Free Press Journal

The Arab Spring balance sheet


Last years events in Egypt and Tunisia drew the curtain on a tottering old order and delivered much of the Arab world into a longawaited new era. But what that new era will look like remains very much an open question, given the many challenges that the regions countries still face. The old order that has begun to vanish extends beyond the former regimes. The regions entire value system – a political culture forged by autocracy – is being transformed. Arab men and women have shed the sense of humiliation and inferiority that despotism imposed on them – and that fostered desperation, anger, violence, and insularity.

This transformation, though far from complete – indeed, it may well last years – has nonetheless started to bear fruit. If the 2011 uprisings had not occurred, we would now be witnessing another year of autocracy, with more talk of dynastic successions. That would mean further humiliation for ordinary people, who bear the brunt of corruption, as government officials and their crony capitalists continued to siphon off public funds. The Arab media would still be heaping uncritical praise on the regions presidents and their families, while development programmes would be looted by them. Education would continue to stagnate, and Arab societies, which are divided across sectarian, tribal, and regional lines, would experience rising levels of retribution and violence. The infamous ” death boats,” on which hundreds of young North African men risked their lives every year in search of employment and a better life abroad, would continue to deliver those who survived the journey onto Europes unwelcoming shores.

And Arabsalt39 rage would reach unprecedented levels, causing utter mayhem and destruction.

Arab youth have rescued the Arab world from this fate. Their conscientiousness and integrity have restored peoples self- confidence. The old regimesalt39 opponents have demonstrated bravery without recklessness, and differences of opinion without bigotry.

Indeed, we have seen Islamists, liberals, and leftists standing together in defiance.

We have seen Muslims and Copts protect each other in Cairo. In Yemen, we have seen local tribesmen follow a woman, Nobel Peace Prize winner Tawakel Karman, in the fight for freedom.

And we have seen the Arab media foster a mature debate about democracy, constitutionalism, and the role of Islam in the modern state, rather than dispensing disinformation and crass propaganda.

But the transformation must not stop here. The new and old political forces should initiate a dialogue to create a consensus on the rules of political engagement.

As the people become their own masters, those who fail to engage in this process will eventually find themselves without political power.

Other countries in the region, and beyond, should embrace the Arab Spring.

In particular, the members of the Gulf Cooperation Council ( GCC) should abandon their hesitance to support the post- revolution governments. Ultimately, the changes occurring in the Arab world will contribute to the entire regions economic prosperity and political stability.

Today, Tunisia and Egypt are experiencing severe economic crises. Before Tunisias revolution, for example, 500,000 of its labor force of 3.6 million were unemployed, and that number has since risen to 700,000. Egypt has lost roughly $ 9 billion in capital flight in recent months. But, according to Egypts prime minister, Kamal al- Ganzouri, the countrys Arab ” brethren” have delivered only $ 1 billion of the $ 10.5 billion in aid and loans that they promised.

Moreover, Tunisia and Egypt have so far received none of the $ 35 billion promised by the G- 8 countries. And, given the current global economic crisis, the funds are not likely to be forthcoming in the near future.

The regions emerging democracies urgently need an Arab initiative that resembles the Marshall Plan – a program to attract large- scale investment in infrastructure, industry, and agricu