Considering Our "Fortunate Mess"

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Nov 03, 2013
by Louise Hallman
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Considering Our "Fortunate Mess"

Case studies from Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen tell of stalled progress Salzburg Global Fellow Iman Mandour speaks from the floor of Parker Hall

Whilst all four countries have gone through massive political transitions in the past two years, the situations in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen due have their own specificities. But the one striking similarity in all countries is the resounding pessimism.

“The situation in Yemen is a mess... We don’t know if we should regret the actions of the Arab Spring,” stated one Fellow during presentations on the current state of affairs in each of the four focus countries for the 'Getting Transition Right: A Rights-Based Approach Towards Diversity and Inclusivity' program.

Since the ousting of Ali Abdullah Saleh in 2012, fractious fighting has continued in Yemen.

In the North sectarianism is taking hold, whilst in the South, a feeling of betrayal has led to increased separatist sentiment.

The new establishment is now “sharing the sweets among themselves” making ordinary Yemenis question what—if any—real progress has been made.

In Libya, the once united sectors of society have lost common purpose now that Gaddafi is gone.

Despite successful elections, the GNC remains elusive, with the lack of constituency offices stopping citizens from accessing their elected representatives.

“If you want something done, you’d better have a militia,” one Fellow remarked.

Powerful militias are now essentially holding Libya to ransom.

In Egypt, a culture of retribution has taken hold. A developing group mentality – both of the majority and minorities – has led to a dehumanization of marginalized sections of society, in turn leading to increased violence coupled with an avoidance of personal responsibility.

Tunisia was the birthplace of the Arab Spring. It was the state of the economy and unemployment that led to Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation—yet economic issues abound still.

Positives could be found in the fact that election processes have been established and human rights norms appear to be taking root, with the new governments at least paying lip-service even if their actions still leave a lot to be desired.

And even if politicians are still behind the curve on human rights, an “opinion poll you didn’t expect to come out of Libya” indicated that staggeringly high proportions of respondents said they believed in such rights as women’s equality and freedom of the press.

But as to just how much this poll reflects the whole population remains uncertain, much like the region’s future.