In the Arab world, what UN literature calls national human rights institutions (NHRIs) have emerged in recent years. A few of them—for example in Morocco and Palestine—have attained a degree of autonomy in confronting governments.
While U.S. foreign policy continues to be formulated with an eye on short-term goals, European policies towards the Middle East, at both the national and EU levels, use the instruments of soft diplomacy and function in accordance with a multi-tiered approach that never loses sight of long-range strategies while allowing for alternatives that can be tried, tested and corrected along the way.
Since global change accelerated a decade or so ago, mentioning globalisation has tended to upset many people in the Arab world. Was 2007 the year that the region moved closer -- and more comfortably -- to the rest of the globe?
A series of unusual scenes on the streets of the Middle East nurtured an inspiring story line of an emerging “Arab spring” that mimicked the earlier triumph of democracy from the Philippines to Prague: mass demonstrations in Lebanon; joint rallies of Egyptian Islamists and liberals against the Mubarak regime; and elections in Iraq, the Palestinian territories, Lebanon, Egypt and even Saudi Arabia.
The lack of democratic breakthroughs worthy of mention in Arab countries has spurred debate about barriers to change. The debate would be incomplete, however, without a discussion of the means by which authoritarian Arab regimes control their societies, particularly the critical roles performed by security services.