A national dialogue that produces a multilateral consensus on the most contentious issues facing our nation is the only way to break the political deadlock in Bahrain and facilitate the harmony necessary for Bahrain’s long-term political stability.
During the past two years, the government has repeatedly demonstrated its willingness to engage in inclusive dialogue with a wide range of political actors. An inclusive dialogue is essential to rebuild trust following the opposition’s rejection of dialogue during the height of the unrest in March 2011. Had the opposition not walked away from that dialogue with His Royal Highness the Crown Prince, the process would have led to “significant constitutional, political, and economic reforms,” according to the Bahrain Independent Commission of Inquiry (BICI) Report.
Bahrain’s reform project predates the events of February and March 2011. The National Action Charter of 2001 and the Constitution of 2002 helped to establish democratic institutions that have broadened representative government. These institutions are works in progress, and are a road map of the best way to legislate change in the spirit of the rule of law. Of the nearly 290 recommendations produced during the last national dialogue in July 2011, the Bahraini government has implemented 217 – including constitutional amendments that expanded the powers of elected parliament.
Bahrain has also made progress implementing reforms to address human rights issues. Following the release of the BICI Report in November 2011, Bahrain established the first independent ombudsman office in the Arabian Gulf to oversee the police and intelligence services. The landscape of accountability in Bahrain has been transformed through the work of the Special Prosecution Unit, its prosecution of police officers accused of mistreating protestors, the establishment of a new police code of conduct, and the creation of a transparent, state of the art prisoner management system. Our work is not done. The reform process is ever ongoing.
Even though Bahrain’s national dialogue is an internal matter, Bahrain welcomes the constructive support from our ally and friend the United States. We take heart in the American example, where representative democratic institutions have evolved over a period of time. Bahrain and the United States have shared a close partnership for more than 60 years; the strength of this partnership is rooted in decades of collaboration on security, economic, and political issues of mutual concern and in a frank exchange of ideas.
The national dialogue currently underway is an important opportunity to forge consensus on a path to a more representative, secure, and prosperous Bahrain. Dialogue can be a time consuming and cumbersome process, but its success is essential for the Bahrain’s future as a progressive outpost in the Middle East.
Nonoo is Bahrain’s ambassador to the United States. She blogs on current affairs in Bahrain at http://houdanonoo.wordpress.com.