuous use of the state by the governing elite as an essential means for political propaganda and the perpetuation of its own authority.
We believe that no democracy, i.e. equality in sharing public responsibility among all members of a people; can be possible without individuals agreeing to adhere to the principle of citizenship in making decisions on all that is related to public affairs. An enduring and secure democratic regime must be willingly and freely supported by at least a substantial majority of its politically active citizens.
And since there is no reasonable philosophical or moral doctrine, and much less a legislation or rhetoric based on ethnicity, religion, sect, sexuality or language that can be affirmed by all citizens then the concept of justice must be limited to the political field, which includes the right to political participation.
Claims on the basis of moral superiority and righteousness would lead to a case similar to the Lilliputian and Blefuscu war because of differences over the correct way to eat a boiled egg – from the rounded or from the sharp end. We also assert the necessity of respecting an individual’s chosen identity, rather than one imposed because of an accident of birth; such imposition is morally arbitrary in our opinion.
The willingness to reform and achieve democracy; a willingness that results from the evolution of ideals of liberty and independence, is a political value before it is the objective premise or the outcome of certain changes in economic and social circumstances. To the realisation of this will, there are preconditions of a political struggle that is not possible unless a social actor is dedicated for this end. Therefore, the change process is, in its progression or regression; subject to the entities by which it is undertaken, and their respective capacity, should they be related to theoretical understating or political practices. AFDC is intended to play an effective role in education on citizenship in all parts of the Arab World, and to support individuals and organisations who share its vision and aspirations.