Continuing the National Dialogue

February 26, 2013 § Leave a comment

Over the past week, participants in the National Dialogue have held two additional sessions. Although these talks have not progressed at the same rate as they did during the first two sessions, it is encouraging that the attendees have remained engaged in the proceedings.

I was disappointed to read that the participants from the group of six political societies refused to sign the declaration of non-violence put before the group. Doing so would have been a crucial confidence building measure aimed at establishing bonds of trust that had atrophied over the past two years.

In consensus-based dialogues it is imperative that all participants remain committed to agreements they have made in the past and to refrain from reopening items for discussion that have already obtained approval. The National Dialogue is a forum for discussing and arriving at consensus on meaningful political reform. Continuing to revisit issues that have already been agreed upon only serves to hinder this process.

I hope all attendees will continue to approach their participation with the seriousness required to achieve meaningful consensus on the most important issues for Bahrain’s future.

The Dialogue’s next session will take place tomorrow, February 27.

In Norfolk and Greater Hampton Roads

February 21, 2013 § Leave a comment

Today, I am in Norfolk, Va. where I have a full day of events discussing the economic relationship between Bahrain and the United States as well as recent political developments. I always enjoy the opportunity to strengthen the Bahraini-American alliance by speaking with thought leaders outside of Washington.

Norfolk, along with its sister municipalities in the greater Hampton Roads region, is an incubator of dynamic economic growth and is the home to the US Navy’s Atlantic Fleet. Many American sailors in Bahrain have also spent a great deal of time in Norfolk and it is always a pleasure to build upon the strong bonds that come from hosting the Navy’s Fifth Fleet.

I will be holding a number of events, including at the Global Studies and World Languages Academy at Tallwood High School and at Old Dominion University. Throughout the day. I will also have the opportunity to meet with leading members of the business, political, and academic community. I will be sharing highlights and photos from all events on my blog and on the Embassy’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.

Condemning street violence

February 19, 2013 § Leave a comment

It was quite disturbing to read reports over the weekend about street violence that ended the life of a young police officer and a 16 year old boy, and resulted in numerous injuries sustained both by the police and demonstrators. These horrific incidents shed unfortunate light on a serious problem facing Bahrain – the dual need to ensure the rights of peaceful free assembly and to provide security for all Bahrainis.

For many months, the Government of Bahrain has encouraged opposition political societies to issue a general denouncement of street violence and to encourage their supporters to participate only in peaceful protests. This was not a public relations ploy; rather, it offered a genuine opportunity to move past the politics of the street and toward a multilateral and inclusive dialogue that can help address the aspirations of the Bahraini people.

As this dialogue continues to develop, it remains important to avoid the use of violent tactics that can result in needless bloodshed. I hope all political societies in Bahrain will work to discourage the use of violence as a political tool and will instead focus their efforts in ensuring the success of the ongoing National Dialogue – which will hold its third session tomorrow.

The Second Day of Dialogue

February 15, 2013 § Leave a comment

On Wednesday, delegates from across Bahraini civil society participated in the second session of the renewed National Dialogue. This session focused on developing the framework for the political discussions to follow and provided an opportunity for all participants to contribute to the Dialogue’s future success.
 
The assembled delegates have been working diligently throughout the first two sessions to build a strong rapport in order to make the talks as successful and inclusive as possible. Discussion during the second session, for example, focused almost exclusively on the nine-point document submitted by six opposition political societies. Based on their deliberations, the delegates decided that agreement on specific proposals should be driven by consensus – rather than simple negotiations. They also concurred that the final agreements developed by the dialogue would be final and not subject to amendment. Furthermore, all those in attendance agreed that there would be no restrictions on what types of political reform would be discussed at the dialogue. The work done thus far is very encouraging and hopefully portends the dialogue’s ultimate success.
 
Delegates will assemble next on Wednesday, February 20 in the third session of the Dialogue.

The first session of the National Dialogue

February 11, 2013 § Leave a comment

Yesterday, Bahrainis from across the political spectrum came together to resume the National Dialogue that began in July 2011 aimed at achieving consensus on reforms to address the ongoing political situation in Bahrain. After several missed opportunities, I am hopeful that all political actors in Bahrain will come together for the betterment of our country.

In the first session of the dialogue, a number of political societies offered proposals for political reform and the assembled delegates agreed to meet on twice a week to continue the discussion.

Achieving consensus among all Bahrainis continues to be an urgent priority. Unlike how it is sometimes represented in the American press, the current situation in Bahrain does not simply reflect a binary choice between the government and the opposition. Bahrain’s vibrant civil society transcends the divisions that have been assigned to it and the viewpoints of each of these groups must be incorporated for the future of our country.

The Dialogue’s next session will take place on Wednesday at 4pm local time and I am eager to see what progress they make at that time.

Where Am I?

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