Seeking Civil Society Collaboration in Kuwait – Kuwait Times

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Just five years ago, pressing issues such as migrant workers’ rights, animal rights and environmental sustainability would have been lucky to earn even passing reference in Kuwait’s newspapers and public conversations. Today, these issues are claiming their place at the forefront of the public agenda, largely due to the acceleration of vocal civil society activism. Yet despite increased public awareness, the wholly inadequate level of collaboration between civil society organizations (CSOs) themselves is proving a crucial handicap to the sector’s work in Kuwait.

In Kuwait, as in any other nation-state, the non-governmental and not-for-profit organizations comprising civil society play an important role in representing public interest and lobbying the government for policy changes in the social, cultural and political arenas. As compared to the rest of the GCC, this sector is arguably much more vibrant in Kuwait. The country also has a relatively longer history of civil society activism, going at least as far back as the establishment of the Kuwait Trade Union Federation and the Women’s Cultural and Social Society in the 1960s. However, without tapping into the potential for knowledge and resource sharing, and advocacy coordination, civil society in Kuwait is running the risk of mitigating the success of otherwise well-planned and adequately financed initiatives.

The importance of collaboration Zahed Sultan is the managing director at the en.v Initiative, an organization that works in the fields of education, environment and capacity-building in order to foster greater social responsibility in the Arab world. “Two heads are better than one,” he said. “One benefit of collaboration is knowledge sharing. If people collaborate on a given topic, then the increase in the number of communities that these people can tap into mitigates the risk of the initiative failing. It also creates a shared sense of responsibility among stakeholders. Also, the sharing of limited resources, skill sets [and] spaces creates more effective organizations.” Dr Shaikha Al-Muhareb, a member of Group-29, an organization that focuses on advancing the principle of equal rights espoused in Article 29 of Kuwait’s constitution, agrees. With increased collaboration “there will be more awareness,” she said, adding that, “you would see more pressure on the National Assembly to introduce changes in laws because there are more people lobbying for that.”

A capitalist mindset Despite the logic and benefits to be gained from collaboration, several obstacles hinder collaboration in this sector. The fundamental challenge is a misunderstanding of the importance of cooperation within civil society itself. “There’s also a huge educational component because there is a lack of understanding about the need for collaboration. When all of us live in a capitalist society, civil society itself gets drawn into the competition as well. And Kuwait as we know is a very capitalist society,” Sultan explained. Lina Al-Qaddoumi, program manager at INJAZ Kuwait, part of an international network which offers entrepreneurial and leadership training to the youth, concurred. “For example, most organizations here receive private corporate funding and they feel that if they collaborate with other groups, they would get less funding.”

Legal restrictions Another hurdle, as both Muhareb and Sultan point out, is the legal environment in which civil societies operate. According to law no. 24 of 1962, CSOs are required to coordinate extensively with the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor concerning matters of funding, management and participating in regional or international coalitions. “The other problem is when you share a project you need some kind of liberty, some kind of freedom. Societies in the past were always under the umbrella of the Ministry of Social Affairs and Labor. That made it difficult for them to manage their own space of work. If there is a threat that this civil society will be banned or closed, then again societies will be very worried to collaborate with others fearing that they will get them in trouble,” explained Muhareb. Also, more recently created CSOs, many of whom operate on an informal basis, have perhaps found it harder to collaborate than those established before the Gulf War. While many NGOs were established during the ‘70s and ‘80s and received annual funding from the government, Sultan claims that during the ‘90s it became increasingly difficult to maneuver governmental bureaucracy to establish a CSO.

Personal rivalries A further obstacle is that sometimes individuals from different organizations simply do not like working with each other. “They are still possessive of their projects,” as Muhareb put it. At a more basic level, Sultan pointed out that civil societies often simply do not know of each other’s existence.

An unthreatening ecosystem This not to say that civil society in Kuwait is completely devoid of intra-sectoral collaboration. The National Committee for the Resolution of Statelessness in Kuwait is a coalition of 22 civil society and political groups, including Group-29 and the Women’s Cultural and Social Society, that work towards emancipating the bedoons. Organizations like the en.v Initiative and INJAZ are currently involved in providing capacity-building training to other CSOs. With the social media-propelled democratization of information flow, attitudes among the youth in Kuwait are also changing. They are committed to causes of equality and sustainability, and are no longer satisfied with public sector employment. Kuwait’s 2013 Companies Law provides for a slightly more flexible environment for civil society to operate, by introducing – for the first time – a legal framework for not-for-profit companies (NPCs). “You need to create an ecosystem at the sector level that is conducive to collaboration for the CSOs to not feel threatened. The intent is there; it’s the implementation that is ineffective,” Sultan maintained.

By Batul K Sadliwala

 

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A New Generation Of Corruption Fighters In The Middle East

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For five intensive days in Tunis, youth across the region brainstormed innovative anti-corruption measures in the new project: MENA Integrity School. The initiative, hosted by election watchdog I Watch and Transparency International, brought together 50 active youths from Yemen, Morocco, Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq and Tunisia. “The MENA integrity school is the first anti-corruption summer school in the Arab world,” Moheb Karoui, I Watch’s President, told Tunisian news site Tunisia Live. For five days the participants were drilled in anti-corruption methods. The agenda included lessons in investigative journalism, social media and other communication tools. By the end of the five-day-course each participant had to present a project idea, with the possibility of receiving financial support from the organizers.

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Kuwait Activists Decry Social Media Curbs

 

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Human rights activists allege that a law restricting social media networks will limit free speech in Kuwait. Kuwait is forging ahead with a law that will regulate the country’s telecommunications and information technology, including social media, despite claims by human rights activists that the bill will restrict freedom of expression. “The law allows authorities to block websites, terminate mobile lines for security reasons without a legal order, and issue warrants to search houses without a prior legal order,” Kuwaiti humans rights activist Nawaf al-Hendal told Al Jazeera News. Hendal alleged that the legislation violates Kuwait’s obligations under international treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which it signed in 1996. Social media platforms, which are a favored tool of the country’s opposition groups, are widely prevalent in the state, making Kuwait one of the most connected countries in the Middle East.

 

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Films Help Lebanese Come To Terms With Dark Past الأفلام تساعد اللبنانيين على تقبل الماضي المظلم

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Lebanon’s civil war ended a quarter of a century ago but its filmmakers remain fixated on this dark period, seeing their movies as a kind of catharsis to help heal collective trauma. The industry’s focus contrasts sharply with a society that has yet to come to terms with its devastating past, where war has marked the last five generations — and each community, be it Christian or Muslim, looks back through a different lens. Unlike Egypt, the region’s filmmaking hub, Lebanese cinema has long suffered from a lack of government support, pushing directors to seek financing abroad. The ironic yet deeply romantic films of the Rahbani brothers marked the 1960s, Lebanon’s golden age. But then came the war, which ripped the country apart and deepened the sectarian divide. Some 150,000 people were killed and thousands of others disappeared in the bloodshed. The big screen became a medium for self-expression in a country that was falling apart.

انتهت حرب لبنان الأهلية قبل حوالي ربع قرن، ولكن صنّاع الأفلام مازالوا يركزون اهتمامهم بهذه الفترة المظلمة. هؤلاء الصنّاع يرون أفلامهم على انها وسيلة للتنفيس أو علاج التصدع النفسي وصهر الاختلافات التي بنتها تلك الفترة. يناقض هذا الانصهار او التركيز من قبل صنّاع الأفلام في لبنان بالواقع الذي لا يزال يحتاج الى تقبل الماضي الذي تغلغل في خمسة أجيال—وفي كل طائفة، سواء كانت مسيحية أم مسلمة، ترى الماضي بعدسات مختلفة. وعلى عكس بؤرة السينما في المنطقة مصر، السينما اللبنانية عانت من انعدام الدعم الحكومي لها وسعى المنتجين والمخرجين الى التمويل من الخارج. تعتبر الأفلام الرومانسية والساخرة للأخوان الرحباني في ستينيات القرن العشرين، العصر الذهبي للسينما اللبنانية. ولكن تبعت تلك الفترة الحرب التي قسّمت الدولة طائفيا ووسعت الفوارق ما بين طوائفها. حوالي 150,000 ألف انسان فقد حياته في تلك الحرب الدامية والآلاف غيرهم لم يعثر عليهم. أصبحت الشاشة الكبيرة منصة للتعبير الذاتي والشخصي في وطن كان على شفى الانهيار.

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Cairokee: Cairo Band – A Revolutionary Discovery كايروكي: فرقة القاهرة – اكتشاف ثوري

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After seven years of performing in relative obscurity, the members of Cairokee still seem dazed with their new-found fame. Two weeks ago, the band released its latest song Ya, el Midan (Oh You, the Square), a touching duet about Egypt’s awakening political consciousness. The duet, along with a three-track release, marks singer Aida Al Ayouba’s return to music after retiring in the mid-1990s. The success of Ya, el Midan illustrates a shift in Egypt’s music world, where megastars, local and international, have long monopolized the airwaves. In the past 10 months, however, a new space has emerged for artists in Cairo’s underground scene. Before Hosni Mubarak’s ousting, producers and broadcasters shied away from bands with political and social messages, instead favoring government-approved pop stars such as Tamer Hosny. Indie bands rarely got TV play and were unlikely to be offered spots in major music festivals.

بعد حوالي سبعة أعوام من العروض الغامضة، يبدو ان أعضاء فرقة كايروكي مازالوا في حالة ذهول من شهرتهم الواسعة والجديدة. قبل اسبوعين، اصدرت الفرقة دويتو حول إفاقة الضمير السياسي في مصر عنوانها “يا الميدان”. تمثل هذه الاغنية أيضا عودة الفنانة عايدة الأيوبي بعد تركها للغناء في منصف التسعينيات. نجاح أغنية يا الميدان يمثل التغيير الذي يحدث في عالم الموسيقى المصري، الذي لفترات طويلة تصدرها فقط النجوم الكبار سواء من مصر أو العالم. خلال العشرة شهور الماضية، مساحات جديدة باتت تظهر للفنانين المغمورين المصريين. قبل انتهاء عهد حسني مبارك، وسائل الاعلام والمنتجين فضلوا الفنانين الذين “توافق عليهم” الحكومة مثل تامر حسني وابتعدوا جدا عن الفرق الموسيقية والفنانين أصحاب الرسائل الاجتماعية أو السياسية. الفرق الموسيقية الجديدة والمستقلة نادرا ما كانت تحصل على ظهور في شاشات التلفزيون وكان من المبتعد دعوتهم لمهرجانات الموسيقى الكبيرة.

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Underground Park To Promote Local Aesthetics حديقة تحت الأرض تدعم الجماليات المحلية

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Sometimes it seems that Abu Dhabi, despite being one of the richest cities on earth, is uncertain of its identity: much of its new architecture is heavily influenced by European examples rather than a desert or Gulf vernacular. British designer Thomas Heatherwick is hoping to renew the UAE capital’s pride of place. His weapon of choice? A cracked, underground park that embraces both the natural aesthetic and flora indigenous to the land. On the outside, the public space will resemble a 65-feet high mound of parched earth. Heatherwick imagines it as a space where residents will congregate to picnic, or catch an outdoor concert. Underneath the dome will live lush gardens (including date palms and a community vegetable patch), streams and pools, cafes, and a public library. To reduce the nation’s carbon footprint, Heatherwick has also opted to mix concrete from desert sand, eliminating the need to rely on imports. Furthermore, the shade provided by the rooftop will also reduce the amount of desalinated water needed to irrigate the plants underneath by restricting evaporation.

 

تبدو أبوظبي في بعض الأحيان غير قادرة على تحديد هويتها بالرغم من كونها أحد أغنى المدن في العالم. فمعظم مبانيها المشيدة حديثا ملهمة من أوروبا مثلا بدلا من ان يكون الالهام مستوحى من الصحراء أو الانتماء الخليجي. يأمل المصمم البريطاني توماس هيثيرويك لإعادة مكانة وانتماء عاصمة الامارات العربية المتحدة. السلاح الذي اختاره؟ حديقة تحت الأرض توفق ما بين الجمال والنباتات والزهور الطبيعية للمنطقة. في الخارج، المساحة العامة ستشكل تلال أو مساحات صحراوية يصل طولها إلى 65 قدما. يتخيل هيثيرويك ان تستقطب تلك المساحات الناس الى التنزه بها أو متابعة عروض حية في المكان. تحت تلك القبة، ستكون الحدائق الخضراء (أشجار النخيل ومساحات مخصصة للخضروات)، جداول الماء والمقاهي وايضا مكتبة عامة. وفي سبيل تخفيف الوطأة الكربونية في البناء، من المزعم ان يستخدم هيثيرويك الخرسانة المخلوطة مع رمال الصحراء بدلا من استيراد المواد الأخرى. كما سيعمل سطح الحديثة أو القبة كمظلة للحديقة لتخفيض حاجة النباتات للسقي بتقليل نسبة تبخر الماء.

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First Green Mosque Opens In UAE

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Khalifa Al Tajer, claimed to be the first eco-friendly mosque in the Islamic world, was opened to worshippers in Dubai by the Awqaf and Minors Affairs Foundation (AMAF). The mosque, which can accommodate 3,500 worshippers, is located at the Port Saeed area in Dubai and spans more than 9,754 square meters with a built-up area of around 4,180 square meters. The mosque integrates the latest green technologies, such as adjusting the speed of water flow from taps in the ablution areas and recycling the used water from ablution in washrooms for plant irrigation. The exterior lighting poles of the mosque are fitted with solar panels, the battery storage systems are powered by solar energy, and the water heaters also have solar panels. Energy-saving LED lights are used all over the mosque, and the lights are controlled by a sensor system that automatically switches the lights on during prayer times and if there are people in the prayer hall, and off if there is no one, so as to conserve energy. There is also a climate control system installed for regulating the air-conditioning units according to prayer times and number of worshippers.

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