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  • Author: Zied Boussen, Mohammed Islam Mbarki
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Tunisian youth are no different from their peers across the world when it comes to their indifference to public life. This apathy towards politics is not new; it goes back before 14 January Revolution. A 2008 national survey of youth showed that around 83% of Tunisian youth were not concerned with politics and 64% were not concerned with elections or joining civil society associations. Nonetheless, the Tunisian youth surprised observers and played an essential role in the revolution that led to the fall of Ben Ali. Immediately after, however, they returned to their position of indifference. The political tensions and episodes of instability that accompanied the democratic transition disappointed the youth greatly and led to apathy towards politics in all its forms. Successive elections were the most glaring example of this attitude: the youth abandoned the ballots and stopped taking initiatives of political work, either as candidates or as voters. The rise of Kais Saied as a presidential candidate seemed to have reignited the Tunisian youth’s interest in politics. They walked with him through all the stages of his elections. They led his most unusual campaign at the smallest cost; they confronted media attacks against him and provided him with alternative and new media platforms that improved his image. This support brought the youth and Kais Saied closer together. Saied also showed great understanding of the youth’s economic and social demands and gave them priority. He shared their anger at the political establishment, so they decided to stand by him to punish the establishment that they see as the source of their successive disappointments. The results of the presidential elections, in which one candidate won the bulk of the votes of the youth participating in the elections, generated many questions about the reasons for the youth’s support of Kais Saied, and the hopes that they hanged on him. What can we infer from this experience that can benefit the youth political participation generally? How does this experience help us understand the actual needs that push young people to participate in public life?
  • Topic: Political Activism, Elections, Youth, Participation
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Stephen J. King
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: After independence, Algeria’s ruling elites chose to suppress identity issues because they saw diversity as a source of division and a threat to their hold on power. The Hirak has challenged the official narrative and called for an overhaul of the established regime, but issues of Black Algerians and anti-black racism still remain absent from public debates. This paper discusses the absence of Black Algerians in on-going debates about democratization, national identity, and belonging in Algeria, and suggests ways in which to address this exclusion.
  • Topic: Discrimination, Black Politics, Exclusion , Identity, Racism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Algeria
  • Author: Intissar Kherigi
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: An account of the Arab uprisings of the last decade would be incomplete without an understanding of regional inequalities. While each country’s protests were driven by a distinct combination of grievances, a common factor has been the marginalisation of “peripheries”. The Sidi Bouzid region of Tunisia from which the Arab Spring started is a region rich in agricultural resources yet poor in infrastructure and economic opportunities. Its connection rate to running water is half the national average. A similar story can be seen across the flashpoints of unrest in the Arab world, a story of widening urban-rural divides, uneven regional development and political and economic exclusion of entire regions. Can decentralisation address these grievances? Since the 1980s, decentralisation has been championed as a driver for both democratisation and development, promising to empower regions, granting them political representation and enabling them to create their own economic strategies. However, a key fear among many, from politicians and bureaucrats to ordinary citizens, is that decentralisation is a means for the central state to withdraw from its traditional functions and transfer responsibility for service provision to under-resourced and over-burdened local government. Yet, the demands for freedom, dignity and social justice voiced by the Arab uprisings require the central state to be more present in peripheries, not less. Can decentralisation help achieve greater local development in peripheral regions without allowing the central state to withdraw from its obligations to citizens? Is it even possible to envisage new forms of local development within the framework of highly centralised Arab states? How can Arab states reconfigure their relations with local communities in the context of severe political and economic crises? This article explores these questions in the Tunisian context, where a major decentralisation process is taking place in response to demands for inclusion and development. It argues that in order to produce new modes of local development in peripheries, central state institutions need to fundamentally reform the way they function.
  • Topic: Inequality, Arab Spring, Decentralization , Bureaucracy
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Tunisia, Tunis
  • Author: Alex Walsh
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The 2011 Egyptian protests started in earnest nine years ago on National Police Day on 25 January, a holiday that Hosni Mubarak had introduced to commemorate Egyptian police officers killed and wounded by British colonial forces in 1952. Protesters upended the original meaning of the holiday to turn it into a symbol of police brutality and corruption under Mubarak. In the drama of the 18 days that followed, Egypt’s internal security apparatus fought the protesters in the streets, delivering one shocking provocation after another, galvanizing the protest movement and ultimately contributing to the removal of Mubarak. Since 2011, the police and internal security forces of many countries in the Arab world have been at the centre of the conflicts and struggles that shape the region for better and for worse. Recent and ongoing encounters between protestors and police in the streets of Iraq, Lebanon, Algeria and Sudan are a stark reminder that the police are more than just a proxy target for a protestation of the state. They are also the object of much anger both as a grouping, and in terms of the concept of policing and social control they embody. The impact of this sustained contestation of police behaviour and doctrine in the region deserves reflection. Has the police and policing changed in the Arab world? And if so, in what ways? This paper maps out some of the main modes in which the police and policing have been contested since 2011, and provides a preliminary assessment of its impact. It argues that mass mobilised contestation has only been successful in the instance where institutional reform followed. It notes that hybridisation of policing – where informal security actors cooperate and challenge formal security actors – has spread in many countries but that the concept of state security – with its emphasis on the state over citizens – continues to prevail across the region. Indeed, almost a decade after that fateful 25 January 2011, many of the aspirations of citizens protesting the police are far from realised, even while there are some promising developments.
  • Topic: Protests, Repression, Police, Police State
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Egypt, Cairo
  • Author: Nadine Abdalla
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Various forms of local activism in Egypt are challenging the shortcomings in local governance and the lack of any developmental urban vision. This paper examines three examples from different neighbourhoods in Giza and Cairo. All three share the goal of resisting exclusionary policies while trying to overcome the absence of political means to register their frustrations given the absence of local councils since 2011.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Arab Spring, Urban, Local
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Egypt, Cairo, Giza
  • Author: Mohammed Masbah
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Moroccan monarchy has used political parties, including the PJD, to legitimize the country’s authoritarian political process and structure, and to absorb social and political anger. This paper argues that putting the parties at the frontline without sufficient capacity to enact deep reforms weakens them as a shield against growing popular frustration. While this approach may work in the short term, it risks the country’s stability in the long term.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Authoritarianism, Political stability, Protests, Political Parties, Monarchy
  • Political Geography: Africa, Morocco
  • Author: Dris Nouri
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic to Algeria has forced the Algerian popular Hirak to suspend demonstrations that continued without interruption for over a year despite the authorities’ various manoeuvres to disrupt them. This paper examines the Algerian authorities’ attempt to exploit the suspension of the protests to deal with the Hirak and assesses the ability of the popular movement to overcome this period.
  • Topic: Protests, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19, Oppression
  • Political Geography: Africa, Algeria
  • Author: Fadi El-Jardali
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: In the Arab region, countries have become increasingly dependent on non-state actors, notably the private sector, for healthcare provision and any response that includes the State alone may not be sufficient to address the COVID-19 pandemic. This paper explores how state and non-state actors in Arab countries have collaborated so far and suggests ways forward to ensure quality healthcare services for all.
  • Topic: Non State Actors, Governance, Health Care Policy, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East
  • Author: Eya Jrad
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: With COVID-19, Tunisia is dealing with an unprecedented emergency that is testing its newly established democratic institutions. This paper explores how Tunisia’s different institutions have responded so far to the crisis, and sheds light on how each is trying to assert its role under the exceptional circumstances imposed by the pandemic.
  • Topic: Governance, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Nacer Djabi
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Algeria has a long and rich history of trade union activism. With the 2019 Hirak, independent unions have participated and supported the protest movement’s demands for regime change, yet achieved only limited success in mobilizing their base. This paper explores the evolution of unions in Algeria and the factors that precluded their full participation in the Hirak. It highlights the need for unions to move beyond a culture of narrow sectoral demands if they are to play a role in the democratic transition.
  • Topic: Political Activism, Reform, Unions, Mobilization
  • Political Geography: Africa, Algeria