On August 28, IPI hosted a panel entitled “Arab Spring: A Revolution of Expectations” at the Political Symposium of the European Forum Alpbach (in Tyrol, Austria). The panel, chaired by IPI President Terje Rød-Larsen, discussed expectations for the future of the Middle East and North Africa after the dramatic uprisings of early 2011, as well as ongoing turmoil in Syria.
While panelists were optimistic for the region in the long term, the danger of counterrevolution was raised, as was the need for a regional mechanism to promote security and cooperation.
Panel members included Amr Nabil Hamzawy, Egyptian academic and Member of Parliament; the Jordanian journalist and analyst Lina Ejeilat; Faisal Bin Muaammar, Acting Secretary-General of the King Abdullah Bin Abdulaziz Centre for Inter-religious and Inter-cultural dialogue in Vienna; as well as IPI Senior Fellow Abdullah Alsaidi, the former Permanent Representative of the Republic of Yemen to the United Nations.
The President of IPI began with a PowerPoint presentation, highlighting some of the trends in the post-revolutionary period, recent opinion polls, and socio-economic indicators that show the current fragility of the situation.
In a lively and open exchange in front of an audience of around two hundred people, panelists discussed how the former “autocratic stability” of the region has been replaced by a much more fluid and unpredictable situation. While there is still hope for the future, several participants noted a certain post-revolution fatigue and expressed concern that expectations that had been so high just eighteen months ago had not been fulfilled.
Concerns about regional instability as a result of the spillover of the conflict in Syria were raised. The panel also discussed the role of regional powers like Egypt, Iran and Saudi Arabia as well as the impact of external powers.
The precedent of past revolutions was debated. It was noted that unlike in 1848, in 1989/90 there were strong Euro-Atlantic institutions (like the EU, NATO and CSCE) to assist the process of post-revolutionary transition. The need for a regional mechanism in the Middle East and North Africa was highlighted.
Participants stressed the need for dialogue between ethnic and religious groups and among political parties. Creating a more effective balance between religion and politics was also underlined.
The general conclusion is that the road ahead will be bumpy, but, as one participant put it, “There is no turning back”.
Related media coverage:
European Forum Alpbach News, August 28-29, 2012