Category Archives: Middle East and North Africa

Libya or Tunisia: Who Needs the Other More?

March2015 Hiba

Hiba Safi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

Diplomatic Ties

The Libyan conflict is not only causing tens of thousands of deaths, destroying a society, and wiping out a state. It also is spilling over into neighboring Tunisia, destabilizing its internal equilibrium, redefining cross-border interactions, and affecting all neighboring countries in the Maghreb.

Since the uprising against President Muammar Qaddafi in March 2011, Tunisia has seen a vast influx of Libyan refugees. Cars, decrepit vans, and trucks packed with families sitting among bundles of belongings, suitcases, and mattresses stream into Ras Jedir and Dhehiba – official border crossings in southern Tunisia.

According to the former Tunisian Minister of Commerce, the country hosts around 1 million Libyans—equal to nearly 10 percent of the Tunisian population. Libya’s crisis and the ongoing entry of Libyan refugees into the country has resulted in unprecedented social, economic, and security challenges to Tunisia. Despite these difficulties, Tunisia has thus far maintained an open border policy toward Libyans and Libya’s Egyptians seeking respite from the violence in Libya—a decision that’s been praised by UN officials and Western diplomats.

No effective regulatory framework defines the relationship between the two countries, “They don’t need [a] visa to enter Tunisia nor any particular authorization to reside [in Tunisia],”stated Tunisian Interior Ministry spokesman Mohamed Ali Aroui.

Tunisia bears the brunt of the economic and social spillovers of the Libyan civil war. The 43-mile border (Ras Jedir in Libya and Ben Guerdane in Tunisia) has become a smuggling route for goods, oil, and arms, but also for anti-regime armed groups and terrorists. Moreover, the conflict next door has exacerbated inter-communal conflicts raging within Tunisia domestically.

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The Gaza Strip Today: The Challenges and Potential

Bahaa Eddin Al-Dahoudi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED).

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Besides experiencing three destructive wars in less than ten years – Operation Cast Lead, Operation Pillar of Defense, and Operation Protective Edge – the Gaza Strip has suffered since 2007 from two unprecedented major political events that affect both the lives and future aspirations of the Palestinians: the Israeli blockade and internal division.

The Gaza Strip, now in its seventh year under Israeli blockade, remains isolated from the outside world. The blockade affects many fields including education, business, the environment, technology, and culture. What is more, there is the internal Palestinian division which has further exacerbated the situation. The political and social division among the two largest Palestinian factions, Fatah and Hamas, has led to declines in many areas.

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Building a Future for Syria’s Youth

My colleague Peako Jenkins and I recently visited Kilis, Turkey, where CIPE is supporting a civic education program for young Syrians displaced by the conflict in their country. The course, conducted by CIPE’s local partner organization the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF), provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. We are on our way to reaching 600 students in this first phase of the project, with the potential to create broader institutional change in the way that young Syrians are educated in the future. The curriculum helps prepare students to actively engage in society and imparts skills they can use to better their communities today and contribute to Syria’s eventual reconstruction.

Check out this short video above about the course which includes some of our conversations with recent graduates and our colleagues at SEF. With the support and encouragement of the private sector, these inspiring young people have the ability to write a new chapter in Syria’s history, defined not by tragedy but by peace and prosperity. CIPE is proud to share their stories with you.

For more insights from our visit, please be sure to read Peako’s recent post on the program.

Stephen Rosenlund is a Program Officer for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE. Peako Jenkins is a Program Assistant for the Middle East & North Africa at CIPE.

An Unsustainable Future for Algerian Fuel Subsidies?

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Photo: Wikimedia Commons

 

precipitous fall in oil prices in the last seven months has led many oil-producing nations to reconsider their incredibly costly fuel subsidies, which drain government budgets and distort the economy. Yet Algeria, which relies on oil for most  of its government revenue, has taken a different path: freezing public-sector hiring and investment while keeping its subsidies in place – a decision which may only increase its dependence on oil exports in the future.

On Christmas Eve of 2014, Algerian Prime Minister Abdelmalek Sellal announced that, in response to the drop in oil revenue and impending economic crisis, the administration would freeze public sector hiring and new state investment projects. However, the Prime Minister and other officials have insisted that, for the moment, fuel subsidies will remain in place, keeping domestic fuel prices at some of the lowest levels on the African continent – 25 cents per liter, or about 95 cents per gallon.

“The administration is making decisions based on the outlook of the global oil market and on Algeria’s middle- and long-term capacity to support an economy fueled by hydrocarbons,” said Slim Othmani, President of CIPE partner Cercle d’Action et de Réflexion autour de l’Entreprise (CARE), in a recent interview.

In other words, this approach will only deepen the country’s dependence on oil and gas revenues. Not only is this a gamble, it also misses an ideal political moment to recalibrate the fuel subsidies. The government could use the pressure of outside economic forces to make the argument for internal change, and the natural consequences of dropping oil prices could bring home the reasons for reform. Plus, cutting subsidies when fuel is cheap will make the process less painful to consumers.

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Creating a New Educational Paradigm for a War-Ravaged Country

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Making a difference in an environment like Syria is not an easy task. Decades of authoritarian rule have quashed civic life and discouraged young Syrians from aspiring to leadership in their society. On top of that repressive history are now four years of brutal war.

You hear the numbers. Over 200,000 killed. 3.2 million refugees. 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). An economy that will require at least a decade of reconstruction. You hear the horror stories. The regime drops barrel bombs on densely populated civilian areas. Dissidents are tortured as they languish in jail. Women are forced into sexual slavery by extremist fighters. Children cannot attend school because their classrooms are destroyed or they must find work in order to help feed their family.

To win back a generation at risk of being lost to this war, CIPE is working with its partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) to create new educational paradigm for Syria. With private sector leadership and solutions, SEF is running a CIPE-supported course for recent Syrian high school graduates who have been displaced by the conflict in the border town of Kilis, Turkey (now home to more Syrians than Turks). The course provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills and is being considered for broader application by authorities in the moderate opposition.

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Democracy Has Survived in Tunisia, But What Comes Next?

 

Hiba Safi is a CIPE-Atlas Corps Think Tank LINKS Fellow at the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy

After decades of dictatorship, Tunisia’s revolution set in motion a series of uprisings across the Arab world, laying the foundations for a flourishing democracy. It has become the sole “flower” of the Arab Spring and is now heralded as a role model for the Middle East and North Africa region. However, behind the shiny façade, the road towards democracy has certainly not been without barriers and Tunisia still faces numerous hurdles not only in managing security but also solidifying democratic institutions.

Today, Tunisia has made enormous progress in its democratic transition – its future is determined by Tunisians themselves, able to choose their political leaders and their own path. Freedom House described Tunisia in its annual report as “the Arab world’s only free country, the sole success story of the Arab Spring and a full-fledged democracy,” while the Economist Intelligence Unit classified Tunisia as the most democratic Arab state in its last democracy index.

The “Tunisian exception,” political analysts say, resulted from a reconciliation between modern ideals and Islam, the neutral role played by army, a genuine multiparty democracy, a successful national dialogue initiative, and the massive role played by civil society pushing for an end to the Tunisian political crisis.

As a result of these and other factors, Tunisia underwent its first peaceful, democratic transfer of power in December 2014, accompanied by a newly elected parliament, the first democratic presidential elections, and a new constitution, all conducted in a free, fair, and transparent process.

This peaceful political transition is seen as a positive example to the region that should bring hope in the midst of a bloody civil war in Syria, deeply embedded divisions in Libya, and chaos in Yemen. Tunisia now stands tall as the relative success story among the recent popular revolutions in the region.

But to sustain this progress into the future, it must also get its economy on the right footing.

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Meet the Newest Think Tank LINKS Fellows

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CIPE and Atlas Corps welcomed the latest class of Think Tank LINKS Fellows at the end of January. This year’s class comes from a wide range of backgrounds – from South Asia, the Middle East, and Sub-Saharan Africa – to Washington, DC for six months to partake in a leadership development program. All of the fellows will serve at renowned think tanks in Washington, DC, and shadow researchers and experts to learn best practices of successful think tanks in the U.S.

We’re excited to introduce our latest Think Tank LINKS fellows to everyone!

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