Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor
Report

Introduction

The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Qatar to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Qatar's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Reports at www.state.gov.

Part 1: U.S. Government Democracy Objectives

The U.S. Government seeks windows of opportunity to promote democratic reform and provides U.S. technical and programmatic assistance wherever possible. Major U.S. efforts focus on increasing awareness of the benefits of reform and broadening the political participation of citizens within the government. The U.S. Government uses a combination of programmatic and diplomatic means to assist the government and citizens in their efforts to build and sustain democratic institutions. The U.S. Government's democracy promotion objectives include: promoting democratic elections, the rule of law, and legislative reform; supporting the engagement of citizens, particularly youth, in the process of civil society development; promoting freedom of expression and the development of independent media; and addressing the poor working and living conditions of the large expatriate workforce.

Part 2: Supporting Top Priorities and Other Aspects of Human Rights and Democratic Governance

To promote the rule of law and legislative reform, the U.S. Government works with implementing partners to target specific sectors and populations. To enhance the quality of legal education, the United States provides technical assistance to the Qatar University College of Law in the area of curriculum reform. Another implementing partner provides technical assistance to the Advisory Council and the Central Municipal Council and their administrative staffs on parliamentary and legislative procedures. In advance of parliamentary elections, the United States is engaging with the Permanent Election Committee to increase voter awareness and identify and train prospective candidates. Through targeted workshops, roundtable discussions, exchange programs, and training sessions, the United States engages women on increasing their traditionally limited participation in the democratic process. Other ongoing programs focus on training in investigative techniques, forensic studies, and legal procedures for security personnel.

The U.S. Government actively supports civic engagement through the development of civil society. Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) do not formally exist in the country, and the law effectively discourages their establishment; however, the United States continues to identify and build the capacity of potential NGOs and associations. U.S. officials consistently encourage the government to reform its restrictive laws prohibiting freedom of association and the legal formation of NGOs. In 2009 one U.S.-based NGO concluded a memorandum of understanding with the National Human Rights Committee. The U.S. Government funds exchange programs and management training opportunities for civil activists and leaders of potential NGOs, as well as for youth to teach them the importance of civic engagement. Since half of the country's population is younger than 20, U.S. officials target youth in their democratic promotion efforts. The United States sponsors visiting speakers to lead discussions with local audiences on civic activism and Muslim involvement in the United States, and a U.S. grant enables local children to produce videos on the importance of civic engagement. A U.S. implementing partner also provides technical assistance to the Supreme Education Council in developing curriculum and implementing a legal and civic education program for middle schools.

The U.S. Government continues to address severe restrictions on freedoms of expression and the press. The chief of mission and other U.S. officials regularly engage the media and government stakeholders on internationally accepted standards of expression, professionalism, and objectivity. In 2009 the U.S. Government sponsored an influential editorial opinion writer to participate in media training. The United States also sponsored a local youth organization to lead a training program for amateur film directors to express their views on democracy and universal values such as social justice and human rights to help strengthen their role as leaders in society.

One of the most important U.S. priorities is to address the working and living conditions of the large expatriate workforce. This vulnerable population, made up primarily of male unskilled and semiskilled laborers and male and female domestic workers, is often subjected to inadequate accommodations, miserable work conditions, forced labor, and trafficking in persons. The chief of mission and other U.S. officials regularly engage government stakeholders and foreign diplomats from labor-sending countries on ameliorating the situation. The U.S. Government also funds an implementing partner to create awareness and provide advocacy services to the many expatriate community support groups by facilitating communication and coordination between these groups and NGOs in the sending countries.

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