Panel Discussions - Monday, March 12, 2012
William Hague: “The Arab Spring Is a Force For Good”
“The United Kingdom is convinced that the Arab Spring is a force for good,” William Hague, the British Foreign Secretary, told an IPI audience while hosting a panel entitled “Activism to Accountability in the Middle East” on March 12.
“The United Nations and its member states must continue to work together in supporting the people of the region as they demand their legitimate rights,” he said.
Mr. Hague spoke of the important role of social media now in shaping activism. “The Arab Spring is, by its very nature, a particularly 21st century phenomenon,” he said. “Social media was able to carry a cascade of messages about freedom and democracy across North Africa and the Middle East, and helped raise expectations for the success of political uprisings. In its essence, social media became a critical part of the toolkit for greater freedom.”
Arguing that it had allowed civil society to shape the political debate in many countries for the first time he said, “This is something that is hugely welcome, that we should be in favor of. Space for more varied and independent media should be emerging.” He continued, “When plural voices are heard, different views aired and diverse interests represented, it provides a balance in society.”
“It is not going to be a straightforward journey, there will be plenty of bumps on the road,” he warned.
He noted that the international community must remain engaged. “Our support and dedication to the people of the region must be consistent and unwavering. I have been amazed by the strength and bravery of activists, lawyers, bloggers, journalists, and indeed, citizens from every walk of life who have led change,” he said. “Their enthusiasm and dynamism must be met by our own commitment and resolve.”
Finally, he said that we must support the principle that the people of the region must choose their leaders, even knowing that we may have to deal with governments whom we may not always agree with.
The other speakers on the panel were Nora Younis, Egyptian activist and Website Managing Editor of Al-Masry Al-Youm; and Salwa Bugaighis, a Libyan human rights lawyer.
Ms. Younis spoke about the role of peaceful protest in bringing about change, recounting stories of her confronting Hosni Mubarak’s state security forces as far back as 2005. She also explained that there is a vibrant civil society movement in Egypt today. These groups are carrying on the spirit of the revolution, different groups using innovative tactics to hold the military government and newly-elected legislature accountable. She said, “You ask for the solidarity of the people, and you make pressure and you win your right back with your own hands.”
(Read our March 12 interview with Nora Younis >>)
Ms. Bugaighis spoke about the legacy of the Qaddafi regime, outlining how he used state institutions and resource wealth to manipulate and exercise control over Libyans’ lives. As a result, today Libya’s infrastructure and development are far below its potential. “Libya today faces enormous challenges to rebuild a rational, viable economy, and move away with a full reliance on oil income,” she said. Thanking the world for last year’s intervention, she said that international help is needed to help put the country on a path to sustainable development.
Providing closing remarks, IPI President Terje Rod-Larsen said that, with proper homework, we could have predicted the Arab Spring. He also warned of romanticizing a “naive idea of democracy,” reminding the audience that the 1988 revolutions in Eastern Europe faced many problems. He said that the Arab countries must be provided regional institutional incentives for liberalization, which will be key to successful transitions.
The panel was moderated by Barbara Plett, the BBC’s UN Correspondent.
Watch video of event:
The Global Observatory
Year in Review: Top 10 Peace and Security Reads
The International Peace Institute and its Global Observatory offered research and analysis on a range of topics in peace and security in 2014.
Key Global Events to Watch in December
A list of key upcoming meetings and events with implications for global affairs.
2014 Top 10 Issues to Watch in Peace & Security: The Global Arena
A list of ten key issues to watch that are likely to impact international peace and security in 2014, compiled by IPI's Francesco Mancini.
The Global Observatory, produced by IPI, provides timely analysis on peace and security issues, interviews with leading policymakers, interactive maps, and more.
December 15, 2014
Fathi: Iran and the Struggle Between Hardliners and Reformers
Discussing her new book The Lonely War: One Woman’s Account of the Struggle for Modern Iran at IPI on December 15th, author Nazila Fathi said that 35 years after the revolution, Iran is divided between hardliners and a large moderate middle class, but admitted that it is still unclear which of the two sides will gain the upper hand.
December 12, 2014
Effective Governance Key to Africa’s Rise
Good governance is the key to Africa’s rise, but structural challenges are pulling the continent back, according to a new report launched at a December 12th IPI policy forum entitled “Effective Governance in Challenging Environments.”
December 09, 2014
Small States in a Multilateral World
Despite their size and limited resources, small states have an important and crucial role to play in the multilateral system and can leverage their power through cooperation.
September 25, 2014
IPI Remembers Margaret Vogt