The Great Debate UK

Egypt’s treatment of women is a social nuclear weapon

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There was widespread dismay at a recent survey that ranked Egypt as the worst Arab country to be a woman. The poll, conducted by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, found that an astonishingly high 99% of women and girls experience sexual harassment, and worst of all the perpetrators of this abuse often go unpunished. Egypt scored poorly in every category of the poll including violence against women, reproductive rights and their inclusion in politics and the economy.

The poll surveyed 366 respondents – aid and healthcare workers, policy makers, journalists, academics and lawyers – and asked their opinion on women across Arab League countries. Although this is a perception poll, it is useful to get an idea of how the outside world view women’s role in society, politics and the economy. Perhaps the most interesting finding is that three out of five Arab Spring countries were ranked at the bottom of the pile. Discouragingly, it looks like revolution has not brought women the freedom they campaigned for in Tahrir Square in 2011.

Instead  of bringing greater freedom, openness and giving power back to the people, the experts have noticed that since he Arab Spring patriarchal norms have been reinforced, in addition there has been an increase in violence generally, instability, political corruption and bribery and a lack of security. This is not the type of environment where women see their rights improve and their position in society respected and solidified.

Women are 50% of the population, and if they can’t get their voice heard, find a job, or even walk down the street without the threat of being attacked or harassed then an economy cannot thrive. Unless the situation improves, then Egypt will not be able to see economic, political and societal improvements that were at the heart of the Arab Spring protests.

from The Great Debate:

For Russia, Syria is not in the Middle East

Russian President Vladimir Putin meets with (clockwise, starting in top left.) U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, British Prime Minister David Cameron, next Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon. REUTERS/FILES

A string of leaders and senior emissaries, seeking to prevent further escalation of the Syria crisis, has headed to Moscow recently to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. First, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, then British Prime Minister David Cameron, next Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and now, most recently, U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon These leaders see Russia as the key to resolving the Syria quandary.

from The Great Debate:

Obama faces only hard choices in Mideast

The conventional wisdom in Washington these days is that a newly empowered president, freed from the political constraints of reelection, will have more discretion, drive and determination to take on the Middle East’s most intractable problems.

Don’t believe it. This looks a lot more compelling on paper than in practice. Should President Barack Obama be tempted to embrace it, he may well find himself on the short end of the legacy stick.

from The Great Debate:

The key to understanding the ‘Arab Spring’

The United States has been unable to develop a clear national policy about the Arab Spring largely because Washington does not fully understand what’s happening in the Middle East.

The term, “Arab Spring” is itself misleading. The changes over the past 20 months have produced a fundamental transformation of the region – but not in the way most outside observers anticipated: They reflect the replacement of the dominant Arab national identity by a more Islamic identity.

Water security for whom? Water and security in the Middle East

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Eran Feitelson is a professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. The opinions expressed are his own.

Water is essential for life.  This is a basic premise underlying the water discourse in all arid and semi-arid regions.  Nowhere is this perception better acknowledged than the water-scarce Middle East.

from Ian Bremmer:

G-zero and the end of the 9/11 era top 2012 risks

In a video for Reuters, Ian Bremmer discusses the biggest risks facing the markets in 2012 and says the next phase in the Middle East and the post-9/11 environment pose the greatest uncertainty:

Top Risks of 2012

As we begin 2012, political risks dominate global headlines in a way we’ve not experienced in decades. Everywhere you look in today’s global economy, concerns over insular, gridlocked, or fractured politics affecting markets stare back at you. Continuation of the politically driven crisis in the eurozone appears virtually guaranteed. There is profound instability across the Middle East. Grassroots opposition to entrenched governments is spreading to countries such as Russia and Kazakhstan that were thought more insulated. Nuclear powers North Korea and Pakistan (and soon Iran?) face unprecedented internal political pressure... Read the full top risks report here.

from FaithWorld:

Will the Arab Spring bring U.S.-style “culture wars” to the Middle East?

(From left: Olivier Roy, Cardinal Angelo Scola and Martino Diez of the Oasis Foundation at the conference on San Servolo island, Venice, June 20, 2011/Giorgia Dalle Ore/Oasis)

Where is the Arab Spring leading the Middle East? What will be the longer-term outcome of the popular protests that have shaken the region since the beginning of this year? Of course, it’s still too early to say with any certainty, even in countries such as Tunisia and Egypt that succeeded in toppling their authoritarian regimes. Some trends have emerged, however, and they’re on the agenda at a conference in Venice I’m attending entitled “Medio Oriente verso dove?” (Where is the Middle East heading?). The host is the Oasis Foundation, a group chaired by Cardinal Angelo Scola, the Roman Catholic patriarch of this historic city, and guests include Christian and Muslim religious leaders and academics from the Middle East and Europe.

from Breakingviews:

G8 can help transform Middle East economies

By Una Galani
The author is a Reuters Breakingviews columnist. The opinions expressed are her own.

DUBAI -- The G8 could help transform the Middle East economies. The World Bank has pledged $6 billion of aid to Egypt and Tunisia, but the summit of industrialised nations' leaders this week could go further and come up with a model to prevent the Arab spring turning into an Arab winter. A significant package backed by multi-lateral institutions would be crucial to win back investor confidence.

from The Great Debate:

Why democracy will win

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Philip N. Howard, an associate professor at the University of Washington, is the author of "The Digital Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy:  Information Technology and Political Islam". The opinions expressed are his own.

The Day of Rage in Saudi Arabia was a tepid affair, and Libyan rebels have suffered strategic losses. Only two months ago, popular uprisings in Tunisia inspired Egyptians and others to take to the streets to demand political reform. Will the tough responses from Gadaffi and the Saudi government now discourage Arab conversations about democratic possibilities? It may seem like the dictators are ahead, but it’s only a temporary lead.

Don’t blame politicians for pragmatic foreign ties

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By Laurence Copeland

There are times when even a cynic like me has to feel some sympathy for politicians. Take the case of Libya, for example. Over the forty years of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime, relations between Britain (and our Western allies) and Libya have varied from lukewarm to cold and back to lukewarm again.

Now that this particular dictator appears to have reached the end of the road, some people are asking why the previous Government ever allowed our relations to rise above freezing point, which sounds rather as though they are trying to resurrect our long-dead (and possibly mythical) Ethical Foreign Policy. Is that feasible?

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