Authorities order closure of American, German pro-democracy organisations
The UAE government proceeded last week to close the Dubai office of the National Democratic Institute (NDI), a non-governmental organization affiliated with the U.S. State Department that works to promote and spread democracy through its regional offices in different countries. The decision was immediately followed by the closure of the Abu Dhabi office of the German pro-democracy think tank The Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which has links to German Chancellor Angela Merkel's party. The closure was met by shock on the part of the workers at the institutions and all those interested in civil society in the UAE.
Leslie Campbell, NDI's regional director for the Middle East and North Africa, stated that official bodies raided the headquarters of the Institute in Dubai, claimed that their license is expired, and ordered its immediate closure. The Institute does not implement any programs in the UAE; the Dubai offices serve as a regional center for programs in Kuwait, Qatar and other countries in the region.
The Konrad Adenauer Foundation, which has operated in the UAE since 2009, described the incident as unexpected and fears that non-governmental organizations and political foundations are increasingly unwanted in the Arab world.
This move comes hand in hand with the recent crackdown on critical voices in the country that are calling for more freedom and legislative reforms in the UAE. Those who call for reform are faced with the possibilities of prosecution, imprisonment, the revoking of their nationality, and most recently, the closure of civil society organizations that operate with full transparency under the auspices of the state. The UAE authorities have yet to provide any reasons for closing the institutes, despite the condemnation of the actions by the American and German governments.
It is worth noting that the National Democratic Institute and The Konrad Adenauer Foundation were also subject to a similar attack in Egypt a few months ago. They also face the possibility that their Cairo offices may be closed, and some of their employees are facing prison time.
“The UAE has to respect the work of civil society, which helps spread the culture of democracy and volunteerism in Arab countries, and give these institutions, as well as others, more freedom to work for civil projects with guarantees of legal protection from such unjustified attacks,” added ANHRI.