12 March 2004 --
In a surprise move to many, President Mohamed Hosny Mubarak came to inaugurate The on Arab Reform Conference organized by Ismail Serageldin and his colleagues at the Library of Alexandria with the co-sponsorship of the Arab Business Council, the Arab Academy for Science and Technology (AAST), The Arab Womens Council, and the Economic Research Forum, and the Arab Organization fro Human Rights. This was the first time that President Mubarak inaugurated a non-governmental affair, and the fact that he did so on a Friday Morning, making a special trip to Alexandria, is very indicative if the extent of interest that he is giving to this unusual initiative. Furthermore, the President delivered his speech in a special session at 10 AM, when the conference was scheduled to start at 6:00PM, thereby emphasizing the fact that no government ministers would participate in the debates.
The Presidents speech was most significant by his emphasis on a partnership between government and civil society, his emphasis on the need for reform and its urgency, and the fact that the basis for reform must be respect for human rights and the removal of all forms of discrimination against women.