November 13, 2015, 1:45 pm - July 8, 2019, 2:31 pm


Capital Hilton Hotel

Washington, District of Columbia (Map)

2015 Annual Conference:   Banquet  |  Conference  |  Luncheon

The third panel at MEI's 69th Annual Conference featured Amat Al-Alim Al-Soswa (United Nations), Hedi Larbi (Harvard Belfer Center),  Hassan Mneimneh (Middle East Institute), Paul Salem (Middle East Institute), and moderator Daniel Serwer (Johns Hopkins SAIS, Middle East Institute).


Daniel Serwer: It’s a pleasure to be here and an honor to be here. My associate with MEI is certainly one of the great pleasures of my life these days. Welcome back to this first post lunch panel. This, I warn the panelists, is the most difficult timeslot of the day. We gotta keep it lively, we gotta keep it short, and we gotta engage in conversation. Our subject is toward human empowerment, social inclusion and political order. I joked with my MEI colleagues when we were planning this panel that we might call it the, I Want a Pony Panel. Human empowerment, social inclusion and political order are all the things we might want for the Middle East, but don’t seem likely to get. That I hope and ultimately suspect is incorrect. The Arab uprisings may have failed in the newspaper headlines, but they were the product of tectonic forces that are still at work and have also unleashed forces and changed expectations in ways that are likely to continue to affect how societies, economies and polities behave for decades to come. This story isn’t over.

We need to look a past the all too obvious immediate problems of the Middle East which we’ve amply discussed this morning. We need to look past some of those problems to focus on the longer term trends that certainly affect the people of the region, as Kate suggested, and may also affect overall the future of the region. Even small changes in direction can have enormous impacts over a generation or two. We’ve got a simply sterling panel to address the longer term trends. We’re going to be starting with Paul Salem whose has over the past couple of years done a great job as Vice President for Policy and Research at MEI making sure that the Institute keeps its eye both on current affairs and on the longer term horizon.

We’ll turn after that to former UN DP official Amat Al-Alim Al-Soswa who is among those who warned a decade and more ago about social deficits in the Arab world. I’ll hope she’ll touch on gender, education, youth and human rights, not only in her native Yemen, but also throughout the region.

Next we’ll come engineer Hedi Larbi who has been at the Harvard’s Belfer Center this fall as a Kuwait Foundation Fellow. He has decades of experience with economic and social development both in his native Tunisia and throughout the region at the World Bank. He’ll enlighten us on how expectations in the region have changed, expectations for a social contract that would enable states to appear legitimate in the eyes of their citizens. What kinds of institutional reform are needed?

Last, but not least, will be Hassan Mneimneh whom I know mostly from his years at director of the Iraq Memory Foundation. He will enlighten us on issues of identity, nationalism, sectarianism, and religion, the ideas that seem to be shaping how people in the region think about themselves and their relationship to their respective states. Let me start with you, Paul. What trends should we be paying attention to beyond the headlines? Let’s keep it short initially and then we’ll continue in more conversational style.

Paul Salem: Thank you, Dan. I think sort of to look at what’s happening in the Middle East we have to be aware of the long cycles and the shorter cycles. They’re interconnected. In the long cycles, and I’m talking last two centuries, the Middle East is going through an attempt to reorganize the social order, the economic systems, the political orders, political systems, cultural systems, identity, as well as international or the regional order. Europe and the West went through these profound attempts at change. It took three or four or five centuries. It was in many cases, much bloodier and much more radical and destructive than what we’re seeing today, but just to remind ourselves that when a society is redefining every aspect of itself from sort of 18th century norms to 21st century, everything is in question and everything might be in flux. So we are in a very profound and long-term process of change which will certainly still take decades to play itself out and it touches every aspect of life in that region.

In the more immediate term the empowerment that we saw expressed in the Arab uprisings has been sort of the earthquake that has brought many of the houses of cards down. This is a shift of power, a shift of power from states to societies, from societies in many cases to individuals which in many parts of the region are feeling their individual independence and power, a shift from a society where men decided everything to now where women are playing a much more forceful role, shift of power from older generations to enormous young generations. And as in all power shifts it leads to conflict, it leads to in many cases instability. There is also with this new explosion of power and empowerment, a struggle to harness that new power and to mobilize it, either under the name of religion and Islam, Islamist movements trying to harness this new dynamism, either more moderate versions or more radical, nationalism, attempts to harness these forces to a nationalist, statist perspective, and in maybe less successful cases, you see the prevalence of liberal ideas, liberal values, without perhaps a major success in imposing them or bringing them to fruition.

All of this is happening in an environment of tightening resources. Land resources in the Middle East are the tightest anywhere on the world. Water resources are the lowest and, and dwindling fast, and demographic growth is the highest. These forces certainly were underpinning a lot of the conflict and explosions we saw over the last four or five years, but they will get more pressing in the years and decades to come. In a few decades Egypt population will be 160 million, 170 million and if we have problems now you can imagine how much more we will have in the future. I will stop there. Thank you, Dan.

Daniel Serwer: Thank you very much, Paul. Amat, what should we be expecting of these newly empowered youth and women and can Arab societies begin to meet contemporary human rights and educational standards or are we expecting too much.

Amat Al-Alim Al-Soswa: First of all I think it is about the political willingness of the regimes of the states to start with. But we have maybe to go back a little bit to maybe the beginning of the century and I agree with Paul that there is of course a shift. Let’s remember that most of the current Arab states, I mean, the states were really born last century. I mean, in the current modern system of state and its functions. So while building the states for the whole century with different ups and downs and the whole spectrum as well of the political as well upheaval not just in each individual country, but also in relations to other countries in the region what has happened during the time when the Arab nationalism was prevailing idea and who inherited this whole call of the Arab nationalism and whether the Islamists’ entrance to the political scene of the Arab world the way it has had anything to do as well, I mean, in its beginning had anything to do with what we are seeing now, plus also it is very important as well to relay the (inaudible 9:32) on the findings as well of the (inaudible) report, not the first release, not the first series which we launched in 2002, because as we can remember the three major deficits which were recognized by those who wrote that report as being the freedom, knowledge and the woman’s rights, but the series which took place in 2009 which talked about the human security the challenges to human security in the Arab region. And it was in that particular series that we started seeing that while we sank for a long time about the necessity of course of establishing and talking about the states and its different structures and what the state’s doing to its citizens, but at some instances some of those states became also threat to their own populations, especially when those states are not really running the government and are not really basing their rule on the rights of the citizens, not also in fulfilling the aspirations of its population. Hence, you are currently, especially after the Arab Spring when people really felt, and they were really so empowered then they made it to the streets with the various degrees of course of successes and let’s say also of setbacks. In some Arab countries it is definitely a different era, a different setting and it has its own roles and plays and one has to really look at the reasons which really led to the current situation, but it’s clear to us that now the Arab states and its first shape, or in its form shape, it definitely will not be the same, not at least in the years or maybe decades to come. And I think this is maybe just in the beginning and then we can speak about other elements, very important elements in the reshaping of this new situation.

Daniel Serwer: Modern (inaudible 11:40) changed states, changed expectations of states, so Hedi tell me how do we begin to meet these expectations, even in advanced democracies there are disappointments, but the institutions contain the conflict keep it nonviolent, how do we get to that point in the Middle East?

Hedi Larbi: First of all, thank you very much. I would like to thank the organizer of this excellent event and for inviting me to participate in this. Actually before this I would like to make a couple of comments. One, when we talk about the regime in the Arab world it’s like it’s one single and they have the same problems and they have the same issues and I would argue not at all. They are totally different, they’re in different areas and they face different challenges and therefore there is a necessity to treat them totally different. And second, I think it’s important, at least for the (inaudible 12:40)  to your question, at least I can see three different groups in the Arab world today. One if the Gulf countries and they have the resources and I don’t think they are in the mood of changing that somehow socioeconomic contract that you mentioned or institution, because they think they have the resources actually to keep keeping that, moving (inaudible 13:06) where you give up on your political rights and we have your jobs and access to public services and so on and so forth. And by the way we offer you security on our terms. But that also may be changing soon because when you look at the oil prices and the shift actually in the geography and technology of oil supply that social contract may be threatened soon. So maybe they need to, as you rightly mentioned, to look at what the institution can do. And the second group is really these countries that are really in some sort of civil war. So what type of state, what type of institution (inaudible 13:45) so actually it is the rational community and we heard today I’m really very sad to hear that there’s a kind of law solution that is kind of wars and conflicts (inaudible) I think it’s the international institution, international community, but the region as well has to come together and to understand there is no way to keep actually worrying and bickering between Iran, Saudi Arabia, I don’t know what, when a human being, a population, million of population are getting refugee. This is a human disaster that we are living so the social contract is more of an international social contract and institution to come together and to really get things, address it very quickly because the human economic and social costs are really huge. We cannot just do the political kind (inaudible 14:37) sit down and say it’s not going to be addressed and we are pessimistic. We need to take a more voluntary type of approach to address this issue.

And the third group is these countries what are what I call the transition countries, the Tunisia of today, the Moroccan, somehow Egypt, etcetera, and Jordan, these countries yes, you are absolutely right, they can preserve it and they can actually come to their population and offer a new social economic contract. And I would suggest following very quickly, while they have to come up clearly with a sort of government with a minimum of people who have, they have a good reputation in terms of integrity but also in terms of competence. We cannot address the social and economic issues of these countries with the really kind of the typical past management of the governance and economic management of the country. So it’s really kind of different situation, different countries give (inaudible 15:37) and the component of the social contract if you want to talk about it then we can come to this later.

Daniel Serwer: Thank you very much. Hassan, the Middle East today seems almost destined to a downward spiral of polarization over identity, especially between Sunni and Shia but also between minorities and majorities throughout the region, even if they’re a national variations of intensity and even of kind, certainly different peoples in different countries, still there seems to be an almost irresistible tendency towards fragmentation and polarization. How can that downward spiral be arrested and more integrated identifies emerge?

Hassan Mneimneh: I’m glad actually that all the participants on the panel are taking the longer view and the wider view and trying to make distinctions. And I’ll go back to what Paul has started talking about although he did not mention one word that fits in there, the word modernity, and the whole notion that the past century at least has been the Middle East’s attempt at assimilating, appropriating modernity, moving from what we can call a tribal mindset irrespective of what tribalism is, whether it’s about the tribe per se or about the community, etcetera, to one more based on a relationship between individual society and state. Well, I think it might be appropriate given that we are in the centennial of a great war that created the Middle East, to look back and say that that century has effectively failed, that if we look today, I’m not talking here about structure. I’m really talking about culture. If we look today at the cultural outlook of the societies across the region, we compare it to their cultural outlook in the immediate aftermath of that great war, we will notice that there was then a sense of optimism that is no longer here.

We have, let’s very schematically look at what happened. We had a sense of optimism based on the promise of a progress-oriented modernity. Elite, nonetheless it was supposed to deliver, it failed. Then from this universalism of that progress oriented modernity we got (inaudible 18:14) ideology of no, it is about us, about authenticity, about the nation, we will deliver. That was populism as opposed to (inaudible 18:24). It failed. Then the pendulum swung back towards a new universalism, internationalism, socialism, equality. Again, the segregation here is horizontal and therefore there’s plenty of populism in it. We will create the just society, it failed. Then swinging back to (inaudible 18:49). This time it’s religion. It’s authenticity of a new type, an authenticity that is intense, but nonetheless still inclusive at that point and this is where the Islamism as it started was inclusive. Think about 1979 and the (inaudible) Jihad, how they was no notion despite the fact that later revisions will look back at the (inaudible 19:07) revolution as being sectarian. (inaudible) revolution was welcomed across the Islamist spectrum as being an Islamism authenticity that will deliver, it failed. What we are witnessing today is maybe a post Islamist reality in which we’re collapsing in terms of the cultural outlook, from if you’d like, an Islam to a Sunni nation and a Shia nation, and these Sunni nation and Shia nation are not putting them in the form of a welcome development, more we’re collapsing back to a tribalism that’s asserting itself.

I think despite the fact that no, we cannot, when we say that we have failed in the course of the past century, we’re not talking about an object failure at every level. There’s plenty (inaudible 20:00) and in fact the smart approach and what comes next is to rescue what can be rescued, but we have to acknowledge today that some of the assumptions that we held as being constants are no longer there. We have, now we face the reality that we have at least in the Levant, which is the part that is most collapsing in this whole multiple Arab worlds, I completely agree with Hedi, we’re talking about the (inaudible 20:28) is a very different dynamic from Egypt and the Nile very different dynamic from the Gulf and Arabia and very different dynamic from the Levant and this east. This east that is collapsing today into their solution, not into repartition, is effectively the harshest test that we face, both at the level of structure and at the level of culture.

Daniel Serwer: I’m not yet getting a clear idea of where the solutions lie. You know, I mean, there is a sort of liberal democratic solution out there, it’s modeled for the Middle East maybe better in Europe than in the United States, but there’s also a very illiberal solution out there that is being proposed by the Islamic State, a new kind of authoritarianism. You know, I take it for granted I guess most of us would prefer the liberal democratic direction but we barely even pronounce its name in the Middle East because it’s associated with secularism and with other bad things like the United States and Europe and things of that sort. So tell me, you know, solutions, one of the conclusions I came to listening to people this morning was that solutions are gonna have to grow organically from the soil of the Middle East. Give me an idea what, where are the solutions that are growing organically or are we condemned to this horrible binary choice?

Hassan Mneimneh: Then I would not dignity what the Islamic State is about by calling it an alternative or a solution or a path. What it is, it’s smokes and mirrors. What we have here is very much a creation of social media, a creation of availability of really technological advances that are applied for recruitment and for totally (inaudible 22:40) project, but that provides a (inaudible) organization with the ability to sustain life for awhile. If we’re talking about solutions there are indeed two solutions. One is indeed as you mentioned, the liberal democratic solution which has (inaudible 22:57), has potential across the region, but it is severely underdeveloped and we can talk about the reasons of this underdevelopment. The other solution is the guided (inaudible 23:08) if you like, that you find I places such as the Gulf in particular, United Arab Emirates, Qatar and others, again, benign between quotation marks but well, I mean, Singapore would argue that it is a path to progress so this is not to be dismissed. I had one discussion with a member of the Chinese communist party that argued that western democracy is a fallacy. It’s (inaudible 23:38) based on if you’d like development, conscious development that needs to be applied, but failed to mentioned the corruption that that entails. In any case what I’m saying these are the two parts. We have a hollow education in the region that has really made the young people at a disadvantage. That needs to be addressed, but I also kind of could caution us against putting too much of a burden on the young generation as the one that is going to change the day. It’s unfair on the one hand, on the other hand it’s an education on our part.

Daniel Serwer: Hedi, I see you agreeing with Hassan that there is this authoritarian solution out there, benign authoritarianism. Do you think that’ll work?

Hedi Larbi: Actually I would qualify a little bit, because I think that the model of the liberal democratic type of solution, that’s what we all wish, but I’m not sure that we have a good understanding of what it implies in terms of institution and in terms, especially in terms of economic and social reforms. That and the problem (inaudible 24:50) is it is, I don’t think that the authority regime of the past, if they had delivered on that social contact by delivering the economic and social reforms, they would have been there. Well, how will the (inaudible 25:05) can you understand that, do you think that they are (inaudible) have been more dictators than the Chinese today or the Arab world, or the Chinese enjoying more freedom? I don’t think so but the Chinese government was delivering. They delivered a huge growth, a huge social  equity and they lifted out 600 million out of poverty. So actually people, and we have good evidence with a lot of research, people like governments that perform, that deliver to them. So it is not necessarily that democratic legitimacy but it is probably the best and the most sustainable type of solution.

Now if you want to have an authoritarian, or benevolent authoritarian, that actually needs to do something to make sure that they will deliver to the people and hence they will do the economic reforms that they will do it. First is really the political inclusiveness, a minimum of it. You don’t need to be a kind of democracy to have some sort of political inclusive. If you can have it and I think Egypt at the time and even Tunisia, they stopped doing it, well, at some time they stopped it and that’s where they made the mistake. The second is really the social inclusion and cohesion and that is really about institution and about to have a minimum of a floor of social safety nets that you deliver to the people. And that’s possible. My argument I’m doing a little bit of research, it is not costly for governments. It’s really something because they are not managing properly the public resources or the (inaudible 26:32). And really they can’t deliver it and third is governance. Governance, what is that is difficult that we cannot deliver in terms of accountability and transparency and fighting corruption, actually fighting corruption is really strengthening these (inaudible 26:48) but they didn’t understand it that way, unfortunately for them.

And finally, employment, especially for (inaudible 26:54). Labor policies if you look at them they are not that, that was really another big mistake that we made so it’s possible benevolent that learn from the past history and deliver to the people.

Daniel Serwer: Amat, I’m tempted to ask you how you see this in part from a Yemeni perspective. Yemen conducted a national dialogue and yet still that was a failure. Do you think it’s possible to have this kind of inclusion and succeed at the same time?

Amat Al-Alim Al-Soswa: Well, I think if the National (inaudible 27:29) Conference succeeded we would have not seen the terrible war taking place right now, so this is just to say also out the outset because also Yemen was seen as the most peaceful example of the post Arab Spring because it was really peaceful, even when the administrators suffered from their lives, from their arrest (inaudible 27:55), the tension, etcetera, etcetera, but then unfortunately that was also an opportunity which was lost, and it was lost not just also by the typical internal factions kind of political play, because that’s also what different political parties try to do whenever they don’t have, or when they lack serious national objectives in such very complex and sensitive, as well, environment. By saying this also it’s also to open up a little bit and speak also about the involvement of the regional, you know, partners and also of the international community, too. Because the Yemeni transition was actually the most and the heavily, if you will, the heavily process that was really cared for by our regional partners and also by the international community, but that did not really save it from failing because it was not genuinely, it was not really locally it was not motivated, it was not followed with the full acceptance of the Yemeni population.

And by that I mean, it’s very important as well to regard and to view all the efforts played by the region in particular by the GCC because if it wasn’t to them that Yemen was definitely going to enter (inaudible 29:33) civil upheaval. And I think by the GCC initiative they really tried to perhaps try and sort out an solve the issue based also on the regional simple mediation which led to the exception of all parties to the old regime, to the newly invented as well, you know, regime and at the end of the day because of the lack of the capacity of the government, and this is very important thing, as Hedi said, it’s not, it wasn’t enough just to have the political cheer and to have the international backing, the regional backing while you had one of the worst governments ever. That was the responsibility really of managing the transition. So it led to what exactly we saw now and without any further of course, you know, description to the disaster that Yemen is currently you know, facing or feeling from. It is also important to go back to the youth dissatisfaction to continue as well increase on the number of youth who were really unemployed and that was of course a problem like the rest of the other Arab states.

Yemen was actually more impacted by that given it's also developmental status, because as you know, Yemen comes at the very, very lower bottom of the development scale if you will, in the Arab world, maybe with the exception of Somalia and Jabuti, and then you had also very, very increasing, as well, level of population and fertility rate which is of course described as number one in the world, not just in the region, and you had at the same time with all these important elements, you really did not have any political backup meaning that the political elite was will continuously in this saga of relating all the historical problems between each other and they never figured out that they were put in a place of high responsibility to bringing people together and to forget about just recalling the past experiences because it’s important as well to know that Yemen was only unified as one country in 1990, and this is pretty very short time for a state really to function based on totally different, you know, objectives, too. So the economic inclusion is very, very important of course element, political inclusion was there. I mean, nobody can deny that Yemen and Yemeni population enjoyed rather higher level of political participation. When it comes to gender I don’t think we were really given the rights that the Yemeni woman deserved even if everybody was praising us, having 30% of the components of the national dialogue represented by women, but of course until now we did not have a constitution because you remember when the Houthis on (inaudible 32:47) made it to (inaudible) the first thing they did they captured the Secretary General of the national dialogue who was carrying literally the copy of the new drafted constitution and from that time and on we have been really struggling and getting from one particular problem to another to the war which is now not sparing any part of Yemen, which is really impacting the vast majority of the civilian population of my country which lots of death and lots of destruction and again, it  is very important to underline here that the lack of experience and the impunity as well of the different political elites really led us, amongst other reasons really, to the current situation we are in.

Daniel Serwer: Paul, Amat emphasizes the limitation of the capacity of the government to manage the transition process. You had talked initially about this shift of power towards individuals, towards youth, towards women. Have we made a mistake to focus too little attention on the building up of State capacity?

Paul Salem: I think that shifting of power is what challenges institutions and in many cases disrupts them and brings them down. Those are clearly political institutions that were challenged and many collapsed, economic institutions and old economic contracts that people no longer accepted, social contracts in terms of gender roles and so on that were also challenged and disrupted.  So yes, I would think, I mean, I would say that that whole question of empowerment and then the effects creates and then what is required at the end of the day you’re talking about the dissolution of old institutions that are no longer functioning and the challenge definitely of coming to new institutions, and by institutions we both mean sort of the hard physical institutions as well as norms, habits, values, and that’s why I indicated that when all of this is in question you see this extent of disorder and I compare it to Western Europe to indicate that it was much worse in Western Europe so we’re really talking about very, very difficult and serious forces, but what’s important to move forward is to start with a vision, that idea matters. If you don’t know where you want to get to, there’s nowhere to get anywhere in the final sense. And to build a bit on what Hassan said, I often say in the past we used to have a future. We thought we knew where we were going in the ‘20s. We thought we knew where we were going in the ‘50s. By the ‘70s and ‘80s we had reconciled ourselves to an extensive amount of failure, not really complete failure, but you know, the hopes of Arab nationalism didn’t get anywhere; the hopes of socialism didn’t really make it, so we were out of ideas and we were becoming accepting of that status quo.

What’s hopeful and what’s positive about the Arab Uprisings is people said, “No, we do not accept the status quo, we will not accept a continuation of this level of soft or hard authoritarianism with limited growth and uneven wealth distribution.” Of course there’s many variations. UAE and others are not in the same bag, but I’m sort of generalizing for the larger countries. It’s a positive thing that people stood up and said, “No, this not what we accept,” and for a moment there, there was a vision of, in some areas, of at least accountable government, the demand for social justice and it was something that for a moment was shared in households from Morocco to Haddam to Armin. That was a very rare moment, but unfortunately where we’ve arrived at in the last, you know, as they say, from the Arab Spring to the Arab Winter, is a loss or a division in the vision, and that is even more dangerous than a civil war here which you can end, a basic division over whether we want as a region to move towards democratization or to reinforce authoritarianism. That is a very, very profound difference.

Another profound difference whether we want to move towards Islamism of various tribes or secularism. A third crisis that relates more to what Hedi was talking about, the Arab Uprisings came with a lot of economic demands, but with no economic vision. In the ‘50s people said, “We want socialism.” You know, it was followed by attempts at liberalism. The problem there is that governments that are now coming to power, even in transitioning countries, have no mandated vision for economic change, for structural change. They’re asked to provide more public services and to create jobs without profound changes to the economy and that is a crippling absence of vision that could translate into a meaningful economic contract.

The fourth level which is crippling is the absence of a vision for regional order. It is foolish to think that any states and economies can make significant progress while we conduct a Sunni/ Shia war or a Gulf/Iranian war or a Sunni/Sunni, there’s an internal war in the Sunni world. It’s folly to think that any region can develop or seek stability in any society while it is blively conducting regional warfare on a major level. And currently there is no vision for regional order and that, let alone all the national problems that is a crippling problem. If you had differences or a brief civil war in a country, if that country were in today’s Western Europe the region could help manage it, but in a region such as we are in now even if you have the beginnings of demonstrations it ends up into a proxy war, so regional conflict feeds these wars. So that is something also that needs to be addressed. It was talked about negatively in the second panel, but I think that is a very, very critical element and again, I mentioned Western Europe. Western Europe had to finally accept sort of a common vision politically, a common vision in terms of rule of law and sovereignty, and a common Western European order that did not include neither proxy war nor direct war. You need that package to advance in the 21st Century.

Daniel Serwer: Hassan, where do all these visions come from? Have you got any sense that they’re emerging?

Hassan Mneimneh: Unfortunately we talked about the depletion of grand narratives other than, I mean, the current situation we cannot call what we’re witnessing today in terms of in particular, Sunni consciousness versus Shia consciousness as being a grand narrative the way we had modernism, then nationalism, then socialism, even Islamism in its early phase. However, just to look at it again, going back to the longer span the 19th Century was the century of ideas. In that century the Middle East for the first time got a firsthand taste of European systems, and to a larger extent it was a pull element, not just a push element. It’s not simply Europe coming to the Middle East, it’s the Middle East pulling Europe into it. Whether in Tunisia or in Cairo, in Tunis, in Cairo and Istanbul, but even in Damascus and Baghdad you had (inaudible 41:20) governors trying to say, “what we see we like. We would like the same to be here.” So if the 19th Century was the century of ideas, the 20th Century was the century of the State.

However, applied without the checks and balances that the state in Europe had, which basically ensured that society holds the state in account and actually creates the state. So this was what was really hopeful about the Arab Spring when it happened. It seemed to usher the 21st Century as the century of society. The idea is we are in that process. Again, without falling into (inaudible 42:04) without falling into the (inaudible) of assuming that the European cycle will reproduce itself here, but we seem to be in a process in which, okay we have assimilated the ideas, we’ve created dysfunctional States, now we’re going to create the social structures that hold the State accountable, monitor the State, and shape the State. We are going to create the citizen. Okay? However, at this moment in time, a few years after those events, it looks thin. We cannot, I think we are too close to all of it to be able to decide, okay, so it failed, an object failure that there’s no recovery from it, but we cannot on the other hand say, “let’s rest confident that democracy is inevitable,” or that this will be the century of society in an inevitable fashion.”

I think what is more realistic is to say, “we have enough material if we judiciously work it with modesty, with humility,” but without surrender because as I mentioned, very often I hear talk about civil society as if it’s talk of surrender, along the lines we are unable to do it through society’s state structure, so we push it to civil society. We make it as the realm of civil society. Again, without, there’s a (inaudible 43:30) principle that says (inaudible). We cannot pretend to be able to recreate systems and recreate and shape environments at a time where we do not have the capacity ourselves. So this is what I meant by humility. It needs to be an incremental process that builds upon what is, with help and called in, pulled in help from the outside, but with the realization that this is not going to be a stellar success next year. We’re talking about a generational project.

Daniel Serwer: Hedi, is that, do you see signs that that’s beginning to happen? Is Tunisia an example of that kind of incremental progress?

Hedi Larbi: Thank you. Actually I want first to totally agree with Paul on this actually the absence of regional order and also the fact that we should not surrender to the country. It’s really I would see it from another angle personally as an exciting period (inaudible 44:36) because we are, as you said, on the verge of discovering maybe something, it’s a discovery mode actually. What is amazing in the institution in the Arab World and actually after independence and based on my experience, is this concept of learning institution that learn and that experiment doesn’t exist. We create institution and we leave it as it is for decades, that is the real problem, or things change, things really change and they change very quickly. So if we, the optimistic way we should not surrender and we should do something. The order on the other side that doesn’t exist I attribute all of this to a crisis of leadership because after independence what happened, we have some leaders who whatever their ideas we agree, we don’t agree, but at least as Paul said, we had a vision, we wanted to do this (inaudible 45:27) etcetera. Build strong states, deliver social contact, education, and by the way if you look at the social indicate of the Arab World up to today, they are the among the best, they achieved a lot in terms of, take any type of social indicator and you will find that the Arab World is not that bad at all to the country, actually I think few countries in East Asia, they are doing, they have done much better, but better than America, Latin America, better South Africa, Sub-Saharan African. We did much better than East European, but they have caught up actually over the last decades, etcetera, but the Arab World did indeed have a vision, but we lost it, we lost it and then we, unfortunately a number of conflicts happened and that’s where actually (inaudible 46:17) and international intervention in the region, each time they actually bring us back like decades. It’s a real issue, it is not something that we should neglect, intervention in the region actually costs a lot in terms of human, in terms of economy and in terms of progress.

So where are the signs? This is where maybe Paul, I frankly want to detract a little bit from what you said. If we wait until the region, the whole region, has a vision, the whole region has a really clear values that we share, it may take a long time because I don’t see Tunisia agreeing with I’m sorry to say, some of the Gulf countries or the (inaudible 46:59) that they know very well would agree on some of the values and the political system in other countries. So maybe then the signs is to see where are the countries where we have some good example that start actually moving and help them achieve it and that given a good example in the region, because that’s a really indigenous, that’s comes organic as you said, and it can deliver. Tunisia today has that potential, we have social and economic problem, yet I think we are determined to do something, regrettably given the risk that we, the (inaudible 47:32) risk in the region, because today if we lack investment it’s not only because we didn’t do the reforms or we are slow at reforms, because of the risk of (inaudible 47:41) the region when you have Libya, a state on the other side, ISIS on the different side, actually the risk for investment is extremely high so they don’t come except for short term type of with a short term payback etcetera. So we are suffering from the, actually instability in the region and we are suffering from the whole, I would say, turmoil that is happening in the region, which is not the fact of these countries, the fact also of other powers, regional and external. So I think the signs are try to help these countries that are moving to a new sort of shift, political shift, where we see now some hope and if the international community helps this country give some example then I’m sure that the other countries will follow through because, as you have seen from the revolution, what happened in Tunisia a few months later or a few weeks, happened everywhere. So the contagion in the Arab World is strong, build on it.

Daniel Serwer: Amat, is positive contagion the right way to go forward?

Amat-Al-Alim Al-Soswa: Well I mean if you even look at the Yemeni case, even being the bottom of the ladder of the developing part of the Arab World or developed part of the Arab World, still even we also managed with all the cycles of different crises, both in the north and part of the North Yemen or South Yemen or the Unified Yemen, there were of course also basic signs as well of establishing state, state that is or was seen to achieve really the objectives of its citizens and of course it was also the misbehavior if you will, of those political parties who were not accountable, who did not also help in creating some institutions to monitor them, to tell them you have done this wrong, then you can do that, and there was no checks and balances on that, on that terms, but that doesn’t mean that for example, even a country like Yemen, which only knew goals education in 1960 to, and of course I’m excluding here the former Aden Colony because it was under the Brits and Aden was treated a different way, but for the entire Yemeni space or geography if you will, the first girls school was established in 1962. And that is also very, very important to look at the current situation as well and the development of the woman participation as well in Yemen, with all the setbacks that we have seen, to having for example a minimum, a minimum at least of (inaudible 50:22) person of the deans of the universities in Yemen represented by woman, this is by all means something really to be proud of. But that doesn’t mean also on the other hand, as Hedi was saying, that doesn’t mean that it was also a positive result that was felt by every single woman because still the high illiteracy rate amongst women, like in most of the Arab World, are actually between woman, I mean it’s not amongst men. Still even if the, if the rate shows is very, very close, it’s not really that big, but still the woman are much more impacted by that. Plus also again, even in the political participation, Yemeni woman gained the rights to vote and the right to become candidate at the same time when men did really have this right, and that was only very, very recently, less than 25 years ago. So even, but with that even still not all political parties were hundred percent convinced, were not hundred percent on agreement with the fact that woman all of a sudden will become equally treated or equally represented in every part of the structure of the state or of the society. But with all of that things could have been done also even better, they could have achieved as well even higher goals, had we had also the basic you know elements of establishing this very important relations between the state and the citizens and based again on equal citizenship. Because only through that you will be able to go away from all the sensitivities, all the issues related to minorities, to the rights of the excluded groups, the marginalized groups, to the different regional differences, etcetera, etcetera, that’s the problem.  And again, it was also because the compilation of establishing institutions of the state have never been given time, really enough time, so that they can provide, they can deliver, they can then be monitored and told you did this wrong, you did this right, meaning that also we were not able, because of the short cycles of the very, very simple democratic steps that we have taken, they were not really that long, they were not that deep, so that people will definitely you know have them as a way of life and perhaps also defend them and not accept any way else you know beyond them except really to follow in that.

And again, the question of woman in the Arab World I cannot say, with exception maybe of Tunisia, Hedi is sitting here, but truly with that exception even post Arab Spring. Look at the number of the woman in Egypt who have been elected to the first parliament after the January Great Revolution, it was only nine woman in front of about 585 or something, this is post Arab Spring and this is in Egypt, not in any other Arab smaller country. So that’s a very important thing for us to know, but at the same time, and I agree again with Hedi as well, to look at as well the Arab World as a one block, it is not correct and it’s not true, but also there are interesting things taking place as well in the GCC Countries where usually the general overview for people tend to think you know those countries are very conservative, they are a little bit a way if you way to speak, about modernization or democratic you know development etcetera, but then if you look at the development of the woman in those countries, Saudi Arabia also amongst them, because I think and I’m proud as well, to say that for the Saudi woman, they are the most highly educated, they are more educated than their male partners in all levels of schools, especially at the higher schools and universities. Plus in addition to that if you look at the woman representations in the Sultan of Oman and the number of female ministers in Oman and compare them to that of any other republic in the Arab World, there is no way to compare because the Omani woman have been also represented, they were actually the biggest representation in any government in the Arab region, starting from 1990, and so on and so forth. Again, that doesn’t mean that these societies are not faulty in some other issues, basic issues as well, in relations again as well to the question of the rights and the questions of citizenship and also the question of this very healthy relationship between legitimate states and its own citizenship via those means, which means really the social inclusion which also prepares those countries, and its people really, to being so proud of their countries.

Daniel Serwer: We’re on a relative upswing in optimism here and the Panel has done a great job it seems to me in keeping the focus on these longer term, bigger issues that are occurring in the Middle East. I’m gonna go back through the Panel now and ask them if they have anything to add, but immediately after that we’ll go to questions, there are two microphones, you’re asked to line up at the microphones to ask questions and we’ll try to keep the questions and comments short. Let me go back through the group, starting with Hassan, anything to add?

Hassan Mneimneh: Actually the main, just to bring it back if you’d like from the high flying to the pedestrian level, I think it’s, while it’s important to know the differences between societies in the region, there has been almost a paradox. At a time when Arab nationalism in its claim for unity and commonality has collapsed, there has been the emergence of a common Arab culture. This is why there’s a repercussion effect that can be very positive across those multiple Arab Worlds. I completely agree with what Hedi was saying about the need to make distinctions, not just in terms of structured state, but in terms of even the geographic context, but nonetheless I mean we saw with the Arab Spring, the flags in Tunisia were purely Tunisian flags. In Cairo they were Tunisian and Egyptian. In Libya they were Tunisian, Egyptian and Libyan. And in Yemen in Bahrain, in Syria, again there’s this effect that there’s a certain sense of a common cultural, if you’d like, continuum, even though there is an insistence of local identity and for that matter, in the negative, on factional identity within the local.

Daniel Serwer: Hedi?

Hedi Larbi: Actually I fully agree with Hassan, that’s why somehow I believe we have to have a little bit more evidence on these positive contagion so if we focus at least when we have this type of event or with influencer and policy makers on how to help these countries who can actually show something positive that can inspire other country that will be a good thing so let’s keep the positive side of it and build on the positive contagion as you rightly mentioned.

Daniel Serwer: Amat?

Amat-Al-Alim Al-Soswa: Well I will only resort to the fact that I mean while we have this half, half glass filled, half glass empty, I would like to see actually in, hopefully in the very near future, that when it comes to the rights of the civilians in the Arab World that we have a full really cup, not just half of it.

Daniel Serwer: Paul?

Paul Salem: Yeah I mean in grappling between the regional and the national, they’re not contradictory, they coexist, but I do think it’s definitely the case that there are some powerful waves that wash across the region and have impacts, obviously the Arab Spring was a stunning example of an event in Tunisia causing Egypt, causing Libya, and those waves matter and they do cause change and they are peculiarly Arab. When Iranians revolted in 2009 there was no reaction, when democracy came to Turkey, there was no reaction, so there is something there to the Arab World. At the same time the pluralism that Hedi was talking about is a blessing, the fact that we are not a monolithic block, that different countries can experience different ways, Tunisia is an amazing experiment, United Arab Emirates, as you were saying, is doing some amazing things, Lebanon has some things that it’s been able to innovate. That innovation was key to Europe’s development and the fact that they were different experiences matter. And finally on a practical sense, at the end of the day all politics is local, that when we look at today’s conflict in Syria, at the end of the day as we say in the lunch panel, you have to grapple with those conflicts, with that government, with those civil societies, with those opposition members, Libya and so on and so forth. So yes we are talking in some general narratives, they do matter, but also like think globally, act locally, we have to build from the ground up, Tunisia’s an amazing example, there are civil wars that we need to attend to, they have to probably be done case by case while also worrying about regional, ending regional proxy war.

Daniel Serwer: I’ll go to questions.

Female: Firstly I would like to thank you all for the very enriching panel; I really enjoyed listening to the different perspectives. My question is related to, I think it’s important to analytically divide the region into sub-regions as some of you have mentioned, and I also wanted to ask a question about the idea of democracy. I mean generally scholars coin it with kind of a normative pretext as democracy is a positive thing that results in positive results. However, I would like to go back by sub-regionalizing the Middle East and look at the Gulf for example, and look at Kuwait. Kuwait is probably, arguably, the most democratic Gulf state, yet arguably for its level of wealth it hasn’t economically developed as much as let’s say the United Arab Emirates. So my question would be does democracy really result in positive economic development, and this would bring me to Dr. Hassan’s argument, which he talked about the autocratic solution, so I would like to hear more about that perspective because I think that sometimes scholars are a little bit biased towards democracy, even though I do think it’s appropriate for certain cultures and certain countries. Thank you.

Daniel Serwer: One of you want to take that on, Hassan?

Hassan Mneimneh: Actually I’ve, in the context of an Asian conference there was this debate, so what’s the difference between, why the difference between South Korea and Bangladesh? South Korea being where it is in terms of being at the level of Europe and beyond, and Bangladesh being where it is, at the level of Africa and below. And a short answer was, South Korea (inaudible 1:02:40) development first, democracy next, while Bangladesh went democracy first and then is attempting development, which it cannot do. I think these are easy answers that really do not hold a real scrutiny, each case is different, each case has multiple factors that feed into it. There are examples, healthy examples of democracies that because of the democratic system development was oriented in such a way to help the interests of the population. So I would not make it, I personally would refuse the immediate linkage while noting that indeed in terms of, it is easier for an autocrat to decide on a big project than for a messy democratic system to get to it, but this is not as, if you’d like, immediate and linear as it appears.

Daniel Serwer: Hedi?

Hedi Larbi: Very quickly, the short answer, this is what evidence, what research says, is actually democracy is not necessarily something that would promote development, but it’s certainly the best political system for the quality of economic development in the long run. Quality meaning that sustained growth, but also social inclusion, because when you have that democracy you have your voice, you have accountability and so on, so actually you have that social inclusion, that’s clear in terms of quality. With regard to Kuwait, actually Kuwait is another case because you are talking about a rich country where what we call in economy Dutch disease, is one hundred percent effect over there. So we’re not going to have much diversification and economic development unless you do like the (inaudible 1:04:24), you say actually is it just one small part of my oil rent, which will be part of my budget, the rest in sort of whatever generation (inaudible 1:04:32) etcetera and then it will develop my economy and diversify, that’s none of the Gulf countries doing except UA, as you rightly mentioned.

Daniel Serwer: Amat, did I understand, Paul?

Paul Salem: Yeah a quick comment I mean, I want to be clear I mean democracy is not Western, there was no democracy in the West until revolutions and conflicts much worse that what we’ve seen, brought it there. So it’s not a cultural thing, it’s more an expansion of power to wider groups that demand exercise of that power and that eventually is translated in some kind of electoral accountable government, which we end up sort of calling democracy. So it is not an American idea, it’s not an idea; it’s a technology of social organizations. Secondly, definitely the question of does democracy create better economic result, that’s a different debate, as we said there’s different, but democracy, you know in 1940 there were nine democracies in the world, today there are about 160. It’s not, it’s a historical force and it is, it’s come to the Arab World, it’s gonna continue, this empowerment is a one way street, it will have may setbacks, it will have many hiccups, but I, we are going in one historical direction like other societies have. How long will it take us to organize that? I don’t know, but it’s not, it’s not an idea.

Daniel Serwer: Let me take these two questions together.

Brandon Ramsey: Hello my name is Brandon Ramsey. I am a Howard University undergrad student and I wanted to also, like the young lady just said, to thank the Panel for this amazing discussion and for all the panelists for this entire conference. So my question is very specific to Al-Soswa and I wanted to speak on what Larbi spoke on the cost of interventions in the Middle East and as we can see, the tragedy and humanitarian disaster that is unfolding in Yemen, what, if it’s possible that we could see a split of Yemen again in the aftermath of this tragedy that is unfolding and not getting enough attention, in my opinion, in the press and in general?

Daniel Serwer: Thank you. So a question about partitioning Yemen.

Male: Yes, thank you for this wonderful event…

Daniel Serwer: Can I interrupt please? Identify yourself.

Male: Yeah my name is (inaudible 1:07:22); I am a previous (inaudible 1:07:24) diplomat and journalist. Now even though we all know that the regimes in the Arab World have a lot to do with the backwardness or the failure, economic failures of their countries, but also I would like to hear, I was hoping to hear something about the fact that the Arab-Israeli conflict has played and what we see now, the backwardness, of these countries and the problems that they are going through. Also I have a view that I can relate to you from a lot of Syrians at least that there has been a huge mistake by the United States and the Western World in general, to try to bring or help to bring democracy to the region and to Syria through dependence on radical Islamists and the Gulf States Countries that no doubt they have very radicalized ideologies, way of life and also there is actual example the lady, miss Sonya from Yemen, I do applaud your praising the Saudi woman have been highly educated, but we have to also talk about the other side of that suffering that they suffer or they go through, they cannot drive car, they are chased in the streets of Saudi Arabia, hit by sticks on their legs because they’re not covered or fully to the ground, I mean it has two faces, but anyway Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, they cannot be accepted, democracy cannot be accepted in the (inaudible 1:09:34) countries that are so different culturally, way of life, heritage, they are so different from the Gulf states, mentality and culture and way of life. The Syrian, Jordanian, Lebanese, they have interacted with the Greek, with the Romans, with the other side of the Mediterranean, they have long history of civilization whereas the new countries of the Gulf, they are just few, the case old and they have this desert you know kind of mentality that will not apply, so for the United States and the West to try to bring democracy through Saudi Arabia and the Gulf States, it is actually shooting the, itself in the foot and actually reducing the changes for democracy in those countries.

Daniel Serwer: Thank you very much. We’ll try to get some reactions to those three questions. Amat on the question of partition, repartition of Yemen?

Amat-Al-Alim Al-Soswa: Yes, unfortunately if the war keeps going on, and I was telling everybody who was asking me about this terrible situation, that if really this war continues until the end of this year, and I’m not saying, even not even one more day beyond it, if it continues to wage, this country, my country will not only be reparted into two counties, unfortunately it might be really in full disintegration because the war of the last eight months has managed, has managed in full absence of any national authority on the ground, because the war currently taking place in addition to the airstrikes by the coalition led by Saudi Arabia, there is also an internal fighting going, part of it is backed by the coalition and the other parties, backed by President, former President (inaudible 1:11:38) troops and affiliates as well, so it’s taken place at the same time, but with full absence of the government, of the legitimate government, which is still residing in Saudi Arabia for the last eight months. And even in places where they have been liberated, like Aden, where the government had been there only for a day or a few hours and then they left because of the dire security situation, that gave also an extra reason for the radical elements, who were already there in Yemen prior to the current conflict, to really take over those territories. And they are actually now not only preventing girls and boys from joining the same joint classes in Aden universities and in other you know governmental offices, but they have started even in some parts of the country to collecting even tax. We know what that means, when you start collecting tax you are beyond the state, you are functioning as a state and if these terrible situation continues with its really terrible impact on the human side on the civilians, when it comes to the water you know scarcity, the blockade, the inability of anybody to get even the basic health services, with the continual as well absence of fuel and other also forms of energy, you can imagine 30, I mean 28 million people for the last eight months have been really going under that terrible situation. Of course it’s not going to be just the question of the North and the South, unfortunately also this war has created so many other, or had brought to the present, you know so many wounds, some of them have been, we thought they had been already ailed for more than hundred years ago. And unfortunately again, if this situation continues, the possibility’s there for all other bad scenarios, including disintegration and most importantly as well chaos which will not be liked by anybody, not especially by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf Countries. So that’s for Yemen.

Daniel Serwer: I need a signal from one of the panelists who wants to address the Israel-Arab conflict and its impact on the region.

Hassan Mneimneh: I’ll actually very quickly handle both the question of the, the Palestinian question and the Islam question that was raised. With regard to the Palestinian question, there’s, it is clear that in Arab consciousness throughout the past century and up to today, it constitutes a certain affront to the concept of universal values. I mean I’m looking at it at that level now, I’m not talking about the objective merits of the case or the counter case, I’m talking from the point of view of someone in the Arab World, the fact that the West and the rest of the world does not see the clear injustice of the Palestinian plight is, raises question about the validity and the permanence, the universality of values, that are being presented. As such I think it was very smart on the part of many of the governments to exploit quite a bit of that in order to keep a certain level of animosity against the West, against the U.S., etcetera and unfortunately that Pandora’s Box once opened you get to the point of having people who shoot down universal value on the basis of the Palestinian question. I mean so in more ways than one, in addition to the objective realities on the ground, yes that question has contributed to a lot of delay, but also it’s important for Arab culture to ask why is it that the suffering of one Palestinian child, which is intolerable, causes so much pain in the collective psyche and not an exact amount of pain that, there’s not such amount of pain in the case of the suffering of a Yemeni child or of an Iraqi child, of a Tunisian child or whatever it is, so this is an important question to ask, but it’s besides the point. With regard to Islamism and bringing democracy through Islamism, I think we have to here look at the fact that both the Iraqi setting and the Syrian setting collapsed into a thousand plus formations, all of it Islamist in label, not only as a matter of an external intervention that tried to impose it. I mean actually hat would be absolving, not just absolving society of its responsibility, but also denying it of its agency. These groups put on an Islamic label because of the failure of the educational system and the failure of nationalism and the failure of the nation state to give an identity that could be brandished as such. I mean you look across all of those 1500 formation, not one of them is willing to be inclusive, so if we are going to blame that on Saudi Arabia and the UAE it means that he Syrian population is just an inert mass that you can dump on it whatever you want and you will get the result that you want. This is a failure of the system, both social and political, so I think let’s say not to absorb the others, but not beat on Saudi Arabia and UAE and whoever it is without really looking in the mirror and recognizing that there is here a local failure, a social failure and a cultural failure I said.

Daniel Serwer: Let me turn to the final two questioners and beg them to be brief.

Female: Hello my name is (inaudible 1:17:35); I am a student at GW. My question relates to your point so you’ve mentioned how governments are unable to manage the transitions, they lack the capacity and they don’t have the ability to sort of be inclusive of different religious identities and political orientations, so what’s recommendations, as a panel, do you give to civil society actors and political parties on the ground to be inclusive in the face of regional sectarianism, proxy interventions, so what recommendations would you give to these parties in the future?

Daniel Serwer: Thank you and the final, quick question.

Male: John (inaudible 1:18:11) from the Foreign Services Institute. It’s a quick question, but it’s the role of the transformation of education in the region, broadly speaking, just any thoughts on this because it seems to me as Professor Larbi said, there’s been an enormous investment for instance in education in the Arab World, the indicators are actually good in many ways, and yet everybody recognizes that the educational system, broadly speaking, in the Arab countries is an ongoing failure in crisis, right I mean so the poor results and outcomes, despite the enormous investments. Right I mean it’s not as if they haven’t invested these countries and states in many cases, do you see any chance of that change, are there ways that you see that this can change in a recognizable, in a way that, is there any reason for optimism I guess on the front on that?

Daniel Serwer: Thank you. So education and what should civil society do, Paul let me start with you.

Paul Salem: Yeah, I mean, I would say that civil society’s on the right side of history in the sense that they were able to do, in the early parts of the Arab Spring, far more than anybody in civil society thought possible. Maybe they did too much, things collapsed too quickly and we certainly have a lot of problems, but that is not the fault of civil society, nor is it a proof that they’re on the wrong track. Historicists and fundamentalist throwbacks to the past happen when societies are lurching forward, when people are very insecure about their identity and they need to hearken back to something authentic, or what they claim to be authentic. So the rise of groups like ISIS or the Nazis in Germany or some…if anything is a reaction to enhance a symptom of lurching forward historically, so I’m not surprised at the level of conflict, I think civil society and those who push for accountable, elected, non-corrupt government, that is the trend of the future and I think they’re on the right side of history and they should be encouraged. We saw very brave Syrian civil society activists with us today and I would say that they should keep doing what they’re doing.

Daniel Serwer: Thank you Paul. Amat, on education.

Amat-Al-Alim Al-Soswa: Well in civil society too also it’s very important as well to add to what Paul said, the fact that civil society also have to remember that there is also the unfriendly environment for you guys working on the region. Because it’s not just because of your objectives, because you are seen by the states as competitors, you’re not as seen as partners and you are not seen also neutral partners, and especially if you are financed by foreign entities. That was always the problem, for example for the NGOs and civil societies working in big countries and strong states like Egypt for example. In my country the civil societies have flourished more than other society because we had better laws that managed this and also I would say also because we had weaker state, so always it is connected to that, to these two factors. But it’s very, very important the role that is played by civil society and you cannot, and I cannot imagine any natural progress in any society without this very healthy relationship based on transparency as well, on clear objectives and also on building trust because again, if you are seen as competitors, then that’s it, it will be really the end of it.

For the education of course it is the number one, I would say, fall out of the entire Arab regimes in general, again, also because we imported, to start with, our curriculum. I remember going to schools and the basic school country and we were reading Egyptian curriculum until 1986 and then from 1986 the school children started actually reading curriculums published in Saudi Arabia, what have you and so on and so forth. So it is not easy thing really to talk about, but it is actually the quality of education beyond just the kind of subjects that you are teaching, you are studying. We have lost again, even from within the beginning of the establishment of the national state in our you know countries, we thought if we are going just to demolish the idea about the others like the external war, the Western Wall, then that means we are going to have very, very good education because it was building our national identity. And while we were doing this we failed also to focus on the basis of education and to again rebuild the notion of rationalism, the building on the thoughts, because what made Arabs very civilized during the Dark Ages of Europe was actually their you know special as well understanding and intellect and their use of their minds and rationale. And actually most, and collectively speaking at least, the Arabs really came down when they started really neglecting the ideas of rationalism, of logic and we, and instead of that, we brought the whole concept of just learning by heart and mimicking. So we have really, we have planted seeds that need to be really addressed and replanted; I think that’s very, very important.


Daniel Serwer: Hedi and Hassan, I’m already in penalty time so one sentence each.

Hedi Larbi: First of all, thank you very much actually a word on education, but very quickly. I fully agree with you but definitely the Arab World invested in quantity and didn’t do anything on quality for years, and as I said, that’s part of learning institution and change is not there, so that’s also part of it because if we have a learning institution you have change in the programs and we have immediately addressed the needs of the market, the needs of the economy and the needs of the global environment as well, but that isn’t happen. And in a sense I would say first I agree with Paul, think originally globally, but please act locally and act very quickly. Second is think economy and social inclusion, the Arab World is spend this time decades talking politics, including during the transition and someone asked what would be the recommendation? Never in the Arab World do political transition alone, combine, integrate it with the economic and social, people don’t care about the fight of politician and we lived it, we saw it with our eyes. People go the street and say where are the jobs, what are you doing for the education, where the health, where this, etcetera and these are economic and social demands of the people, politics do what you can, but deliver to me because they will not wait until you resolve your political problem.

Daniel Serwer: Thank you Hedi. Hassan?

Hassan Mneimneh: I’ll echo some of what Amat has said, the need for the modern state in the 20th Century was for reductionism in learning, we’ve shut a lot of the critical thinking that was, that had seeds in the Arab-Islamic tradition, let’s not here overstate it, it had seeds. But what we have created instead is a very scientist, historicist version of religion and that then imposed that religion as an idol in order to block any type of critical thinking. I think with civil society we need to reclaim religion and reclaim critical thinking and reclaim effectively the right to ask questions without being punished for asking questions, (inaudible 1:26:38).

Daniel Serwer: That’s a great place to end a terrific session, thank you very much.

Wendy Chamberlin: Yes, please thank Daniel and our panelists.


Discussion ends

Transcriber: Ruth Frank (505/440-9096)