Arab Human Development Report 2004

05 May 2005

Towards Freedom in the Arab World

The Arab world finds itself at a historical crossroads. Caught between oppression at home and violation from abroad, Arabs are increasingly excluded from determining their own future.


Freedom in its comprehensive sense, incorporates not only civil and political freedoms (in other words, liberation from oppression), but also the liberation from all factors that are inconsistent with human dignity. To be sustained and guaranteed, freedom requires a system of good governance that rests upon effective popular representation and is accountable to the people, and that upholds the rule of law and ensures that an independent judiciary applies the law impartially.


The report describes free societies, in their normative dimension, as fundamental contrasts with present-day Arab countries. The enormous gap that separates today’s reality and what many in the region hope for, is a source of widespread frustration and despair among Arabs about their countries’ prospects for a peaceful transition to societies enjoying freedom and good governance. Moreover, persisting tendencies in Arab social structures could well lead to spiralling social, economic, and political crises. Each further stage of crisis would impose itself as a new reality, producing injustices eventually beyond control.


The Arab world is at a decisive point that does not admit compromise or complacency.


If the Arab people are to have true societies of freedom and good governance, they will need to be socially innovative. Their challenge is to create a viable mode of transition from a situation where liberty is curtailed and oppression the rule, to one of freedom and good governance that minimises social upheaval and human costs, to the fullest extent possible. History will judge this a transcendent achievement through which the region finally attained its well-deserved freedom.


Table of Contents

  • Introductory Section: Introductions, Table of Contents
  • Part I: Changes in Human Development Since the Launch of AHDR 2003

Part II - Section I: Reinforcing Freedom and Establishing Good Governance: Analytical Framework: Freedom, Good Governance and Human Development

  • Chapter 1: The Intellectual Basis and Concept of Freedom and Good Governance
  • Chapter 2: Freedom and Governance in Arab Countries at the Beginning of the Third Millennium: Some Problematic Issues

Part II - Section II: The State of Freedom and Governance in Arab Countries

  • Chapter 3: The State of Freedoms and Rights

Part II - Section III: The Societal Context of Freedom and Governance

  • Chapter 4: The Legal Architecture
  • Chapter 5: The Political Architecture
  • Chapter 6: Arab Societal Structures and the Regional and International Environments

Part II - Section IV: Towards Reinforcing Freedom and Establishing Good Governance in the Arab Countries

  • Chapter 7: A Strategic Vision of Freedom and Governance in Arab Countries - Alternative Futures

Document Highlights

  • This Report is an independent publication.
  • Of all the impediments to an Arab renaissance, political restrictions on human development are the most stubborn.
  • Reform initiatives, both those originating in and outside the region, were launched in an international and regional context that hampered progress.
  • Some governments took steps to deal with their capability gaps in freedom, the empowerment of women and knowledge. However, progress was uneven.
  • Freedom must be guaranteed, sustained and promoted by effective societal structures and processes.
  • Violations of freedom of opinion and expression have included attacks on outspoken political activists and human rights advocates.
  • Arab constitutions assign the regulation of rights and freedoms to ordinary legislation, which tends to restrict the right in the guise of regulation.