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  • Author: Elizabeth Saleh
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Discussions on waste policy in Lebanon tend to focus on the country’s corrupt practices and the health and environmental impact of bad waste management. This paper examines an overlooked aspect: the story of waste pickers — many of whom are economic or forced migrants — who are essential to Lebanon’s garbage management. Through an ethnographic study of a group of underage waste pickers, it argues that it is time for policy debates on garbage in Lebanon to integrate the perspective of waste workers.
  • Topic: Climate Change, Environment, Labor Issues, Recycling, Garbage
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Omar Al-Jaffal
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: In December 2019, the Iraqi parliament approved a new electoral law following demonstrations calling for fundamental political change. However, it took over 11 months for the president to ratify it as Iraq’s political parties fought over the shape of electoral districts. This article examines the disputes that surrounded the adoption of the law and the compromises that led to diluting its potential for reform. It concludes that while the new law represents a small step in the right direction, it ultimately is insufficient to respond to the aspirations of protestors looking for an overhaul of their political representation.
  • Topic: Reform, Elections, Democracy, Transition
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • 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: Joelle M. Abi-Rached, Pascale Salameh
  • Publication Date: 01-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: As countries begin to roll out vaccination for COVID-19, the Lebanese caretaker government has yet to provide details about its vaccination strategy, raising concerns about its ability to provide vaccines due to the country’s economic and governance crisis. This paper, written by public health professionals, raises a number of questions about the vaccination strategy that the government should address and calls for an open, inclusive, and transparent process to placate the worries of citizens given the privatization and politicization of the country’s health sector.
  • Topic: Public Health, Vaccine, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • 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: Yasmina Abouzzohour
  • Publication Date: 02-2021
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Oman is often portrayed as an “oasis of peace” that is immune to dissent. In fact, this assertion is an oversimplification and this paper provides a more discerning analysis of the relationship between the regime and opposition actors – such as youth groups, industrial workers, and intellectuals – that have led contestations in the last decade. It overviews the Omani political context, highlights recent episodes of contestation, and examines how the regime successfully contained them. It argues that in the coming years, the regime is likely to face heightened discontent triggered by socioeconomic hardship and it will be essential for the authorities to open the political sphere and stop repressing free speech.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Social Movement, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Oman, Gulf Nations
  • Author: Alaa Tartir
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Palestinian political leadership’s obsession with the idea of statehood as a means to realise self-determination and freedom has proved to be detrimental to the struggle of decolonising Palestine. By prioritising “statehood under colonialism” instead of focusing on decolonising Palestine first and then engaging in state formation, the Palestinian leadership – under pressure from regional and international actors – disempowered the people and empowered security structures which ultimately serve the colonial condition.
  • Topic: State Formation, Colonialism, Decolonization, Repression
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • 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: Dina Wahba
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: In my visit to Egypt in late March 2018, two things were happening simultaneously: the demolition of Maspero Triangle, the neighbourhood I have been working on for my case study, and the re-election of President Abdel Fattah El Sisi for his second term. There was a big campaign banner, one of many engulfing Cairo, with El Sisi’s face and the slogan “You are the hope”. This banner on 6th of October bridge was overlooking the neighbourhood as the bulldozers were hard at work demolishing what was for years the homes of over 4000 families spanning generations. I was in a taxi trying inconspicuously to take pictures of the banner and wondering what my interlocutors would say when I ask them about how they view this promise of hope overlooking the destruction of their homes. I was also marvelling at the almost nonsensical sequence of events. In 2011 Maspero was one of the most militant neighbourhoods, among many in downtown and old Cairo (Ismail 2013), that defended the occupation of Tahrir Square. As it was adjacent to Tahrir, it played a crucial role in sustaining the square during the first 18 days of the uprising. Seven years after the revolution, the neighbourhood was faced with complete erasure. How did we get here? I argue for the productivity of looking at Egyptian politics through the lens of affect as a possible way to answer this question. As Laszczkowski and Reeves argue in their edited book Affective States (2017) “Affect is at the heart of those moments when the political catches us off guard or when it leaves us feeling catatonically suspended, wondering where we are, how we even go there, and when this became so ordinary”. In this paper, I examine one such moment: the demolition of Maspero neighbourhood that coincided with the re-election of Abd El Fattah El Sisi in early 2018. I investigate state-society relations and the shifts throughout those moments by looking at how one neighbourhood negotiated their survival that culminated in their removal. Much like the wider socio-political context in Egypt and the story of the Egyptian revolution itself, Maspero is a story of a negotiated failure. A youth-led movement that demanded basic rights, exhausted various political tactics to lobby the government and failed the bigger fight, but scored some victories, such as the ability of some 900 families to come back to Maspero after the development project is over. I argue that Maspero can uncover much about the wider political tribulations since 2011. The case offers a lens through which we can see political openings and opportunities, clampdowns and closures as well as the current regime’s agenda for ensuring that what happened on 25 January 2011 does not happen again. I claim that one of the tactics of the regime is to systematically deconstruct the politics of the urban subaltern that played a major role in the revolution (Ismail 2013) through urban reconfiguration as well as new and old methods of affective co-optation and coercion. In her analysis of state-society relations, Cilja Harders argues that “political science tends to privilege macro-level perspectives” rendering the urban subaltern as only passive subjects of political transformations (Harders 2003). I argue that this has not changed in analysing the aftermath of the revolution. Few studies discussed the role of the urban poor in the revolution; however, many scholars neglected the politicisation of the urban subaltern when analysing transformation (or lack thereof) in Egyptian politics in the last few years. After eight years, the situation seems bleak and the task futile. To argue for any kind of change, let alone transformation, one must be blind to the strong backlash against any attempt to capitalise on the temporary gains of the revolution. The only story left to be told seems to be one of failure. The utter failure of a reformist movement to impose even partially its agenda for change (Bayat 2017). However, the case of Maspero neighbourhood and its youth alliance allow me to trace the revolution back into the everyday politics of citizens in a crushing struggle with the regime to examine whether the revolution disrupted informal traditional ways of doing politics. Rather than examine radical or even reformist regime or legal changes in national politics, I am interested in informal politics and its disruption. “It is in the local scale that power relations become tangible and abstract concepts such as ‘state’ and ‘politics’ observable” (Hoffmann, Bouziane & Harders 2013, 3). Building on the work of scholars of everyday politics, street politics and politics from below, I focus, therefore, on the street and, more specifically, Maspero, a neighbourhood adjacent to Tahrir Square that lived the revolution with all its tribulations, a neighbourhood that affected and was affected by the revolution. I find Salwa Ismail’s work on the role of the urban subaltern in the revolution productive in unpacking and tracing the “everyday” in the Egyptian revolution. “The infrastructures of mobilisation and protest lay in the microprocesses of everyday life at the quarter level, in their forms of governance and in the structure of feelings that developed in relation to state government” (Ismail 2012, 450). Ismail’s argument highlights the quarters or neighbourhoods as spatial political laboratories where the urban subaltern, through rigorous negotiations and “every day” encounters with the different arms of the state, accumulates knowledge about modes of governance and how to resist them. This was obvious in the role that the urban subaltern played in the revolution and was reflected in the narratives of my interlocutors and highlighted in some of the scholar’s accounts of the revolution. In Ismail’s (2012) account of the “backstreets of Tahrir”, she narrates several important “battles” in informal neighbourhoods that she believes were vital to the success of the revolution. These “battles” manifest the moment of convergence between locally grounded grievances and national revolutionary politics. “The account of the battles serves to draw attention to the place of popular quarters in the geography of resistance, and to the spatial inscription of popular modes of activism”. (Ismail 2012, 446) The importance of Ismail’s account is in linking popular resistance to the spatial characteristics of the quarter, which brings up the question of what will happen to popular resistance when the neighbourhood is gone. I argue that the removal of entire neighbourhoods has a political purpose, that of dismantling the political laboratories and crushing street politics. In discussing the battles in Tahrir, Bulaq Abu Al-Ila features prominently in sheltering activists, defending the occupation of the square and engaging in prolonged street fights that exhausted the police and kept it from reclaiming the square. Ismail (2012, 448) links the neighbourhood’s repertoire of contention to a history of patriotism that goes back to the resistance of the French colonial conquest, again highlighting a spatially bounded accumulation of generational knowledge and affective register of popular resistance. The aim of my endeavour is not just to highlight the role of the urban subaltern in the revolution and the subsequent politicisation and depoliticization and what one may learn from it. It is also to link this to what the state has been learning about countering any possible future mobilisation in order to foresee state strategies of radically altering the “every day” modes of governance and with it modes of resistance and to connect this to the urgency of urban restructuring processes happening in Cairo on an unprecedented scale since the 1990s. Asef Bayat (2012) explores the politics of the urban subaltern in “neoliberal cities” in an authoritarian regime. Bayat offers the concept of “social non-movements” to analyse street politics (2012, 119). According to him, the streets are vital to the urban subaltern: he writes that “[t]he centrality of streets goes beyond merely the expression of contention. Rather, streets may actually serve as an indispensable asset/capital for them to subsist and reproduce economic as well as cultural life” (2012, 119). Bayat describes the ongoing conflict over the public space between the state and the urban subaltern as “street politics” (Bayat 2009). These ongoing processes consequently create the “political street”, hence, politicising ordinary citizens through their struggles over urban space. Some of the questions that arise here and reflect the limitations of Bayat’s arguments in this point of history relate to what happens to “street politics” when the urban subaltern loses the “political street”. Reflecting on the case of Maspero neighbourhood, what happens to the politicisation and cultural and economic appropriation when they are relocated to Asmarat, a far-off gated community out of central Cairo? What happens to the politics of the urban poor when they lose their “capital”? And, what kind of political and spatial affects are tied to this dispossession? One of the challenges of studying Maspero was to understand the affective attachments that people had to the neighbourhood. Drawing from the literature on street politics and Asef Bayat’s notion of encroachment (2009), I could understand materially the reasons why forcefully displacing people from their homes could be traumatic. However, as I witnessed them mourn the neighbourhood it became clear to me that there are reasons beyond what this literature can offer. Here, affect theories can be helpful. Yael Navaro Yashin calls for “a reconceptualization of the relation between human beings and space” (2012, 16). Yashin critiques what she calls “the social-constructionist imagination” in its focus on conceptualising space only through what humans project on it. Building on Teresa Brennan’s work on the transmission of affect, Yashin argues for affective relationality between humans and their environment. However, she does not take an object-centred approach but combines the human subjective approach with one that explores that “excess” in the environment that she studies through the lens of affect. Yashin’s work on the collision of the phantasmatic and the material is essential in understanding the “affect” of the neighbourhood. According to Yashin, “the make-believe is real” (2012, 10). Reflecting on the case of Maspero, the affective attachments that the inhabitants of the neighbourhood developed was built around the material, the encroachment, and the social networks but moved beyond this. To them, Maspero is their country and their home. Below one of my research interlocutors, a male resident of Maspero in his 30s explains to me the attachment of the people to Maspero Triangle. “We belong to this place; it is part of us, and we are a part of it. This place holds our memories and childhood. This is something that officials never understood. But we felt it. In this place I used to play, when I am upset, I like to sit in this place and talk to my friends. We are attached to this place not just because it is close to our work. We are linked spiritually to this place; our hearts are attached to this place. I do not want to go out. I do not want to live even in Zamalek, which is very close to us. I do not want to live there. We are attached to this place.” Nigel Thrift (2007) argues that for the political importance of studying affect in cities and affective cities to trace how affect and cities interact to produce politics. The interactions between space, bodies and affect are linked to political consequences. Thrift goes further to point to the political engineering of affect in urban everyday life and what might seem to us as aesthetic is politically instrumentalised. This engineering of affect can have various political aims. To erase emotional histories, create new affective registers or mobilise old ones in urban settings through urban restructuring (Thrift 2007, 172). Thus, it is not farfetched to argue that the urban restructuring of cities is linked to eliciting or inhibiting political responses. The massive plan of the Egyptian government to drastically change downtown Cairo, a space that witnessed a revolution has interlinked political and affective goals. It aims at erasing the affective register of the 2011 Egyptian revolution and inhibits the politics of the urban poor.
  • Topic: Human Rights, United Nations, Revolution, Urban, Youth Movement
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Egypt, Maspero
  • 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: Carmen Geha
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Lebanese women have been leaders in the revolution that has shaken Lebanon since October 2019. This paper argues that the next stage will be critical if women want to transform their involvement into equal rights. For them to do so, they need to move beyond informal revolutionary politics to formal electoral and party politics with meaningful and substantive representation.
  • Topic: Gender Issues, Human Rights, United Nations, Social Movement, Feminism, Revolution
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Beirut
  • 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: Diana Buttu
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Last month, a Palestinian think tank, the Palestinian Centre for Policy and Survey Research, revealed its survey results following the release of the Trump/Netanyahu plan. In announcing the results, Dr Khalil Shikaki, the head of the polling centre, noted that 94 percent of Palestinian respondents opposed the plan: “I don't think we've ever seen such a level of consensus among the Palestinian public,” he said. These results are unsurprising, of course, as the Trump/Netanyahu plan effectively seeks Palestinian approval for Israeli land theft, ethnic cleansing and continued subjugation. But alongside the results of the question pertaining to the Trump/Netanyahu plan was a more important question: “Do you support the two-state solution?” A mere 39 percent of surveyed respondents answered affirmatively, while 37 percent indicated that they support a one-state solution. These results should be placed in their proper light: for more than two decades, as the Palestinian leadership and the international community have repeatedly called for the implementation of the two-state solution, increasing numbers of Palestinians have moved away from this view and increasingly supported one state, even though there is not a single Palestinian party – whether inside ‘48 borders or in the occupied territories – advocating for it. In fact, Palestinian leaders and the international community both espouse the common view of decrying the concept of one state and adamantly holding that “There is no Plan B.” The reason for this steadily increasing Palestinian support for one state has both everything and nothing to do with the Trump/Netanyahu plan. This plan makes clear that it aims to ensure that Palestinians will never have a state and instead remain forever under Israel’s boot. But it isn’t just the Trump plan. Over time, Palestinians increasingly have seen that the version of “two states” that the international community will support – and indeed press for – is not the version of two states that Palestinians demand. To the contrary, while the world spoke of a two-state settlement, Palestinians witnessed a tripling of the number of Israeli settlers living on their land. The international community appears content with allowing Israel to build and expand settlements, while at the same time allowing it to demolish Palestinian homes and schools and imprison Palestinians into cantons. This approach condones Israel holding our economy hostage and mercilessly besieging the Gaza Strip, with only the mildest, mealy-mouthed international condemnations. The world community has blocked attempts to press for a condemnation of Israeli settlements in the International Criminal Court and has, in some cases, criminalized support for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS). Even the European Union has been loath to uphold its trade agreement with Israel, under which Israeli settlement products should be labelled separately and should not benefit from free trade status. It has become clear that while the international community speaks of wanting a two-state settlement, it has shown itself wholly unwilling to do anything to make that happen. As someone who participated in the peace negotiations, I observed that a state for Palestinians was the furthest thing from the Israeli public and political leadership’s thinking. Instead, they were concerned with how to forever contain and control Palestinians, and how to maintain longstanding international community support in this endeavour. In short, the concept of two states has become devoid of all meaning, with the focus instead on form – whether labelled as a “state” and however dysfunctional and lacking any of the powers that actually define a state. This increasing realization has led many Palestinians to abandon the statehood project. This may sound like a defeatist position or the expression of frustration. Indeed, over the years, we have heard PLO leaders threaten to abandon the two-state project and, separately, threaten to dissolve the Palestinian Authority. Some support for one state is undoubtedly borne of that feeling. But not all. To be clear, my support for one state grew not from the futility of negotiations – even though they were indeed futile – but from a sense that the approach was incorrect. The attempt to divide land simply modelled the power structures I was attempting to fight – economic and political structures that aim to maintain Israeli power and control over Palestinians lives. Therefore, rather than focus on land – where Israel always has an advantage –, the focus should be on people and how we, as people, should live. The time has come to look to a model that focuses on equal rights for all, irrespective of religion; a model which seeks reconciliation and not separation and where people are protected and not viewed as subjects of control or, in the case of refugees, of wholesale and heartless exclusion. Today Israel and the occupied territories function as one territory, with rights and privileges granted to some and not to others. There are no separate border crossings for “Palestine” and no separate Palestinian currency. Yet Palestinians, including Palestinian citizens of Israel, are denied the same rights and privileges as Israeli Jews. I am under no illusion that achieving this equality will be easy. Power is never voluntarily given up by those who wield it but taken through pressing for rights. Palestinians will be better able to break down the system of ethnic-religious privilege that plagues Palestinians (a similar system ruled apartheid South Africa) by getting to the root cause – that of Zionism, a nationalist project that favours one group over another –, by pushing for BDS and for accountability internationally and by challenging racist Israeli laws. In short, we can and must create a just system for all, irrespective of whether we demand one or two states. History demonstrates that ethnic privilege ultimately fails in a multi-ethnic world. And given that Palestinians and Israelis are fated to live together, the real question is whether we will continue to allow this system of ethno-religious privilege to prevail or whether we will press for equality, irrespective of religion. Borders, flags, and currencies can wait.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Borders, Peace, Settlements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Diana Buttu, Mouin Rabbani
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The “Peace Plan” presented by Trump and his administration as the ultimate solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict has been overwhelmingly rejected by Palestinians and their leadership. But what comes next? What strategy should Palestinians adopt? These two papers, written by two leading Palestinian analysts, lay out two distinct approaches for attaining Palestinian rights and aspirations. Diana Buttu argues that it is time for Palestinians to push for a one-state solution focusing on equal rights for all, while Mouin Rabbani contends that a one-state approach will not succeed given the current power dynamics and, therefore, favours a renewed Palestinian strategy to preserve the pre-Trump international consensus focused on the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967 and a just resolution of the refugee question.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Borders, Peace, Settlements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Mouin Rabbani
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: It is incontestable that a unitary state encompassing all of historic Palestine in which Palestinians and Israelis live in full equality represents the preferred resolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Assuming this entity guarantees both individual and communal parity, and satisfactorily resolves the refugee question, it would achieve the fundamental Palestinian right to national self-determination and be consistent with the broader Palestinian aspiration of greater Arab integration. It is also irrefutable that a democratic one-state outcome in Palestine cannot be achieved without the disestablishment of Zionism, and specifically Israel’s renunciation of the core principles of Jewish political supremacy, demographic superiority, and territorial hegemony that have guided state policy since 1948. The cost-benefit calculation required for a one-state solution is thus one where Israel’s rulers determine that the price of maintaining a Zionist state has become unacceptably high and choose to relinquish it. In practice, there is no political pathway to such a resolution. Israel’s elites, and the overwhelming majority of its Jewish citizens from across the political spectrum, will contemplate a future without Zionism only as a consequence of decisive military defeat. Even then, the temptation of Israel’s leaders to rely on their nuclear arsenal to avert defeat – the so-called Samson option – cannot be dismissed. In view of the geopolitical realities which reinforce, rather than challenge, the prevailing balance of power between Israel and the Palestinians, the only one-state solutions currently on offer are those proposed by the United States in its January 2020 diplomatic initiative, and by the radical Israeli right whose agenda has been embraced by Washington. In other words, proponents of a unitary secular democratic state in Palestine who are unable to offer a credible military strategy for achieving it are dealing in unattainable illusions rather than feasible solutions. The dynamics that have produced these realities may well change, but the current state of the Palestinian national movement and the broader region suggests this will consume decades, not years. It should also be noted that economic pressure – far exceeding that exerted by the BDS movement – has had a particularly poor impact on regime change during the past century, and can play a secondary role at best. How, then, can and should the Palestinians respond to Washington’s latest proposal to formalize permanent Israeli control over the Palestinian people? Should they just abandon the two-state framework in hopes of an eventual democratic unified state? Widely condemned as the institutionalization of apartheid, the Trump-Netanyahu Plan, in fact, goes far beyond the model of structural racism devised by the white minority regime in South Africa. Israel seeks not to exploit a captive population, but rather to achieve its eventual permanent removal. Indeed, this Plan goes so far as to recommend changing the legal status of hundreds of thousands of Palestinian citizens of Israel to residents of a Palestinian entity that will be occupied territory in all but name. The Trump-Netanyahu Plan offers nothing to the Palestinians, neither presently nor in the future, and does not even pretend to do so. It was transparently devised to accomplish each and every Israeli strategic objective at the expense of all Palestinian rights, rather than lay the basis for meaningful negotiations between the two parties in which the core interests of each are met within the framework of international legality. The measures Washington has already undertaken concerning Jerusalem, Palestinian refugees, the PLO, settlements, the legal status of the occupied territories and other issues reveal this agenda and require no further comment or analysis. It is thus imperative that the various Palestinian leaderships categorically refuse any interaction – whether direct or indirect – with this initiative, as such dealings will only serve to legitimize it and provide cover for regional and international parties to seriously engage with it. The strategic purpose and primary threat of the Trump-Netanyahu plan is to transform the international consensus on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. For better or worse, this consensus comprises the inadmissibility of territorial conquest, the establishment of an independent Palestinian state on the territories occupied by Israel in 1967, living at peace with Israel within its 1949 boundaries, and a just resolution of the refugee question. Against this, Washington and Tel Aviv propose a resolution of the conflict on the basis that might makes right, that rights are irrelevant, and that international law is of no consequence. Rather than mobilize alongside the United States and Israel to denounce the international consensus of a two-state framework and demand its replacement, even if for radically different reasons and objectives, and to promote goals which - as noted above - are simply unattainable, Palestinians should do everything within their power to preserve, mobilize, and activate this consensus and present it as the litmus test for the preservation of the international order Washington is seeking to systematically dismantle. Indeed, under current circumstances, the only alternative is a one-state solution, which would permanently remove Palestinian national rights from the international agenda. One may not be enthusiastic about the two-state paradigm, but it would be dishonest to deny that the purpose of the Trump-Netanyahu plan is to replace it with something much worse. The above notwithstanding, to frame the Palestinian debate as a choice between a one-state solution and two-state settlement misses the point, and is today somewhat akin to a condemned prisoner spending the night before his execution agonizing over whether to spend next summer on the French or Italian Riviera. The core issue in 2020 is not about the form of eventual statehood, but rather about upholding the principle that Israel has no right to incorporate territories that international law and the international community consider to be occupied, and that its continued rule in these territories is both illegal and illegitimate. In contrast to a democratic one-state outcome, there are political avenues to ending the occupation that do not require the military resources that neither the Palestinians nor their regional allies currently possess. The cost-benefit calculation for ending the blockade of the Gaza Strip, reversing settlement expansion in the West Bank, and terminating the occupation does not require the wholesale transformation of the Israeli state. Yet, compelling Israel to dismantle the settlement enterprise and to withdraw from the occupied territories rather than annex them may – in the process – transform the state and establish pathways that in time would produce better outcomes It is commonplace to characterize the Trump administration approach to the Question of Palestine as a radical departure from traditional US policy. While this is true in certain respects, it is perhaps more useful to understand the Trump-Netanyahu Plan as the logical culmination of seven decades of US Middle East policy, and of the Oslo agreements, which never envisioned an end to occupation nor the realization of Palestinian self-determination, in particular. The prevalence of this reality and this debate attest above all to the extraordinarily weakened position in which the Palestinian people find themselves. Surpassing it will be particularly difficult, but is by no means impossible. First and foremost, Palestinians must resolve their internal differences and establish a unified national movement led by a credible leadership, with a clear strategy to disentangle from the matrix of control established by the Oslo agreements, as well as to mobilize Palestinians and their regional and international allies and supporters. Palestine needs to become a cause that stands above and beyond regional rivalries once again, rather than a political pawn used by petty autocrats for trivial advantage. It needs to once again become a primary issue on the international agenda, and a global litmus test for justice and decency, rather than a secondary dispute in a region roiled by conflict. In doing so it will also be able to rely on greater levels of popular support than perhaps ever before. A mobilized Palestinian national movement, capable of activating and – where necessary – coercing the support of regional governments, and deploying their collective wherewithal in the international arena, can successfully implement a combination of popular, political, economic, legal, and even military strategies to effectively challenge Israel’s occupation, and in critical instances compel foreign states to do the right thing out of self-interest. The Palestinians today are experiencing an existential moment. This is not a time to pursue the impossible at the expense of survival.
  • Topic: Diplomacy, Territorial Disputes, Occupation, Peace, Settlements
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine
  • Author: Jihad Yazigi
  • Publication Date: 03-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The already bleak prospects of the Syrian economy have worsened in recent months with the Lebanon crisis, the enactment of the Caesar Act and now the coronavirus pandemic. This paper examines their impact on the Syrian economy and the population at large. While the cumulative impact is hard to assess at this stage, Syria’s population will remain heavily dependent on the international humanitarian effort. The future of this effort will itself depend on major donor countries whose own economies are likely to emerge weakened from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Topic: Economics, Public Health, Humanitarian Crisis, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon, Syria
  • 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: Fatima Al Sayah
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Testing for COVID-19 is globally supported but is approached differently from country to country. This paper outlines Lebanon’s approach to testing so far and asks crucial questions about what the country can do at this stage given its limited testing resources, fragmented and under-financed healthcare system and dire economic circumstances.
  • Topic: Health Care Policy, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Sirine Anouti
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Data from Lebanon suggests that the country is experiencing a significant decrease in COVID-19 spread. Epidemiologists are monitoring to see if infection rates remain low for at least two incubation periods before declaring a successful containment. The lockdown strategy has come at a great cost to middle-to-low income groups given the absence of any social safety measure and the sustainability of lockdown measures will require urgent relief support.
  • Topic: Public Health, Humanitarian Crisis, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Ahmed Tabaqchali
  • Publication Date: 04-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Iraq’s sectarian-based political system has depended on oil rents since 2003 to ensure its legitimacy and buy loyalty. Already running out of steam and challenged by protesters, it faces a major new test due to the drop in oil prices caused by the COVID-19 crisis. Unable to maintain its expensive patronage system, and in the absence of any real political reform, the days of the Muhasasa Ta’ifia may be running out.
  • Topic: Reform, Protests, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • 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
  • Author: Ishac Diwan, Joelle M. Abi-Rached
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Covid-19 pandemic in Lebanon is a crisis within a crisis. It occurred amidst a broader socio-economic meltdown that has shaken the country in recent months. While Lebanon appears to have responded effectively to the pandemic so far, a number of major challenges await it. With little measures to mitigate the economic impact of the confinement and protesters pushing to return to the streets, the country is entering an extremely volatile period. The only way out will be through measures that address the sanitary as well as underlying socio-economic issues that are threatening the entire country.
  • Topic: Governance, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Salma Houerbi
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The consequences of Covid-19 on Tunisia’s already fragile economy are bound to exacerbate existing social tensions. The government has rolled out a series of socio-economic measures to support individual entrepreneurs and businesses to maintain jobs and incomes across all sectors. This paper argues that the government’s support to the private sector represents a golden opportunity to rectify longstanding problems in state-business relations and institute a culture of corporate accountability. But to do so, the government should place the Covid-19 response within a broader effort to address the persistent and systemic challenges the country faces from corruption to rent-seeking to vulnerable workers’ conditions.
  • Topic: Public Health, Humanitarian Crisis, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Khayreddine Basha
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The military conflict between Haftar and GNA forces in Libya continues to escalate, unaffected by Covid-19 or international calls for a ceasefire. A lack of coordination between the fighting parties and the ineffective implementation of measures to fight the spread of the pandemic further compound Libya’s worsening humanitarian situation. This paper explores Covid-19 impact on the health and humanitarian situation in Libya and examines the factors that contribute to the continuation of the conflict, including the incitement of international and regional actors involved in it.
  • Topic: Military Strategy, Conflict, Public Health, Humanitarian Crisis, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Libya
  • Author: Ezman Kunna
  • Publication Date: 05-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Sudan’s current transitional government has inherited a fragile health system that suffered years of neglect and underinvestment. The spread of COVID-19 poses important challenges to the country’s health and political structures. This Q&A looks at how Sudan’s government and non-government actors are faring against the spread of the pandemic and the impact of the lockdown on the political transition in the country.
  • Topic: Political stability, Public Health, Pandemic, Transition, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan
  • Author: Sami Halabi
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Facing an economy in free-fall, the Lebanese government has finally adopted a financial recovery plan that it has sent to the IMF and international donors. This paper argues that the plan fails to introduce strong accountability measures to address rampant corruption and mismanagement and does not tackle widespread inequality which could be done through a better distribution of losses and the introduction of more progressive taxation. Despite the government’s stated promise to “protect the poorest segments of the population from the dire consequences of the crisis”, the paper expects the plan to inevitably harm Lebanon’s poorest as well as its middle class.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis, Governance, Recovery
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Zied Boussen
  • Publication Date: 06-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: After months of negotiation, Tunisia’s parliament voted in a government like no other since 2011. Headed by a prime minister whose party is not represented in parliament and with more than half of the ministers independent or new to government office, it is the first since 2011 that is not a “national unity” government. This paper examines this new Tunisian political landscape, the relationship between the prime minister and Tunisia’s president, and looks at the impact of this configuration on the ability of the new government to carry out long-awaited reforms.
  • Topic: Governance, Reform, Political stability, Transition
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Mahjoob Zweiri
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Iran’s regional role in MENA is influenced by the evolution of its state-society relations and shifts within its state institutions. This paper argues that the growing regional role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) is a reflection of the militarization and securitization of the Iranian political system. Conversely, frustration by segments of the Iranian population with the political system’s inability to deliver economically has increasingly manifested itself in criticism and contestation of the regime’s regional role.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Regional Cooperation, Authoritarianism, Militarization
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: Mansour Omari
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The opening in Germany of the trial of two Syrian security officers accused of crimes against humanity was marked by the absence of regional Arab interest, despite its importance for the fight against impunity in MENA. This paper seeks to understand this lack of coverage by Arab media and the absence of interest from national as well as regional Arab human rights organizations, and highlights the implications of the trial for Syria as well as MENA’s struggle for accountability.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Non State Actors, Media, Accountability
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Saad Salloum
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Afro-Iraqis, who number around 400,000, continue to suffer from racial discrimination and marginalization despite their repeated attempts to demand equality. This paper shows the struggle of black people in Iraq through the struggle and activism of Jalal Dhiab, founder of the Free Iraqi Movement, to restore a forgotten revolution and awaken an identity that has long been marginalized in Arab historical writings, in order to defend the rights of this minority and to combat racial discrimination against it in Iraq.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Minorities, Discrimination, Protests, Racism
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Alessandra Bajec
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Despite being rich in oil and gas, Tataouine in the south of Tunisia has remained severely underdeveloped and marginalized, pushing its inhabitants, time and again, to protest for reinvestment of its wealth in infrastructure and local jobs. This paper examines the underlying drivers of the ongoing unrest in Tataouine, the heavy-handed response of the security forces, and the successive Tunisian governments’ broken pledges to address the region’s socio-economic marginalization.
  • Topic: Governance, Accountability, Marginalization, Socioeconomics , Civil Unrest
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Genevieve Zingg
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: While not the chief cause of Syria’s economic crisis, sanctions have exacerbated difficulties faced by the Syrian people – in particular as new humanitarian needs arise from the Covid-19 pandemic. This paper argues that sanctions are essential to sustain pressure in the pursuit of justice and accountability and should be maintained but that they must be improved to allow for a more effective use of humanitarian exemptions and to lessen their negative impacts on the Syrian people.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Public Health, Humanitarian Crisis, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Ahmed Tabaqchali
  • Publication Date: 07-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Iraq’s post-2003 political order, characterized by Muhasasa Ta’ifia with political sectarian elites using employment in public services to strengthen clientelism, has become economically unsustainable. The author’s earlier paper for the Arab Reform Initiative examined the impact of the drop in oil prices on the system. This article examines how Iraq’s growing demography erodes the patronage buying power of the sectarian elites, even though spending on clientelism has mushroomed over the years.
  • Topic: Demographics, Inequality, Elites
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Alimar Lazkani
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: impacted by the conflict and deteriorating living conditions. This paper examines their reality and the evolution of some of their political views through on the ground research and interviews. It notes that an increasing number of Alawite youth have grown disillusioned and some go as far as voicing discontent in private discussions because they see the regime as having failed to provide them with basic living arrangements. However, it is hard to determine the prevalence of such discontent due to research limitations and the entrenched fear of the security apparatus.
  • Topic: Authoritarianism, Youth, Accountability, Quality of Life
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Amine Al-Sharif
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Arab Spring was to sound the death knell of the decades-old authoritarian regimes plaguing the Arab world. In the end, only Egypt and Tunisia underwent a democratic transition, and only the Tunisian people succeeded in establishing a real, albeit still fragile, democracy. This regional experience illustrates the difficulty to spur democratic change in Arab countries. A lot of actors are involved in these complex processes, such as the political elite, the army, and foreign states. On top of these, Arab diasporas are also an important player, who can play an even more influential role by self-organizing. What are their actual and potential means of action, and how can self-organizing enhance their influence? Arab diasporas consist of all the Arab people permanently settled in a foreign country who have kept ties with their motherland. These populations, estimated at around 50 million individuals, are highly heterogenous: they are concentrated in Brazil, Western Europe, the United States and Gulf countries; some hold businesses that have thrived, others hold blue-collar jobs; some are conservatives, others modern-minded. And sometimes, they represent an important share of their motherland’s population. The Lebanese and Palestinian diasporas are estimated to comprise more than half of their own populations, making them de facto important players in national politics. Full-fledged democratization in the Arab world is the result of a popular uprising, a transition from authoritarianism to democracy, and a consolidation of democracy. Arab diasporas can contribute to all these stages by engaging in six strategic fields, namely: the civic, media, artistic, entrepreneurial, political, and intellectual ones.
  • Topic: Democratization, Social Movement, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East
  • Author: Afef Hammami Marrakchi
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: What role can local authorities in Tunisia play as part of the country’s response to Covid-19? This paper examines the opportunities offered to Tunisian municipalities (communes) by the Local Government Act but also the real constraints – human, logistical, and financial – that these new devolved structures face as they seek to play a key role in the recovery.
  • Topic: Recovery, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Ishac Diwan, Nadim Houry, Yezid Sayigh
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Egypt’s recent security and macro-economic stabilization has been built on weak foundations and Covid-19 has further exposed this fragility. Egypt is now back to a situation broadly similar to that before the 2011 revolution: stable on the surface, but with deep structural problems and simmering social grievances, and little buffers to mitigate them. This paper argues for a major shift in the ways the country is currently governed in favour of greater openness in politics and markets, and for the international community to seriously engage Egypt on the need to reform economically and politically.
  • Topic: Security, Arab Spring, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Stephen J. King
  • Publication Date: 08-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Morocco is a diverse country that has yet to come to terms with its own black population and the impact of centuries of the trans-Sahara slave trade. Diversity, the history of slavery in Morocco, and the racism that is generally inherent in post-slave societies are not openly discussed and often denied by non-Blacks. This paper examines the efforts of black Moroccans to tell the stories of racial discrimination against them as a first step in an attempt to raise awareness, pierce the taboos and end the denial surrounding anti-black racism in Morocco.
  • Topic: Minorities, Political Activism, Discrimination, Racism
  • Political Geography: Africa, Morocco
  • Author: Alex Walsh
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Since 2011, the police have been at the centre of the contestation rocking the Arab world. Part 1 mapped out some of the main modes of contestation and provided a preliminary assessment of their impact on police practices. This paper examines what is still holding up police reform attempts, presents possible future scenarios for policing practices in the region, and assesses the role of donor states, notably Europe, in supporting security sector reforms in MENA
  • Topic: Social Movement, Reform, Arab Spring, Protests
  • Political Geography: Africa, Middle East
  • Author: Yaseen Taha Mohammed
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Since the October 2019 protests calling for reform and an end to corruption, the Iraqi city of Basra has been the scene of a chilling spree of assassinations of activists. To date, no one has yet been held to account for these crimes that have spread fear in protestors’ ranks. This paper highlights the profile of the activists, the circumstances of the killings, and the possible motives behind them in the context of Iranian influence in Iraq, the approaching anniversary of the protests and the elections scheduled for next year.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Political Activism, Elections, State Violence, Protests, Assassination
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Middle East
  • Author: Reinound Leenders
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The institutional set-up of the Port of Beirut is emblematic of Lebanon’s post-war corruption and sectarian clientelism. Any investigation into the 4 August explosion needs to take into account the port’s dismal institutional record and how the current political class ensured its governance remained opaque and messy. This paper provides critical insights into the port’s set-up over the last 30 years highlighting the failing political system, a greedy political class, and entrenched mismanagement and corruption. It demonstrates how the bickering of key actors over the port’s control and the port’s institutional failures set the stage for the blast, pointing to an urgent need to build an accountable port authority as part of any reform effort.
  • Topic: Government, Governance, Accountability, Institutions
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Sanctions have so far failed to change the Syrian regime behaviour, and despite their stated objectives of minimizing harm to the population, indicators show that sanctions are hitting ordinary Syrians the hardest. This paper looks at the mechanisms that Assad has been using to overcome the impact of sanctions on its power structure and provides recommendations on how to make sanctions more effective against the regime while mitigating their negative impact on Syrians.
  • Topic: Sanctions, Authoritarianism, Humanitarian Intervention, Quality of Life
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Syria
  • Author: Ismael Sheikh Hassan
  • Publication Date: 09-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon is facing an unprecedented crisis with financial and economic collapse, lack of political trust, institutional deadlock, health crisis, and environmental degradation, to name a few. To face these challenges, the government should undertake a reform plan that addresses key priority areas to restore trust and salvage the country. We’ve asked experts to give their views about what they see as essential reforms in each area.
  • Topic: Economics, Financial Crisis, Reform
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Joelle M. Abi-Rached, Nahla Issa, Jade Khalife, Pascale Salameh
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: In its first report, the Independent Lebanese Committee for the Elimination of COVID-19, a group of concerned citizens with various health-related expertise, addresses weaknesses in current government policy and highlights several directions and actions for a more coherent and sustainable national strategy.
  • Topic: Security, Governance, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Hussain Isma'eel, Nadim El Jamal, Nuhad Yazbik Dumit, Elie Al-Chaer
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Lebanon’s economic downfall had a crippling effect on all healthcare sectors, and COVID-19 has further aggravated the crisis. To save an already ailing health sector, this paper written by medical professionals calls for urgent measures to tackle the immediate crisis. Its focuses on maintaining access to healthcare for all, enhancing primary and urgent care centres, controlling readmission, and introducing telemedicine. It highlights needed measures to reduce the financial strain on hospitals and puts forward recommendations to support healthcare providers as well as the pharmaceutical and medical supplies industry.
  • Topic: Health Care Policy, Reform, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Suzanne Abdul-Reda Abourjeili, Seham Harb
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Education in Lebanon was hit hard by the financial and economic crisis and the Covid-19 pandemic. The sector’s structural weaknesses were brought to the surface by the shift to online and distance teaching. Teachers, parents, and students alike were left on their own to struggle through the school year. This has particularly affected the poorest segments of society, as well as parents and teachers with fewer technical skills to educate children. This paper analyzes the challenges that the educational sector has faced over the last year and presents immediate measures and some future strategic choices as a way forward.
  • Topic: Education, Public Health, Pandemic, COVID-19
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon
  • Author: Jamil Mouawad, Paul Achcar
  • Publication Date: 10-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: A year has passed since the Lebanese “17 October Uprising”. Just as with other Arab uprisings, the first anniversary raises many questions about successes and failures, the nature of the regime and the reasons behind its durability, the organizational requirements and mechanisms of a political transition, and about the despair or the hope that have been created. In this conversation, Paul Achcar and Jamil Mouawad address these different topics through a political analysis of the movement, its players, and the system and its components. The discussion is not limited to analysis, but also offers some ideas on how to move ahead. This will perhaps help in the transition from a state of contestation to consolidating an opposition that becomes a constant political player in the Lebanese scene.
  • Topic: Social Movement, Reform, Protests, Transition
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Lebanon