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  • Author: Rami G. Khouri
  • Publication Date: 01-2020
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The grievances that exploded all over the Arab region between 2010 and 2020 are historic in so many ways that it is hard to know where to start understanding them. Scholars should avoid a single-focus analysis and instead grasp why the protests across nearly a dozen countries have addressed almost every dimension of material, political, and psychological life. Four key factors that converge, though, should take priority in any assessment of what this decade means for the Arab region: (1) the expanding range of rights, denials, and grievances that citizens raise; (2) the fact that Arabs have unsuccessfully tried to redress these grievances since the 1970s without receiving any serious responses from their states; (3) the demands today to go well beyond reforms in individual policies and instead totally overhaul the governance systems and throw out the ruling elites; and, (4) the simultaneous uprisings across much of the Arab region, revealing the common suffering of citizens and the incompetence of governments in about a dozen states at least. In short, the deterioration of the quality of citizenship and the dilapidated state of public services and governance have reached such a severe condition that they have caused mass eruptions by citizens in multiple lands to redress these stressful and often dehumanizing realities.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Social Movement, Reform, Citizenship, Arab Spring, History , Accountability
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa
  • Author: Ali Tehrani, Azadeh Pourzand
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: Winter 2019 marked the 40th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran. The anniversary celebrations occurred in the midst of a difficult era of socio-economic turmoil, the return ofَ U.S. sanctions, and deepening political infighting in the Islamic Republic. Tensions between the government and the people are especially high. The tectonic plates of social change have been shifting below the surface in Iran over the past two decades, with major discontent erupting in the past year. While the country’s political facade appears largely unchanged, tensions and fragmentations among the ruling elite have deepened. Economic conditions are fast deteriorating for the average citizen, while political repression remains a harsh reality. Iran’s citizens, who have clung to hope and the possibility for change through decades of domestic repression and isolation from the global economy, struggle to remain hopeful. Collective fatigue stemming from years of isolation from the global economy, as well as domestic economic hardship, compounds the disappointment Iranians feel from unfulfilled political promises. The Iranian government has repeatedly failed to carry out promised reforms; in recent years alone, President Hassan Rouhani has proven unable to carry out his promises to “open up Iran politically, ease rigid social restrictions and address human rights abuses.” As this situation continues, Iran risks despair and chaos.
  • Topic: Government, Politics, Social Movement, Sanctions, Nuclear Power, Reform, Economy, Memory
  • Political Geography: Iran, Middle East
  • Author: James Aird
  • Publication Date: 01-2019
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: As Egypt’s ‘Year of Education’ begins, the government pushes much needed reform in pre-university education across the country. Supported by a $500 million World Bank loan, the government is accelerating efforts to train teachers, build schools, and implement tablet technology in primary and secondary education. The reforms include one ambitious project that is especially deserving of more attention: the expansion of a pilot program adapting Japanese educational techniques to the Egyptian context. At a meeting in Tokyo on February 29th, 2016, Japan’s Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced a joint partnership that sought to link Egypt to Japan through educational development, in part thanks to al Sisi’s personal admiration for Japan’s education system. As part of the joint partnership, Japanese and Egyptian administrators and policymakers set out to reshape Egyptian pedagogy. Modeled on Japan’s Tokkatsu education system, which refers to a program of “whole child development,” Egypt aims to build schools that place great emphasis on teaching students to be responsible, disciplined, and clean, as opposed to the more traditional model prioritizing higher standardized testing scores. A Tokkatsu-inspired curriculum is already being used at over forty schools that accepted more than 13,000 students in September 2018. While President al Sisi plans to personally monitor the new education system, other MENA states should also watch closely. If it successfully contributes to building Egypt’s human capital and improving students’ competitiveness, other states in the region might consider implementing similar educational policies.
  • Topic: Development, Education, Reform, Children, Partnerships, Youth
  • Political Geography: Japan, Middle East, North Africa, Egypt
  • Author: Mason Hill
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: This is the first in a three part series on Turkish constitutionalism one year after the 2017 constitutional referendum. Constitutions are nations’ mission statements, and articulate pre-political commitments that turn residents into citizens, and borders into a nation. In Turkey, generations of political leaders have used constitutional reform as an opportunity to set their political agenda and highlight their priorities. The 2017 referendum must be understood in the context of a democracy where voters have experienced successive constitutional reforms aimed at complementing the mission each new generation of leaders gives itself. A view of modern Turkish history reveals the tendency of leaders to use constitutional reform to address deficiencies in their respective administrations, and reflects the latent tension between populism, military intervention, and constitutional integrity.
  • Topic: Politics, History, Law, Reform, Constitution
  • Political Geography: Europe, Turkey, Middle East
  • Author: Salman al-Dosari, Aziza al-Manea, 'Adel Khamis al-Zahrani, Hind al-Mutairi, Abdulrahman al-Rashed
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The General Entertainment Authority was created last year as part of Saudi Arabia’s “Vision 2030” plan. The primary goal of Vision 2030 is to diversify Saudi Arabia’s oil-dependent economy, but it also aims to foster a “vibrant society” with “meaningful entertainment for citizens.” Public cinemas are banned in the kingdom, and some Saudis seek diversion abroad, often in nearby Bahrain and Dubai. So far, the General Entertainment Authority has provoked a mixed reaction: some have lauded its work to bring more cultural events to Saudi Arabia, while others accuse it of moving too quickly, and not offering enough options to less wealthy Saudis. Here are excerpts of what five Saudi pundits had to say about the issue.
  • Topic: Culture, Reform, Media, News Analysis, Leisure
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Saudi Arabia, Gulf Nations
  • Publication Date: 01-2017
  • Content Type: Journal Article
  • Journal: Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy
  • Institution: The John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University
  • Abstract: The Tunisian revolution of 2010-11 has been understood as a point of rupture after years of worsening job prospects and living standards in the country. Some have claimed it highlighted the inefficacy of Tunisia’s development policies, while other studies saw a link between high rates of literacy, lack of economic opportunities, and protests against the state. One should, however, be cautious of taking an economically deterministic approach to Tunisia’s uprising. Many countries whose citizens are mired in deep poverty and rampant unemployment are not in a state of revolt. Other factors such as pre-existing social networks (like trade unions and family ties) also play a major role in shaping political events. Furthermore, economic statistics in North African countries, such as Tunisia, are often manipulated for political reasons.
  • Topic: Politics, Poverty, Popular Revolt, Reform, Economy, Protests
  • Political Geography: Middle East, North Africa, Tunisia