Foreign democracy assistance organizations working directly with political parties have come into the line of fire as some Arab governments have pushed back against democratization initiatives over the past two years. In Algeria, Bahrain, and Egypt in particular, the National Democratic Institute (NDI) and the International Republican Institute (IRI) have been among the first to feel pressure.
Recent labor protests and bread lines in Egypt present a stark contrast to the Egyptian government’s narrative of impressive economic growth, which international financial institutions have validated. Jordan has not experienced serious protests recently, but it is also witnessing growing complaints about inflation despite notable economic growth.
Debates surrounding the April election of Hammam Sa’id as General Guide of the Jordanian Muslim Brotherhood reflected the deep internal conflict within the organization. For the past sixty years, the movement has managed to maintain internal unity. Recently, however, internal schisms—traditionally underplayed and kept secret—have become much more salient and public.
The international community and the Gulf states are not providing sufficient funding or accepting enough Iraqi refugees. The current situation is highly unstable and fragile, and very little progress can be expected without Iran’s and Syria’s involvement. No significant return of refugees can be expected in the next ten years.
There have been many attempts by the international community to impose order in the Middle East. The reality is that Arab states must themselves overcome divisive ideologies, prioritize common interests, and develop a cooperative political and security architecture if a new regional order is to come to fruition.
Carnegie's Amr Hamzawy writes that while state repression naturally leads to the hardening of Islamist groups, this hardening calls into question the extent to which these groups can serve the wider public good.
Arab countries are undertaking diplomatic initiatives that clearly contradict U.S. policy, because they no longer trust the U.S. capacity to contend with escalating regional crises.
Free trade agreements between the West (U.S. and EU) and Middle East and North African (MENA) countries, while containing beneficial elements, have strengthened negative perceptions of “western-led globalization” because they benefit unpopular elites and impose serious short term economic adjustment.
Contemporary discourse on democratic transformation in the Arab world often lacks a critical assessment of the kind of progress that is taking place on the ground. Marina Ottaway and Julia Choucair-Vizoso launched their new book Beyond the Façade: Political Reform in the Arab World, a critical assessment of political reform in the Arab world based on ten case studies.
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?