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The Arab Spring nations also share many economic similarities. A trigger of the Arab Spring has been high youth unemployment and socio-economic inequalities that can be found in all partner states. Especially in transition states, where economic development is an important factor for successful democratic consolidation, international actors should foster economic development. As Western democracies are facing economic crises now, it is questionable how much they will be willing to commit in this respect.

A way out of the dilemma could be as suggested by Shadi Hamid from the Brookings Institution to coordinate economic responses in a multilateral endowment for democracy in the Arab world. Fourthly, media, civil society, and political associations suffered to various degrees from years of autocracy in all Mediterrenean partner states. Since these actors are essential for building up sustainable democracies, democracy assistance needs to focus more on them to foster political pluralism. The EUs new Civil Society Facility and a European Endowment for Democracy represent important steps in the right direction, but their planned funding is too small.

However, all Arab Spring states would profit from increased support for civil society. Diversification in this area does not only mean to take the specific civil landscape of each country into consideration, but also to involve all local NGOs including Islamic ones. In light of the different pathways and challenges that the countries in the Mediterranean neighborhood are facing, the EU and the United States need to diversify their strategies in respect to conditionality, capacity building, and civil society.

Ultimately, democracy building needs to be pursued in a learning-by-doing strategy, which closely listens to the protest movements and civil societies in the countries concerned. She is currently completing her Ph. GMF does this by supporting individuals and institutions working in the transatlantic sphere, by convening leaders and members of the policy and business communities, by contributing research and analysis on transatlantic topics, and by providing exchange opportunities to foster renewed commitment to the transatlantic relationship.

In addition, GMF supports a number of initiatives to strengthen democracies. Founded in through a gift from Germany as a permanent memorial to Marshall Plan assistance, GMF maintains a strong presence on both sides of the Atlantic. A non-profit organization, the IAI aims to disseminate knowledge through research studies, conferences, and publications. To that end, it cooperates with other research institutes, universities, and foundations in Italy and abroad and is a member of various international networks.

More specifically, the main research sectors are European institutions and policies, Italian foreign policy, trends in the global economy and internationalization processes in Italy, the Mediterranean and the Middle East, defense economy and policy, and transatlantic relations. Read Free For 30 Days. This policy brief advocates for diverse EU responses to the Arab Spring. Flag for inappropriate content.

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The end of spring? Democratic transitions in the Arab world

Nassef Manabilang Adiong. Ismail M Hassani. Pearl Angeli Quisido Canada.

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Benjamin Phillip Larson. Rethinking Disarmament, Demobilization and Reintegration Programs. Jorge A. Changing the prevailing cultural norms and professional practices of sprawling security bureaucracies will take many years. The first step for any credible reform effort must be centered on vetting and removing the most corrupt officials from positions of authority.

Because such steps can be destabilizing in transitioning societies, reformers may have to take a more cautious approach. In some instances especially if retaliation is a concern , administrative reassignment might be more prudent than removing a potential offender from a sensitive position. Targeted vetting is absolutely necessary if institutional reform is to take root, as it signals intent and begins the process of establishing working norms of behavior. Reform will also require that democratization extend to civilian control and oversight.

In many countries this will necessarily be a gradual process of normalizing civil-military and civil-police relations. The early stages of transition will be critical in terms of establishing the legal frameworks governing these relationships. Additionally, establishing meritocratic promotional structures will help guard against future politicization of the security sector and decouple it from regime maintenance.

Finally, monitoring and advocacy by civil society will provide a key check on abuse, and setting a durable and robust legal framework for such groups will be an important safeguard against repression. Security-sector reform is a difficult task, but precedent for success does exist. A key example is post-apartheid South Africa, which took an ambitious, long-term approach to integrating former adversaries into the government and shrinking the size of the security sector. Similarly, the experience of post-Communist Eastern European countries is largely positive; a relapse into security-sector repression is no longer a possibility in many of these societies.

The impediments to effective security-sector reform in the Arab world are numerous, but the conditions for it do exist—even, surprisingly, within the security institutions themselves, thanks to a small number of internal stakeholders who support reform as part of their efforts to professionalize their services. Transitional justice—commonly defined as the measures employed by post-conflict and post-authoritarian states to cope with legacies of mass abuse and atrocity—has to be an integral part of efforts to consolidate change in the Arab world.

Establishing a thorough accounting of past abuses would help lay the foundation for a more accountable political culture and provide a basis for credible national reconciliation. Transitional or post-conflict justice took form as a discipline in the s and s with several noteworthy efforts, including the truth-and-reconciliation process in South Africa, numerous prosecutorial efforts in Latin America, and the ad hoc international tribunals to address the atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda.

These developments produced an emerging consensus that dealing with histories of mass atrocity, abuse, and repression was a necessary prerequisite to creating open and responsive politics and a democratic culture. What these varied experiences have made clear is that on issues of accountability, there are no rigid formulas for success. Furthermore, the pace of such efforts shows that transitional justice is not solely a concern in the immediate post-authoritarian environment.

This stands in contrast to the more immediate nonprosecutorial efforts undertaken by South Africa to address past abuses and repression. And efforts to wholly avoid the past, as in post-Franco Spain, will not necessarily preclude successful democratic transition. Still, compiling an unimpeachable historical record of abuse, repression, and atrocities is an important step in protecting against authoritarian relapse, particularly during turbulent and inconclusive transition periods when the allure of law and order may propel reactionary politics.

These types of initiatives will also play a role in capacity building, since transitional justice involves complex legal and investigatory issues that require the devotion of resources and professionalized attention. Fashioning a political consensus behind transitional justice can be critical for transitioning societies. Relatedly, the facile and cynical use of transitional justice as a means to serve narrow political ends can corrupt the process and further the impression that such efforts are merely an exercise in cementing newly constructed political and social status.

While the mix of methods will necessarily vary, prosecutions remain a legitimate and important, if limited, tool for holding accountable high-level actors in positions of responsibility and authority. In light of the inherent limitations of prosecutions, other forms of accountability should be encouraged, including bureaucratic vetting to ensure that those complicit with past abuse can no longer serve in government.

Such processes should be tightly focused on past behavior and avoid the temptation of blanket purges based on mere association. However, prosecutions and vetting alone cannot begin to cope with the extensive histories of abuse and criminality that the societies of the region will be forced to confront. And for this reason, other means will be necessary to establish thorough and rigorous accounts of past crimes and repression. Truth and historical commissions can play an important supplementary role, particularly in establishing the historical record.

The distortion of history is an ever-present danger in the transitional setting, and fundamental reconciliation is not possible if the basic facts and history of political repression are unacknowledged by significant sectors of society. Autocracies are characterized by centralization—power in the hands of one oligarchy, one group, one junta, sometimes one person. Democracies are characterized by decentralization—power dispersed across different branches and levels of government, intended to give citizens and their elected representatives a bigger say.

The countries of the Middle East and North Africa lag behind the rest of the world with respect to decentralization. There are myriad historical explanations for this state of affairs, and a recent study by the World Bank pointed to the still-potent legacy of the Ottoman Empire, with its centralized approach to tax administration and the experience of decolonization in the region.

Throughout the region, deconcentration is the norm, where administrative management and responsibilities are simply redistributed among different levels of the central government and geographically dispersed rather than being shared with autonomous local governments. Decentralization should be seen as an opportunity to explore and refine development strategies, since local governments often have a clearer understanding of issues that affect them, including transportation and social services.

Localized administration also reduces administrative costs and streamlines procedural requirements. How can top-heavy regimes decentralize?

Arab governments have a broad array of potential approaches. Most important are credible municipal and provincial elections, which establish greater political accountability and help to break patterns of regional neglect. True accountability in turn will depend on service provision, and devolution of authority will be necessary to create the basis for such judgments.

While this will vary dramatically among and within countries, it will entail some authority to design, finance, and manage the delivery of services to constituents. Of course, changes for the better in any single state, no matter how dramatic, will remain precarious without strong regional norms—states adopting generally similar standards of behavior and adhering to them. The strongest states, along with stable regional organizations, must encourage reforms and new standards. Throughout this period of regional upheaval, it has been evident that revitalized notions of collective identity and transnational ties have spurred widespread activism.

Shared media space, including satellite channels and social media, has encouraged these trends and helped to regionalize the politics of protest. It has also made the behavior of autocratic rulers a subject of intense interest for Arab citizens, marking a departure from past attitudes. This pressure has had an impact on the regional state system, where the Arab League has undertaken nontraditional interventionist steps in response to the crises in Libya and Syria.

The Arab League has condemned abuse and repression within targeted member states and advocated for international intervention to precipitate regime change. The lead role of Saudi Arabia and Qatar on these issues is representative both of the dramatic shift in the regional balance of power and the prioritization of strategic interests. However, while the motivations for regional actions are suspect based on the identity of their sponsors, these interventions nevertheless mark an important departure that will have long-term effects on regional norm-building.

For a regional political order that has long been zealous in its defense of sovereignty and indifferent to human rights, these steps will likely have far-reaching unintended consequences.

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The emergence of regional norms will also depend heavily on the success of the ongoing transitions and the establishment of a critical mass of democratic countries within the Arab world. It will also depend on the willingness of newly democratic states to champion human rights and encourage democratic reform beyond their borders. The emergence of such a bloc would be a boon to reformers in undemocratic states and would likely accelerate regional democratization.

Similarly, it might also provide a vehicle for increased regional friction between transitioning states and states that chose a different path with respect to dissent and regional change. In an important sense, all the preceding factors depend to varying degrees on these societies becoming more pluralistic—allowing more democracy, more dissent, more breathing room for secularism.

The ongoing transitions, however, have made clear that the future of open, pluralistic politics is far from assured. In fact, key political actors in the region have made it their goal to support notions of religious supremacy and to restrict rights and freedoms based on regressive interpretations of Islam and Islamic law.

At root, much of this discussion is grounded in the approach of Islamist political parties to constitutional construction and ideas of citizenship. In this regard, religious institutions and clerics will have an active role in legislative matters and affairs of state. The implementation of Islamic law in Egypt represents a critical issue that will extend beyond the drafting and approval of constitutional frameworks.

This emphasis on the mandate of the ballot box at the expense of rights protection is further aggravated by the rightward pull of more rigid Salafi political parties. In both Tunisia and Egypt, Ennahdha and the Muslim Brotherhood have been loath to alienate these actors, seeing them as both allies against non-Islamists and rivals in the electoral setting. While these groups have long abandoned violence as a tool, cynically allowing other actors to intimidate and coerce political opponents will fuel cycles of violence. If mainline Islamists refuse to distinguish their politics from those of their radical Islamist rivals, the future for pluralism is bleak and, in that postwar context, could lead to mass atrocities and revenge killings.

This potentially grim future is not limited to the fate of minority populations, but could also apply to dissent. The difficult art of compromise is not a self-evident practice and will be dependent on robust representation of non-Islamists in elected positions, the rise of effective civil-society groups, and the slow acculturation to a more dynamic political life.

More importantly, the coming years will illustrate whether political movements grounded in Islam can govern effectively and whether their approach to governance will respect the role and rights of non-Islamists within the Arab world.

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Lastly, if these groups attempt to re-establish a form of repressive stability, the revitalized politics of the region will likely lead to further instability and violence. With the collapse of communism and the rise of Islamist militancy, recent decades have seen an additional focus on terrorism that has further entangled the United States in the geopolitics of the Middle East, often in disastrous ways. The challenge now for the United States is to adopt a more balanced posture in keeping with its national interests while remaining engaged with a transforming and still-volatile region.

A first step is to properly assess U. Protecting the free flow of oil, which is not currently threatened, does not require an imperial footprint or a sprawling U.

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The outdated Carter Doctrine—the declaration that the free flow of oil from the region was of vital importance to U. Lastly, the United States should assess accurately the threats it faces from the region. It has nothing remotely resembling a peer competitor, including Iran, a country with limited expeditionary military capacity. The terrorist threat, while persistent, is not existential and cannot serve as the unifying link of American grand strategy.

In light of this reality, the United States should seek to trim its military footprint, thereby limiting its exposure to the repressive actions of nominal allies and aligning its expenditures with actual interests. This is not to say that the United States should liquidate its positions and abandon its allies in the region.

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In fact, predictions of American decline in the Arab world are often rooted in a misconception of the historical role of the United States. Accepting these limitations is an appropriate starting point to constructing more effective strategy. From the perspective of U. This narrows the options for prudent U. In a changing Arab world, unconditional support of nominal allies will endanger the very stability that the United States prizes. As the necessity for representational politics and good governance grows, the policy dilemmas of old might begin to fade; the outmoded desire for client states might be supplanted by mature relationships with states that share important strategic interests with the United States.

In this light, the ideal of democracy will likely come to be seen as a more necessary ingredient to stability and protection of American interests. Doing this would include taking steps such as pressing for municipal and provincial elections as a precursor to broader reforms. In pushing such a course on countries that have avoided regime change, the United States can explore anew the feasibility of more gradual reform, which has often been employed rhetorically by authoritarians to avoid actual reform.

Further, an approach that seeks to impart governing responsibilities upon opposition groups will ease their potential transition to national leadership.


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The United States also should not make assumptions about the inevitable role of Islamists. Such an approach will alienate non-Islamist political forces and encourage the monopolization of power by Islamist groups. The emerging politics of the region are likely to be dynamic and the prevailing political order in transitioning countries will be fluid. Assuming Islamist predominance will also create a misplaced permissiveness with respect to religiously based repression.

What might be termed the soft bigotry of Orientalist expectations would undermine notions of universal values and encourage an inherently unstable model of governance that will ill serve U.