Hivos International

Regional Perspectives on the ‘Dignity Revolutions

How Middle Eastern Activists Perceive Popular Protest

This policy paper provides unique perspectives from Middle Eastern   activists who are part of popular protests across the region. The   recommendations are based on their perspectives and addressed to the EU   at large European Commission, the Dutch government and  Non-Governmental  Organisations in order for them to best support the  democratic  transitions in the region.

These perspectives were the subject of lively and inspiring debates at a seminar at the University in Amsterdam on April 18th, 2011 and advocacy meetings on April 19th and 20th, 2011  with Dutch and European policy makers in the Hague and Brussels  respectively. At the seminar activists from Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, Iraq,  Morocco and Syria discussed with Dutch academics and practitioners from  and outside the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia. The  idea for organising this seminar surfaced during internal discussions on  the Arab Spring within the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West  Asia. Ever since the eruption of popular protests, we have been  witnessing an avalanche of analyses from ‘experts’ in the Western media  on the roots of revolutions in the region. However, largely lacking were  the perspectives of people who were the key drivers of these protests.  For this reason we organised the seminar and advocacy meetings, and we  produced this policy paper.

The paper does not and indeed cannot  present the perspectives of all activists involved in the popular  protests. But it certainly presents the key conclusions and  recommendations of the seminar and subsequent advocacy meetings, and  therefore provides a platform for these activists to share their  stories, perspectives and recommendations with policy makers, academics  and activists in the Netherlands and the European Union. In this way we  aim to make a modest contribution to the global debate on the Arab  Spring and hope to assist activists, academics and policy makers in the  region and beyond to better comprehend the complexity of transformative  changes that re-configure the political landscape of the Middle East.

Accordingly,  I will pay attention to the conceptualization debate, i.e. how do we  make sense of Arab Spring. The second part will address the role of new  social media in this spring. Thereafter, I will reflect on the collapse  and/or sustenance of several ‘fear factors’, before going into the  relation between economic development and democratisation. Finally the  conclusions and recommendation of the activists will be presented.  

This is Policy Paper 3 of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia by Kawa Hassan

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