Mar 19 2013
As Bahrain enters the third year of a crisis sparked by Arab Spring protests in 2011, the government continues to bar many human rights advocates and journalists from entering the country.
But one non-profit group is not only being welcomed into the tiny Gulf kingdom, it’s opening an office there. And it’s doing so with funding from Bahrain’s ruling monarchy.
The International Peace Institute, a New York-based think tank closely associated with the United Nations, announced last month an agreement to open the office to “promote development, peace and international security.”
The announcement comes at a time when Bahrain’s image-conscious government is still under international scrutiny amid continued pro-democracy protests. Human rights groups have criticized the government’s at times violent crackdown on the protests and failure to follow through on promised reforms.
Institute President Terje Rød-Larsen, a veteran diplomat in the Mideast who is also a United Nations under-secretary-general, told ProPublica that the new office would be a positive force in Bahrain and the region.
He compared the think tank to United Nations programs that operate in or receive funding from countries that are in crisis or face criticism.
“Problems related to peace and security are in difficult countries,” Rød-Larsen said.
Bahrain appeals to the institute as a location for an office because “along many dimensions it’s an open society,” he said, citing the status of women and “freedom of religion.”