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Arab Partnership offers new opportunities for Middle East

The Prime Minister today announced further UK support for economic and political reform in the Middle East and North Africa.

At this time of historic change, the UK’s Arab Partnership, which was announced by the Foreign Secretary in February and now expanded to £110m, will see the UK work in partnership with countries in the region as they seek to respond to the legitimate aspirations of their people. The UK believes this support for the peoples of the Arab world lies at the heart of our national interest. A failure to act risks instability on Europe’s doorstep, collapse back into authoritarian rule, conflict and terrorism.

The Arab Partnership will provide UK assistance for lasting political and economic reform in the region - looking at political participation, rule of law, corruption, public voice, youth employability, private sector development.

It will build on assistance for political reform begun already by FCO to support more open and free societies and establish the building blocks of democracy: institutions, political pluralism, free media and economic fairness and opportunity. We will work with parliaments, civil society and human rights groups, as well as reforming governments, to support not just free and fair elections, but stronger parliaments, media and judiciaries. Co-financed by FCO and DFID, this element of the programme will be up to £40m over four years, and support work in all MENA countries eligible for official aid. 

The Arab Partnership will also provide expert advice and assistance on economic reform to help restore growth in these countries and tackle the problems which leave so many millions of young people across the region out of a job. It will help ensure people can acquire the skills they need to gain employment.  And it will help build legitimate institutions, tackle corruption and support governments to manage their public finances in an efficient and open way.

For the economic component of the programme, DFID will contribute up to £70m over four years to leverage support from others. This will be focused on those countries embracing reform, starting with Egypt and Tunisia and then broadening out to countries such as Jordan and Morocco. We will work directly with the International Financial Institutions, such as the African and Islamic Development Banks, to help countries in the region fully benefit from their assistance.

Commenting on today’s announcement Foreign Secretary William Hague said:

“This is a crucial moment for the people of the Middle East and North Africa and the UK will rise to the challenge of meeting our responsibility to support them. It is for governments to respond to their people’s legitimate calls for change and we are clear that these are Arab revolutions and leadership for reform must come from within countries. But we have also been clear that we must stand up for those values we believe in and ensure those seeking change can deliver real and irreversible reform. That is what we are doing through the UK’s Arab Partnership. It is our pledge of support to the reformers of the Middle East and North Africa.”

International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell said:

“Today’s announcement of a new UK Arab Partnership recognises that poverty and disenfranchisement are the major drivers of the demand for change. It helps to address key grievances, providing people with better education and economic opportunities and improved access to global markets, working with close partners in the region such as the African and Islamic Development Banks.

“We know that economic transformation alone without real political change, which gives people a voice, dignity, security and justice, won’t work. And that is why we will focus on the twin tracks of economic and political reform. This new UK support is for a change for the better in the region. It will help countries to get back onto their feet, and allow people to look forward to a brighter, peaceful, more prosperous future.”

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