Transparent and accountable governance is critical to the successful transition to democracy underway around the Middle East and North Africa. As the Arab Awakening continues, countries are held back by laws and established practices that constrain civil society organizations, inadequate media training and standards, insufficient learning opportunities for government employees and elected officials, and the marginalization of women, youth and other groups in government. OMEP is responding by supporting regional efforts to strengthen transparency in decision-making, reduce public sector corruption, and more effectively manage national finances and natural resources such as water.
In supporting democracy, pluralism, and responsive governance, USAID’s regional programs work with both the “demand” side of governance (i.e. civil society) as well as the “supply” side (i.e. government officials and elected representatives). Our partners include civil society, media practitioners, foundations, the private sector, host government institutions, parliamentarians, and multilateral donors.
OMEP programs have a long‐term, strategic approach that seeks to enhance regional networks, disseminate lessons learned, and strengthen government and civil society organizations. Our programs work with other donors and regional organizations to improve governmental public financial management and audit capabilities. We support the creation of a professional media to ensure that citizens are well informed about the effectiveness of government institutions and officials, and have the means to influence public policies. Our assistance is responsive to needs expressed across the region, and we are forging new partnerships directly with the people – including women and youth – to ensure that their voices count.
Impacts achieved by USAID in the region include:
- USAID provides online and instructor-led journalism and multimedia training to hundreds of regional bloggers, activists and journalists, helping promote transparency and accountability around the region. Some program participants receive seed funding for noteworthy journalistic projects, and leading innovators travel for study tours to the U.S. to interact with American colleagues and institutions. Trainee projects have addressed topics including corruption in schools, mistreatment of prisoners, and the impact of sexual harassment on women in the workforce.
- Around the Middle East, restrictive laws diminish the impact and effectiveness of civil society. USAID has supported a thorough review of several countries’ legal frameworks addressing freedom of association. As a result of USAID activities, enabling laws are being modified or drafted in Iraq, Yemen, Morocco and Egypt.
- USAID created “The University,” a regional youth-focused TV drama which aired several times in the region and reached nearly 10 million viewers. The series follows the lives of a group of friends, many of whom come from different backgrounds, as they deal with the pressures of life and school. Its main messages are designed to build tolerance, promote critical thinking, and encourage values for success in a globalized society.
- USAID helped develop student activist networks in Morocco, Egypt, West Bank/Gaza and Yemen which shine a bright citizen spotlight on cases of corruption in each country, and mobilize civil society organizations, youth leaders and media practitioners to share experiences and enhance the effectiveness of advocacy activities. USAID involvement helped to enshrine access to information as an essential tool in preventing, detecting, and providing redress for corruption in Morocco’s new constitution.
- Around the MENA region, USAID and the International Monetary Fund have teamed up to build the skills of over 200 senior government officials on public financial management-related topics. The program has been instrumental in fostering experience sharing between regional officials, and passing enabling legislation region-wide on issues including banking regulation and tax compliance. In Egypt, for example, our assistance helped lead to a five-fold increase in tax revenues.
Last updated: March 24, 2014