The Arab partnership program supporting the fundamental changes in the Arab region is set to expand its work, in its second year, through allocating a sum of £12 million from the political fund and an amount of £25 million from the economic fund.
This is a big increase in Britain’s support to the Middle East and North Africa from a £110 million-worth fund launched in February 2011. The fund was created by the British government to coordinate its supportive policy to the undergoing changes in the region since the Arab spring.
A sum of £5 million has already been spent last year, mainly in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, through work that supports greater political and economic participation. This financial support is conducted through local civil organization representatives on the ground and experts in international organizations, such as G8 and EU to deliver programs in the Arab region with a lot of monitoring, evaluation and site visits of the projects.
On funding priorities, Irfan Siddiq, the head of the Arab partnership department in the foreign office, said: “Whenever we are spending taxpayers’ money, there are rigorous procedures in place to insure that money is being used in the right way. There are a number of ways to insure that we work with very trusted partners.” Siddiq added: “We have a big structure in place to insure we understand how our money is being spent and we are given confidence that it is used in the most effective way.”
The Arab partnership program chooses exactly which countries receive the financial support and which organizations within those countries. The priorities are for countries that have had revolutions like Egypt, Tunisia and Libya, but also Morocco, Jordan and Algeria as countries that are having more gradual change. The assistance provided by Britain and other industrialized states to some Arab countries usually concentrates on good governance and youth programs.
In Syria, where there has been a huge amount of attention to do more to stop the violence, Siddiq said: “Due to the very difficult situation we are providing a very small support compared to the support from the British government, namely humanitarian support with over £30 million which is the biggest part of the financial assistance sum that Britain is providing to the struggling Syrians.”
The foreign office led the global response to insure that the world saw the change in the Arab region as an opportunity rather than a threat by welcoming and respecting changes to empower and drive people for more accountable governments.
This £110 million fund was allocated for this government until 2015, when the term of the government runs out. However, the Middle East and North Africa directorate at the foreign office hopes the next government extends this funding beyond 2015, if the partnership strategy is able to show positive results from these programs in making a difference on the grounds.
In coordinating the support, G8 is an important vehicle to bring together many international organizations to provide support for change, however Siddiq thinks there is more to do. He said: “Unfortunately, the G8 today has not been as effective in delivering that support and one of our objectives when Britain takes G8 presidency next year will be to make the support from G8 more tangible and direct.”
It is very clear the challenges facing the region are long term and perhaps even generational as support for four years will not make a significant difference in the short term to really change the situation needed on the ground for the long term.