Hivos International

Democracy

Why Tunisia and Not Iran

In Tunisia, a small, homogeneous state on the southern Mediterranean, a popular uprising forced the overthrow of a long-ruling dictator in early 2011. Ruthless repression of mass protests failed. In just one month, Tunisians ousted an entrenched authoritarian regime.

In Iran, a mass uprising that lasted six months was brutally suppressed. The Green Movement of 2009 never became a "Green Revolution." Instead, an entrenched authoritarian regime reasserted its authority. The regime's violent repression succeeded. The opposition was broken, and the regime has since tightened its grip on power.

The Arab 1989?

The uprisings sweeping across the Middle East portend a political transformation as significant as those of 1989. The economic stagnation of the region, the failures of corrupt and repressive autocratic regimes, conjoined with a disenchanted youthful population wired together as never before, have triggered a political struggle few anticipated. Yet 1989 is not an entirely clear point of reference - the emergence of peaceful mass movements of change is a parallel, but the pull of the West, so marked in 1989, is weaker and more complex. Accordingly, the path ahead for these brave, inspiring, challenging movements is more uncertain.

A Tunisian View before the eruption of the “Jasmine Revolution”

Policy Brief Arab Reform Initiative

Read this fascinating policy brief of Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) that was written three weeks before the eruption of the “Jasmine Revolution” in Tunisia. It provides an interesting insight as to why Tunisia was a serious candidate for a stable democracy.

The Algerian time machine

The scene looks familiar. Crowds of youths are raging the capital and other cities, setting fire to government buildings, especially those of the state party. The army cracks down on the protesters, resulting in hundreds of deaths. But eventually the state leader appears on television to promise a multi-party system, fair elections and freedom of the press. The official ideology is declared redundant. This is Algeria……October 1988.

Middle East Events as a Mirror for Experts

Let us start with a confession: in the last couple of months we both wrote articles and made statements claiming that most Arab regimes – including the Gulf monarchies – were steadily in control for a time to come. Regarding such statements, we found ourselves in good company. The notion that authoritarian Arab regimes, especially the existing monarchies, are quite resilient, gained traction in recent years. Authoritarian regimes, the theory goes, are able to 'upgrade' themselves by adapting to changing circumstances and by learning from the experiences of their counterparts. Compared to republics, monarchies are supposed to have even more means at their disposal and are therefore in a more comfortable position to allow a controllable degree of political liberalization. And yes, apparently monarchs have proven to be adroit at handling what Huntington once labeled as the 'king's dilemma'.

Paradoxes of Arab Refo-lutions

Serious concerns are expressed currently in Tunisia and Egypt about the sabotage of the defeated elites. Many in the revolutionary and pro-democracy circles speak of a creeping counter-revolution. This is not surprising. If revolutions are about intense struggle for a profound change, then any revolution should expect a counterrevolution of subtle or blatant forms. The French, Russian, Chinese, Iranian, and Nicaraguan revolutions all faced protracted civil or international wars. The question is not if the threat of counter-revolution is to be expected; the question rather is if the ‘revolutions’ are revolutionary enough to offset the perils of restoration. It seems that the Arab revolutions remain particularly vulnerable precisely because of their distinct peculiarity—their structural anomaly expressed in the paradoxical trajectory of political change.

The Stimson Center hosted a discussion–organized by Knowledge Programme Civil Society of the Dutch organization Hivos that aims to gain insights on civic activism in authoritarian settings in Syria and Iran–on the future of non-democratic regimes in the Middle East and the policy implications of the unprecedented, and unexpected, recent popular uprisings in the region.

Syrian Petition for Political Change: A Dramatic Missed Opportunity

Given the atrocities currently committed in Syria and the spectacularly bad press this generates for the regime, one would think that issuing an effective petition calling for political change in this country would be an easy task. All such a petition needs to do is to jump on the bandwagon of rapidly mounting protests and express the deeply felt anger across large sections of the Syrian population. In addition, any serious public appeal would demonstrate that there is a viable alternative to the regime; by way of clever proposals for political change and in reference to an impressive list of signatories from Syria’s brightest and most respected minds.

Hivos Advices The Netherlands Advisory Council On International Affairs on Support to Democratic Reforms in the Middle East

As a reaction to popular uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, The Dutch Advisory Council On International Affairs (AIV) requested Hivos and other Dutch NGOs on 21st of April to advice it on how the Dutch government could support reforms, democratization processes and rule of law in the region. Today the 28th of June the Dutch parliament debates about the AIV advise entitled Reforms in the Arab Region: Opportunities for Democracy and Rule of Law (Dutch translation) as well as the response of the Netherlands government.

The Day After: Hivos Supports Democratic Transition in Syria

The Day After project brought together a group of Syrians representing a large spectrum of the Syrian opposition—including senior representatives of the Syrian National Council (SNC), members of the Local Coordination Committees in Syria (LCC), and unaffiliated opposition figures from inside Syria and the Diaspora representing all major political trends and components of Syrian society—to participate in an independent transition planning process.

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