The ongoing unrest in the Middle East and North Africa has its roots in similar conditions that prevail throughout the region, explained Michele Dunne in a speech at the Women's Foreign Policy Group. One of the main drivers of the tumult has been socio-economic grievances. Countries throughout the Arab world have burgeoning youth populations who find themselves with few, if any, economic opportunities. Meanwhile, most leaders of Arab countries have been in power for many years, decades in some instances, and political authority is heavily concentrated in their hands. Dunne explained that these kings and presidents are not freely elected, and thus unaccountable to the people, and the parliaments in these countries are very weak and generally unable to affect change.

Due to these phenomena, the demand for change in the region has been building for some time, Dunne said. Experts in the field did not predict the Tunisian uprising, but once it happened, it demonstrated to the people of the region that their regimes were more vulnerable than they thought and broke a barrier of fear. Since then, Dunne said, protests have swept across the region.