One year on from the Arab Spring
Has anything actually changed in the Middle East and North Africa and the international community?
Past policies of the EU and the US towards the Middle East and North Africa have been governed by a set of assumptions which has been shattered by the uprisings that have swept the region since December 2010. The neo-liberal belief that economic development would be conducive to political reform was buried together with some of the old authoritarian regimes that were ousted, also demonstrating that the exclusion of large sectors of society from political participation has not meant that they have missed their appointment with modernity. The secular nature of the uprisings, even if Islamist groups and parties are now taking the centre-stage of post-revolutionary politics, and the active role of women also challenge past assumptions about the Islamist nature of opposition to authoritarianism and the subjugation of women in the region.
Is the ‘international community’ able to live up to these challenges and reframe its policies towards the region? The past months have seen the EU, its member states, the US and NATO resort to a broad range of foreign policy tools and actions - from humanitarian aid to military intervention, from trade and oil sanctions to reviewing existing strategies such as the Neighbourhood Policy. The extent to which this experience will lead to renewed external approaches towards crisis management and a renewal in relations with the MENA is questionable, against the backdrop of an increasingly diversified region whose transformation may lead to uncertain outcomes.