The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has a well-deserved reputation for being a region plagued by war and conflict, analyst Florence Gaub writes for the European Union Institute for Security Studies (EUISS):
Every decade since the end of the Second World War has seen at least 1 interstate conflict (the 1990s even saw 2); it has also witnessed 25 types of intrastate war (on average, 2 per decade), including insurgencies, civil wars and protracted terrorism campaigns. In the same timeframe, 2.3 million of its citizens have died as a result of political violence – 40% of the global total of battle-related deaths, although the region accounts for a mere 5% of the world’s population. So what needs to be known about these conflicts in order to sup- port peace in the region?
Ultimately, intrastate conflicts are a phenomenon resulting from bad governance and state weakness, she adds:
Two elements have proven most successful in preventing them from occurring in the first place: well-established democratic systems capable of inclusiveness and conflict mediation, and stable economies which guarantee a minimum standard of living. Often, both go hand in hand: one study by the World Bank showed that had democratic transitions in the region occurred after the Arab Spring, GDP would have grown by 7.78% within 5 years rather than by 3.3% in the absence of democracy.
“I am still undecided about the Arab spring; it is too soon to tell,” says Mohammed Naciri, who has been for almost three years regional director of UN Women, an organisation that defines itself as the United Nations entity for gender equality and the empowerment of women.
“Women were vocal and active,” says Naciri, who oversees his agency’s programs for empowering women in 13 Arab countries. “They asked for change and paid the price and we still remember the graphic images of the beating of women, the raping of women, the shouting at women and the killing of women. They have been part of the mass organic uprisings, but even within the groups that fought for change they did not have significant lobbies defending their rights or trying to shape the future,” he tells The Financial Times:
He is heartened, however, by progress in Tunisia, the only regional example of a successful transition towards democracy. Women now occupy a third of the seats in the Tunisian parliament and the assembly recently passed landmark legislation aimed at combating all violence against women. Naciri cites as a positive example the United Arab Emirates where there are eight women among the 28 ministers forming the cabinet and where by law all company boards must include at least one woman. He also describes the recent royal decree in Saudi Arabia allowing women to drive as “an important milestone towards a more gender-just society”.
Setbacks to political liberalization in the Arab world have caused the United States to turn away from support for democrats there in favor of “pragmatic” deals with tyrants in order to defeat violent Islamist extremism, according to a new book from Elliott Abrams, a board member of the National Endowment for Democracy.