A Primer to Promote a New Era of Democracy and Socioeconomic Development in the Middle East and North Africa

It has been more than a month that the people of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are demanding improved rights, representation, and socioeconomic development. And yet, muffled in the calls for liberty, is a low murmur uttered by people around the world who are concerned, and rightfully so, that today’s freedom fighters may be opening a sociopolitical Pandora’s Box, out of which will come a militant takeover by anti-democratic forces. The fear is that today’s rebels and protestors who are disorganized and well-meaning when it comes to changing the region’s leaders will create an opening to be exploited tomorrow by those who are better organized, power-obsessed, and who have nefarious intentions for those who do not fit their world view. It is really no surprise this turmoil is occurring. The world economy is struggling. Food prices are up. And the Middle East already is ranked the lowest on the global human development index. The conditions are ripe for serious change, but in which direction will that change occur and is there anything we, in the west, could do about it without appearing imperialist?

Let’s take a quiz to help us focus.

What to do?

A) Wring our hands and do nothing;

B) Make a lot of proclamations and threats about sanctions and reductions in financial exchanges that take some time to begin having an impact, while in the short term do nothing;

C) Bomb and shoot the heck out of people and infrastructure, then fly away and leave the locals to their own devices;

D) Bomb and shoot the heck out of people and infrastructure, then get stuck in their country for an unforeseen number of decades to come;

E) Come up with a strategic plan that actually speaks directly to the needs of the people on the street far better than any militant, anti-democratic force ever could do, so they see we are prepared to engage them constructively, and on their terms, as soon as “the day after” arrives.

You should know, by the way, that A-D are the options recently offered and discussed in international power circles while innocent people in the Middle East are massacred, friendly governments are threatened, and adversarial eyes watch from the shadows with their own plans for the region’s future. Meanwhile, the only viable answer, E, remains ignored.

Below are recommendations based upon best practices in socioeconomic development to assist President Obama maneuver the United States, and subsequently the rest of the west, into the new and improved MENA regional ally:

1. Speak directly to the people on the ground, explaining that we offer them the hand of friendship and cooperation, rather than waste any more time making proclamations about their leaders;

2. Make it very clear that the intentions of the United States and western nations, from now on, are to promote self-sufficiency in the people of the MENA region, and that, to that extent, we are at their service through the following methods (Points 3-10):

3. Offer to widen access to the vast resources in socioeconomic development that are found throughout the United States and other western nations to the people of the Middle East — our capital, technology, and best practices in human development (healthcare, education, public safety, etc.) — through training programs and financial exchanges to assist them rebuild their economies under democratic governance;

4. Offer to make all non-oil exports to the USA and Europe from MENA countries duty free to help them diversity their economies;

5. Send in members of MENA Diaspora communities now living in the west who will offer assistance organizing governmental changes along the following lines:

  • That MENA leaders empower their parliaments with more authority to enact the will of the people in their districts;
  • Create neighborhood advisory councils that function independently of government, made up of civilians (e.g. tribal elders, academics, etc.) who discuss methods to improve services and attract business to their areas, and who provide their insights directly to local mayors and governors;
  • The elected leaders of the neighborhood councils, the mayors, and the governors from all over the country should meet annually to elect, from among their ranks, a “kitchen cabinet” of advisors that, in turn, meets directly with the executive branch of government; MENA leaders and their official cabinets should meet with these kitchen cabinets quarterly for official consultations;
  • Promote laws that maintain equitable treatment for all people irrespective of their ethnic, tribal, or religious affiliation;
  • Facilitate modern community policing methods so that the police no longer act as a militia, and the people develop a friendly, trust-based relationship with local law enforcement;
  • Thus, by providing more power to parliament, improving citizen participation in local government through neighborhood councils, creating kitchen cabinets made up of local representatives that meet directly with the executive branch of government on a routine basis, ensuring equitable treatment before the law, and promoting good ties between the locals and cops, MENA governments will facilitate much greater direct participation in government by the people themselves;

6. Offer assistance through training programs to develop government agencies that engage socially disadvantaged groups through best practices in services and empowerment programs that focus on full integration into mainstream society, e.g., minorities, women, people with disabilities, etc. so that these services are not left up to aspects of the civilian sector run by militant organizations that may be hostile to democracy;

7. Create cross-cultural programs between the people of the MENA and people from western countries that focus on mutual sustainable community development programs because nothing overcomes competition better than does cooperation to accomplish a humanitarian goal;

8. Create youth entrepreneurship opportunities through international trade and infrastructure development to facilitate equitable exchanges between youth and young adults that result in mutual stakeholders in poverty-reducing programs;

9. Promote stronger ties between technological research centers at western universities and MENA universities with dual focuses on urban and agricultural development;

10. Maintain a strong military presence in the region to deter any semblance that the west has gone weak while we begin engaging the local population socioeconomically to build their independence in a healthy partnership with the west.

In addition, the people of the MENA region should:

1. Create a Middle East and North African Youth Regional Parliament, made up of elected representatives specifically to this grouping who are under the age of 40; that provides recommendations on democratic governance and regional policy, and present their findings bi-annually to a regional group of official parliamentary heads that includes all nations in the region irrespective of their diplomatic ties with each other;

2. Create the Middle East and North African Youth Regional Games, which would function as a mini-Olympics for youth throughout the region irrespective of politics. These games should have a Special Olympics component for people with developmental disabilities, and a Paralympics component for people with physical disabilities to promote humanitarian interaction between the countries.

Any nation that refuses to allow its youth or parliamentary heads to participate in these programs should be expelled from its political regional grouping at the United Nations via direct petition of the MENA Youth Parliament, which would effectively interrupt its ability to participate on the United Nations Security Council. It is also incumbent upon the Youth Parliament and Regional Games not to exclude or marginalize Israel or any one nation, but rather, to focus on improving the region collectively.

Altogether through these policies, the west and MENA countries, and the people from both areas, would promote a combined micro- and macro-approach to MENA development in partnership with each other without exploitation.

If these policies are enacted comprehensively, the end result will be improved living conditions for the diverse peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, increased regional peace and cooperation, enhanced relations between Middle Eastern and North African countries with each other and with the west, and a significant reduction in global militancy. These policies speak directly to the needs of the people without appearing to be a fair weather friend to regional allies by promoting workable democratic reforms; and implement methods that will keep Pandora’s Box of Militancy shut tightly — the best of all worlds.

Freedom and democracy are not just discussion topics. They have real meaning. People are dying in the chaos. Yet, unfortunately, time is not on our side. We must move beyond rhetoric and focus on results-driven policies… now.


Update: July 26, 2010 Program at Los Angeles City Hall: Empowering People With Disabilities

Have you ever seen a group of people with disabilities build an entire house in just three hours? We did it!

On Monday, July 26, 2010, PREVENT HATE, in partnership with the City of Los Angeles Department on Disability, commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) with an empowerment program directly on the lawn of Los Angeles City Hall at which U.S. veterans with disabilities built a house in just three hours. This was a public demonstration of PREVENT HATE and the Los Angeles Department on Disability’s joint training program that empowers at-risk and marginalized populations.

If a picture paints a thousand words, then a public demonstration paints millions. In just a few hours, we disproved many reasons for discrimination against people living with disabilities because we successfully demonstrated that when they are provided with adequate tools, training, and resources, they do contribute to their communities, including the workforce, productively.

Much thanks to the Veterans Affairs (VA) health center in Long Beach, CA for bringing vets with disabilities to build the house — all volunteers. They were awesome, worked hard, and showed that they are ready to conquer their obstacles and get back to work. In addition, here is a big THANK YOU to all of our sponsors, particularly SolarWorld, the event’s premier sponsor, who additionally provided solar panels for the program. For more information, here is SolarWorld’s press release.

Some of the specs about the house we built, which is an original design by PREVENT HATE’s training director, Barry Leneman, are as follows:

  • Low cost at $10.00 per square foot;
  • High strength compliance with UBC (Uniform Building Code) and IBC (International Building Code) for earthquake and hurricane;
  • Built rapidly with little to no waste;
  • Relocatable with minimal damage;
  • Well lighted and ventilated;
  • Ready for solar installation;
  • Eco-friendly materials;
  • Rapidly deployable;
  • Could be used during widespread emergencies, and/or to reduce homelessness, and/or to provide shelter during large infrastructure projects;
  • Easily constructed by people with disabilities;
  • Universally accessible and ADA-compliant;
  • Now available to be produced and used immediately anywhere in the world (contact us for inquiries).

This is how we prevent hate… through best practices in socioeconomic development. See for yourselves (and ignore the time stamps on the photos).

Getting started...

Barry Leneman, PREVENT HATE's training director, directing the vets.

Rapidly constructed

Los Angeles City Councilmember, Jan Perry, stopped by to check out the program and greet the vets

Constant teamwork builds houses and unity at the same time

The house is ADA-compliant and universally accessible to accommodate physical disabilities so that, even during widespread emergencies, the house will provide shelter to whomever needs it upon demand

New friends were made that day, and the vets felt extremely empowered by being of service to people who are disadvantaged other than themselves

New friends preventing hate together (Matt Rosenthal, PREVENT HATE's president, center)

Ready for solar installation

In just 3 hours, the house is finished!

A job well done.

Our sponsors

July 26, 2010 Program at Los Angeles City Hall: Empowering People With Disabilities

On July 26, 2010, PREVENT HATE, in partnership with the City of Los Angeles, will hold a public demonstration at Los Angeles City Hall on behalf of our joint training program to empower people with disabilities. The program will utilize labor from people with disabilities to build emergency housing in just one day in order to dispel bias against them, and to promote methods of self-sufficiency. This is part of a larger program at Los Angeles City Hall in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

PREVENT HATE continues to bring much needed, innovative programming to marginalized and disadvantaged populations. Thank you so much for your continued support.

Upcoming Briefing Before the California State Advisory Committee for the United States Commission on Civil Rights

There will be a briefing before the education sub-committee of the California Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights on Thursday, April 29, 2010. The topic of the briefing is “Free Speech on California Public University and College Campuses.”

This is hearing is open to the public and the testimony will be sent to Washington.

The reason for this briefing is that there are members of the California Advisory Committee who think anti-harrassment speech policies on university campuses contradict the right to free speech. Other committee members believe such policies are motivated to ensure that all students, regardless of race, sex, ethnicity, religion, or disability have equal access to education without being harrassed, or having to suffer a hostile learning environment. What do you think? Make your voice heard if you are a California resident.

Send us your emails and we will pass them along to the acting western regional director of the US Commission on Civil Rights, or contact us if you are interested in attending.

Transcript of PREVENT HATE Twitter Chat with U.S. Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity

PREVENT HATE is beginning to offer the general public access to various leaders, movers, and shakers globally in order for all of you to gain additional insight as to what is happening throughout the world, and how you can get involved making your own communities better for all its inhabitants. Part of this is through our Twitter account by hosting chats with various officials so that you can make your voices heard, and have your questions answered.

On September 15, 2009, PREVENT HATE hosted a Twitter chat with John Trasviña, the United States Assistant Secretary of Fair Housing and Equal Opportunity. The full transcript of the chat is as follows.

10:01 AM We are beginning our chat with the US Asst. of Fair Housing, John Trasvina. Welcome Assistant Secretary!

10:01 AM For the next hour, our Tweets will be from the US Assistant Secretary … Begin now
10:02 AM I am happy to be with you in Los Angeles and across the country

10:04 AM Q1) Section 3 requires low income people to get job training, but what about about people with disabilities who can’t work?


10:06 AM A1) Just b/c someone has a disability does not disqualify him/her from work and the point of Sec. 3 is to promote job options for low income


10:07 AM Not options … job opportunities for low income

10:08 AM Does housing law extend to the #LGBT community?
10:09 AM A2) Currently does not cover GLBT. We are looking at the experiences in the 22 states and DC where such discrimination is illegal.
10:10 AM A2 cont’d) In CA you can go to dfeh.ca.gov for more info.


10:11 AM  @Najia7 @WyreDragon Please go ahead
10:16 AM Q3) Are you aware that there increase in homeless female veterans who have PTSD from rape by other military colleagues?
10:17 AM A3) VA and HUD together Sec. Shiseki and Sec. Donavan are collaborating on programs to support homeless vets. DHHS SAMSA has trauma network.

10:18 AM @Najia7 Does your dept focus on green building/improve indoor air quality/saving energy/creating jobs with #SOLAR public housing?


10:19 AM in reply to Najia7 We focus on sustainable communities. Some focus is on energy innovation w/in home and making sure transportation and housing are in synch

10:20 AM @WyreDragon What actions are being taken to prevent predatory lending practices?
10:21 AM in reply to WyreDragon HUD focuses on making homes affordable, which means we try to keep ppl in homes and prevent forclosures, and help modify their situations

10:22 AM 61% of ppl who had subprime mortgages qualified for traditional loans and did not have to be in the situation they now find themselves in


10:22 AM Go to makinghomeaffordable.gov for more info.

10:23 AM @Najia7 how about mobilizing communities with diverse groups to work together on green housing projects to release possible tensions?

10:24 AM We all have a stake & role in doing that. I will be speaking to a group later this wk – Building One America – which revitalizes communities

10:27 AM Q4) How can someone who is currently homeless get into public housing?


10:28 AM A4) They should go to local housing authority to see if they qualify for Sec. 8 voucher. There are local programs and types of assistance.
10:29 AM Also, you can go to hud.gov to learn about various types of programs and assistance available for homeless individuals and families.


10:30 AM Q5) Is all public housing ADA compliant?
10:32 AM A5) Accessibility to housing is protected by the Amer. w Disabilities act. Also …

10:33 AM Our off. enforces Sec. 504 of Rehab Act & 1988’s Fair Housing amendments, which ensures access to units of 4+ unit buildings built after ’91


10:36 AM Q6) The LA Riots of 1991 were based on bad lending, by allowing immigrants to get loans more easily than locals. Any comment?


10:38 AM A6) I disagree with the premise that this is what happened. African-Americans and immigrants both have been victimized by predatory lending


10:39 AM Q7) Does preventing discrimination based on sex include people who have changed their sex medically?

10:40 AM A7) If one can prove that discrimination is against sex, then yes If based on sexual orientation, more likely covered by state or local laws
10:41 AM One of most compelling arguments to expand the law is research that many LGBT people have to hide their identity to get a home.

10:42 AM Nobody should have to hide their identity in USA


10:43 AM Q8) What would it take to have sexual orientation to be covered as a category that cannot be discriminated against?

10:44 AM A8) It would take a bill approved by Congress and signed by the President

10:45 AM Q9) Why don’t people have to speak English to get federal funds and public housing?

10:47 AM A9) The protection of Constitution extends to all who speak other languages as well as those born with English on the tongue — Meyer vs. NE
10:47 AM Meyer vs. Nebraska is the case

10:48 AM Q10) Does your office work with community groups to provide services and programs in public housing?


10:49 AM A10) We focus on fair housing. Yes we work with community grps and offer funding to prevent discrimination in housing


10:50 AM Q11) Does your office consider AIDS related discrimination as disability discrimination?


10:51 AM A11) AIDS discrimination may be considered discrimination against a disability according to the law


10:53 AM Q12) Have you seen an increase in people requesting public housing?


10:54 AM A12) For more information about this, please visit hud.gov/pih


10:56 AM After 41 years of law, housing discrimination still persists. I encourage people to check out hud.gov/fheo, or call 1-800-669-9777.

10:57 AM @NAMIMass There has always been a public housing shortage in MA. Housing is the hardest need to fulfill for the mentally ill

10:58 AM in reply to @NAMIMass Many thought the work was over in ’88 when we expanded the Fair Housing law to protect ppl with disabilities but we need more work

10:58 AM @NAMIMass NAMI is a valuable leader in the effort!

10:59 AM And so is Matt Rosenthal of PREVENT HATE. Thank you! — End chat.

11:01 AM PREVENT HATE sincerely thanks Asst. Secretary Trasvina of Fair Housing at HUD for his time, wisdom, and dedication, and for this chat.

Intercultural Exchange with Delegation from China’s Disabled Persons’ Federation

Last week PREVENT HATE met with a delegation from China’s Disabled Persons’ Federation. We were invited by the Los Angeles City Department on Disability to participate in an intimate roundtable discussion about empowering people with disabilities. Three quick asides FYI: 1) The City of Los Angeles is the international model for government services to people living with disabilities. 2) We were impressed by the Chinese delegation for coming to the meeting right from the airport. They didn’t even stop at their hotel first. Now that’s commitment. They certainly have our deepest respect for their dedication to be of service to some of their least advantaged population. 3) The office space for the Los Angeles City Department on Disability is fabulous. And compared to their last space … let’s just say they went from eek to chic. 

The meeting went quickly actually. Matthew Rosenthal, President, and Stephanie Stone, Associate, represented PREVENT HATE (Steph is also Vice Chair of the Los Angeles County Commission on Veterans Affairs) together with Barry Leneman, our Witness Humanity director and executive director of Ethic Housing. We, along with the City of L.A. and the Chinese delegates, shared best practices and ideas about how to provide services to people with disabilities, as well as how to foster self-sufficiency and independence. (And, yes, we happened to mention our training program that focuses on this issue.) The Los Angeles City Department on Disability and PREVENT HATE stressed the importance of utilizing public-private partnerships to achieve goals. We were aware that this may not be so easily replicated in the People’s Republic of China, but we wanted them to understand our way of doing things nevertheless to help them know us better since an important component of this meeting was to foster intercultural relations around an important humanitarian issue — the PREVENT HATE method at work!

At the end of the day, per usual, we made some new friends and colleagues. Whenever we do these things we have such a good time that it feels like we are combining business with pleasure.

Upcoming Meeting: California State Advisory Committee for US Commission on Civil Rights

There will be a meeting of the California State Advisory Committee for the US Commission on Civil Rights on August 11 at 9:00 a.m. in downtown L.A. It’s a public meeting, so all Californians are welcome to come and discuss civil rights issues you feel need federal oversight in the state. For further details, you can write to us here at PREVENT HATE. Or feel free to send your thoughts to us, and Matt Rosenthal, PREVENT HATE’s president, will pass them along to the other committee members.