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  • Author: Kathleen Kuehnast, Hodei Sultan, Manal Omar, Steven E. Steiner
  • Publication Date: 11-2012
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: In transitioning countries such as Afghanistan and Iraq, women are increasingly finding their rights limited by state and religious leaders. Cultural and national stereotypes can be quickly overcome by the shared backgrounds, accomplishments, obstacles, and aspirations of women in transitioning countries. Women living in countries in transition value opportunities to network with women from other countries in similar situations. Women leaders from Afghanistan and Iraq have genuine concerns about the challenges facing women in the Arab Spring. Their valuable opinions are based on their own experiences of overcoming those challenges. It is essential that women work together and with men to further women's rights. Women must plan for a transition before it happens and have a strategy of work going into the transition process. Laws empowering and protecting women do not work if they are not enforced. International donors need a long-term view of women's programming, as much of the required work will take time. Donors should consider nonurban areas when working with women, and when possible nonelite partners, as these leaders understand the limitations of local conditions. It is possible for women's groups to find common ground with religious leaders.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Democratization, Development, Gender Issues, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Iraq, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Mark Sedra
  • Publication Date: 11-2011
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The events of the Arab Spring are a unique and unprecedented opportunity for democratic political change for the Middle East and North Africa, but the political transitions in that region remain fragile. The United States and other external actors can help the new democratic regimes by supporting their efforts at security sector reform (SSR).
  • Topic: Democratization, Development, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Pierre Hazan
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: Facing the Atlantic and Mediterranean, just nine miles from the Spanish coast, Morocco is essential for stability in Europe, Africa, the Middle East, and American interests in these regions. The United States and the European Union fully recognize its strategic importance. Its proximity, large diaspora, and extensive trade with Europe place it at the top of the EU's Mediterranean strategy agenda. The United States has designated Morocco a major non-NATO ally; it also was one of the first Arab countries to sign a free-trade agreement with the United States. The Kingdom of Morocco is facing four challenges: weak economic growth; a social crisis resulting from social inequalities, with 20 percent of the population in absolute poverty and 57 percent illiterate; lack of trust in the governing institutions because of the high level of corruption; and an unstable regional and international environment. These factors strengthen the appeal of various Islamist movements, from moderate to more radical groups such as the authors of the deadly bombings in Casablanca in 2003 and Madrid in 2004. Moreover, the conflict over the Western Sahara places Morocco's and Algeria's armies, the two most powerful in North Africa, toe to toe. Unlike Tunisia and Algeria, since the end of the Cold War Morocco has taken steps toward political liberalization, and its pace has accelerated since Mohammed VI came to the throne in 1999. As part of the process of liberalization, the king established a truth and reconciliation commission (TRC) in January 2004. This is one of very few cases in which a TRC was created without a regime change. Thousands of victims tortured during the reign of King Mohammed's father, King Hassan II, have been given the opportunity to voice their sufferings publicly and have been promised financial compensation. Such outcomes are unprecedented in a region known for its culture of impunity. Morocco is the first Arab Islamic society to establish a TRC. Its experience shows that political factors play a primary role in the functioning of such a body, while religious and cultural factors are of secondary importance. Although the Moroccan TRC is not an exportable model, it could inspire other majority Muslim societies, such as Afghanistan and Lebanon, which are envisaging or might set up TRCs to confront crimes of past regimes. Some security experts hoped the TRC would be effective in the “soft war” against terrorism by winning the hearts and minds of the population. The actual experience in Morocco shows the limits of this approach. The tension is too strong between the perceived requirements of the antiterrorist struggle and a process to establish accountability for past crimes and advance democratization. In the final analysis, the “war against terrorism” has limited the TRC's impact in Morocco. The report of the Moroccan TRC, published in early 2006, recommended diminution of executive powers, strengthening of parliament, and real independence for the judicial branch. The king and the political parties must decide in the coming years if they will permit the transformation of the “executive monarchy” of Morocco into a parliamentary monarchy. This decision will affect the stability of the kingdom, North Africa, and, to a lesser extent, Europe and the Middle East.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, International Relations, Development
  • Political Geography: Afghanistan, Africa, United States, America, Europe, Middle East, Arabia, Algeria, Spain, North Africa, Lebanon, Morocco, Tunisia
  • Author: Jonathan Morrow
  • Publication Date: 07-2006
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: United States Institute of Peace
  • Abstract: The cycle of violence in Iraq is, in part, constitutional: it derives from competing visions of the Iraqi state that have not been reconciled. An amendment to Iraq's constitution to delay the creation of new federal regions, together with a package of legislation and intergovernmental agreements on oil, division of governmental power between Baghdad and the regions, and the judiciary, may be enough to slow or even arrest this decline in the security situation, and may be achievable. A “government of national unity,” though desirable, will not by itself be able to generate the necessary constitutional consensus. Iraq's new legislature, the Council of Representatives, is now considering the process of constitutional amendment described in Article 142 of the constitution. Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has announced the constitutional review as part of his government's platform. This amendment process, assuming it proceeds, will come in the wake of widespread opposition to the constitution from Sunni Arab Iraqis in the October 2005 referendum. It is expected that a Constitution Review Committee (CRC) will soon be appointed, in line with Article 142. To the extent that it was opposed by Sunni Arabs, the constitution lacks the essential criterion of any constitution: the consent of all major national communities. The 2005 Iraqi constitution may nonetheless, as a legal text, be a sufficient and necessary framework for the radically regionalized Iraqi polity which the constitution drafters envisaged. The constitutional challenge in Iraq is first about peacemaking, not state building. As the Iraqi parliament faces the challenge of appointing, mandating and staffing a CRC, the first, and essential, set of questions is therefore political: How can the amendment process be used as a vehicle to remedy the political failure of last year's constitution drafting process? How can consensus be built, and in particular how can Iraq's Sunni Arabs be encouraged to give their assent to the new federal Iraq? How can Iraq's Kurdish and Shia leaders be encouraged to make worthwhile constitutional concessions to Sunni Arab positions so as to elicit that consent? The second set of questions is legal: What are the minimum constitutional amendments needed, if any, to ensure that Iraq is a viable, if not a strong, state? To the extent that the Sunni Arab position has been one that purports to defend the Iraqi state, legal or technical improvements to the text that support Baghdad's ability to govern may draw support from Sunni Arabs, thereby generating clear political benefits. There are additional legal questions that, though not strictly related to the Sunni Arab problem, are pressing: in particular, What are the minimum constitutional amendments needed, if any, to ensure that the human rights of all Iraqis receive adequate protection? It is not only the Sunni Arabs who feel disenfranchised by the constitution; nationalists, some women's groups, and groups representing Iraq's minorities express similar views. It will be very difficult to pass constitutional amendments of any sort, especially those that seek to shift power from Iraq's regions to the central government. Regional interests have the upper hand, constitutionally and politically. There is no reason to expect that the constitution's Kurdish and Shia authors will see the need for constitutional amendments to the text that they themselves deliberately, if hastily, constructed. The referendum procedure for amendment is onerous, with a three-governorate veto power. High expectations of the amendment procedure will lead to disappointment and may amplify, rather than reduce, violence. For this reason, legal instruments other than constitutional amendments must be considered as ways to remedy the political and legal deficiencies of the constitution. A CRC should be established, with strong Sunni Arab membership. Given the pressing and complex nature of the necessary constitutional deal, the CRC should be mandated to make recommendations, where appropriate, not only for constitutional amendments, but also for (1) legislation, (2) intergovernmental agreements and, where appropriate (3) interparty agreements and (4) international agreements, all of which might encourage Sunni Arab political commitment to the Iraqi constitution and ensure viability for the Iraqi state. A three-part formula, concerning the creation of new regions, oil, and the delineation of powers between the central government and the regions, offers a way forward for the CRC to heal the wounds caused by the deficiencies in the 2005 drafting process. That formula would not require the Kurdistan party or the hitherto most influential Shia party, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), to make major modifications to their constitutional positions.
  • Topic: International Relations, Development, Government
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East, Arabia, Kurdistan