Qatar does not have strong civil society groups but the government is working towards strengthening them since they are one of the pillars of a democratic society, the National Human Rights Committee (NHRC) has said.
Civil society groups, in fact, owe their presence to the government, for they exist due to an official initiative, the head of NHRC, Ali Sumaikh Al Marri, told the participants in a training course being held to familiarise various government agencies and NGOs with people’s basic rights.
These are bodies such as the interior ministry that remain in direct contact with people through their public services.
Speaking recently at one of the sessions, Al Marri said the process of democratisation did not begin here under pressure from external forces. It actually began here after the Emir took the reins of power in 1995.
He referred to post-September 11, 2001 period, and without mentioning the US, said countries in the Middle East and some outside the region had come under increased pressure to democratise their polities.
“I wish to stress here that the process of democratisation in Qatar began much earlier, after the current Emir assumed power, so external pressure did not play any role in our case.”
Elections and a free media are the main pillars of democracy. Media censorship was lifted here and the Ministry of Information was abandoned after the Emir took power, and the first election (to the Central Municipal Council) was held in early 1999.
The election for the third term of the civic body, which was held in 2007, was closely monitored by the NHRC. “The poll was held in a free and fair manner,” said Al Marri.
In the context of press freedom, the official mentioned Al Jazeera channel and said it was a global symbol of free and outspoken media outlet.
The overall prosperity level of people is another key indicator of a democratic society, and Qatar is indeed a prosperous country, he said.
The relations of the ruling family with the people of Qatar are very warm and cordial, he emphasised.
The training course is being held at the Diplomatic Club.
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