Back in 2011 and 2012, the root causes and drivers of the pro-democracy ‘Arab Spring’ protests were clear. The notion of a “new social contract” came to symbolise the popular quest to move beyond despotism and rentierism in the Arab world, writes Egyptian political scientist Amr Hamzawy:
Activists and intellectuals across the regional public space were searching for ways to empower citizens, protect societies, and subject state institutions to the principles of oversight and accountability. Inspiring discussions about civil liberties and freedoms, the launching of individual and private initiatives, the modernisation of economic structures to ascertain the values of production and innovation and open competition, the establishing of legal and political frameworks to impose checks and balances on government and public officials were reported in all Arab countries.
For the first time in modern times as well, controversial debates on how to democratise civil-military relations, on how to safeguard personal freedoms and liberties in the face of tribal and sectarian tutelage, and on how to initiate mechanisms of transitional justice to come to terms with the past of human rights violations, were garnering popular attention.
However, following the dramatic turns of events in most Arab Spring countries, the quest for a new social contract fell rapidly to almost complete reclusion, he writes. RTWT.