The following information reports U.S. Government priorities and activities of the U.S. mission in Kuwait to promote democracy and human rights. For background on Kuwait's human rights conditions, please see the 2009 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
and International Religious Freedom Reports
The U.S. Government has four main democracy objectives in the country: to increase democratic stability and the accountability of democratic institutions, to improve treatment of foreign laborers, to expand empowerment of women, and to increase press freedom. The United States supports the government's efforts to strengthen its democratic practices to ensure long-term stability, reduce governmental cronyism, and counter the appeal of extremists who advocate the use of violence to achieve political goals. The United States seeks to highlight the treatment of foreign laborers in public discourse and encourages stronger legislation and enforcement of internationally accepted standards to combat trafficking in persons. The United States supports the country's efforts to enhance further the role of women in the political process. Finally, the United States seeks to strengthen understanding in the country about the key role a free press plays in a democracy.
The U.S. Government uses a variety of tools to promote democracy in the country, including diplomatic efforts, speaking events, election-related programs, and educational programs. Embassy officials regularly address democratization in meetings with a range of government officials. The ambassador and embassy staff visit the country's numerous "diwaniyas" (evening political salons) to voice support for the democratic system. In May 2009 the U.S. Government funded a local NGO to run a "Get Out the Vote" campaign for the March parliamentary election. Other recent efforts include presentations on the U.S. political system by the U.S. ambassador and other U.S. embassy officials to students at the Gulf University for Science and Technology, Kuwait University, and others; an embassy-conceived course on different cultural approaches to terrorism, culminating in a "moot court" terrorism trial attended by the ambassador; a five-week training program at various U.S. universities for four Kuwaiti student leaders to learn about democratic principles; several internship programs for Kuwaiti students to work in Washington, DC, to better understand the U.S. political process and the role NGOs play; a training program encouraging political activism among Kuwaiti youth; and a series of leadership workshops for young people. In addition, each year, the United States awards English-language microscholarships to approximately 75 high school students as part of an effort to help instill the values of democracy and civic participation through in-class elections and community service projects. In advance of the 2008 and 2009 parliamentary elections, a U.S. Government partner organization provided campaign development and planning assistance to candidates.
The U.S. Government publicly calls for the government to address the problem of foreign worker rights. U.S. officials work closely with the Kuwaiti government and diplomatic missions of labor-sending countries to increase awareness about the plight of the expatriate labor community, including conditions of human trafficking. Embassy officials meet with their counterparts to advocate for more shelters, legislation, and convictions of trafficking violators. In November 2009 the U.S. ambassador-at-large for combating trafficking in persons joined the embassy's quarterly worker rights meeting with diplomats from labor-sending countries and NGO representatives and delivered a speech on the need for the country to pass comprehensive antitrafficking legislation. These quarterly meetings also spawned the 2008 publishing of multilingual brochures, which embassies distribute, informing foreign workers of their rights and instructing them how to seek help in an emergency.
To promote women's rights and freedom of speech, the embassy holds discussions with members of the government, women's rights activists, and journalists; hosts speakers and roundtables; and publicly calls for the end of discrimination in housing rights. In March as part of her ongoing public speaking on the importance of women's participation in economic spheres, the U.S. ambassador participated in the First Woman Forum, a conference on women's rights in the country.
In April embassy officials consulted with a local lawyer and activist to discuss her efforts to represent in court another female lawyer hoping to become the country's first female prosecutor. Four Kuwaiti women, nominated by the U.S. embassy, participated in a February technology conference in the United Arab Emirates for female leaders in the Middle East. Additionally, the U.S. Government's Women in Law Program provided legal skills training for several female law students and new lawyers. As part of the U.S. Government's ongoing program to promote press freedom, the embassy funded a visit by a U.S. journalism professor who delivered lectures on journalism ethics at a number of universities in March. Also during that month, the U.S. Government funded the Kuwait Journalist Association's program to improve the performance of newspaper editors and managers; as a part of the program, the ambassador spoke on the critical role that journalists play in a democracy. Other U.S. officials regularly speak on the importance of press and Internet freedom. The U.S. Government works to boost citizens' access to information. In May 2009 U.S. officials delivered presentations to Kuwait University faculty and students about how to access information from U.S. libraries.