BALTIMORE — U.S. Senator Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Senate chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission and a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, today addressed the Baltimore Council on Foreign Affairs about the move toward democracy in the Arab world and the opportunities it presents to build democracies in that region.
The Senator’s speech, titled: “ … To the Shores of Tripoli: Democracy on the March in a post-Bin Laden World,” focused on the historic nature of what has become known as the “Arab Spring,” and the overwhelming desire for democracy and freedom in many Muslim countries.
“The Arab Spring is a movement born of the desire of the citizens of the region for dignity, freedom and economic opportunity. It also is a repudiation of Osama bin Laden and the terror tactics of al Qaeda,” Senator Cardin told the audience. “The United States and other democratic nations have a historic opportunity to seize the winds of change that are blowing in the region by offering democracy building and economic assistance to these countries.”
As the Senate chairman of the U.S. Helsinki Commission, the Senator told the group that he has met with Middle Eastern leaders numerous times and has assured them that a Helsinki-like process could result in a “more open, democratic society with a free press and fair elections.” He added: “It is clear that the people of the Middle East demand accountability from their leaders and that a Helsinki-like process for the Middle East could provide a pathway for establishing human rights, peace and stability in the region.”
Senator Cardin also stressed that the severe lack of economic opportunity in the region, particularly among the young, helped to spark the mostly peaceful revolution that has become known as the Arab Spring. “If we are to be successful in helping bring democratic regimes to power in the Middle East, we must be committed to addressing the pressing economic issues that face the region.”