Syrian Economic Forum students learning civic education in Syria.
Last Thursday marked five years since Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali was ousted from power in what has come to be known as the Jasmine Revolution. A well-waged campaign of civil resistance, provoked by the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi, ultimately led to the upending of Ben Ali’s autocracy and catalyzed a series of protests across the Middle East and North Africa.
Five years after the first Arab Spring uprising, we have the benefit of hindsight. We can pinpoint, with relative certainty, the various elements that contributed to the revolutions occurring when and where they did. Five years on, and we continue to grapple with both the inspiring and heartbreaking implications of revolutions in Syria, Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia. A critical element that drove the protests, often mentioned in the early days but since relegated to the margins of the conversation, is the youth populations of these countries.
Photo: Hanna Rhodin
By Hanna Rhodin
There is a long history of a bustling merchant culture in Kuwait. Since the 18th century, the country has been known for trade: whether in exchanging goods with India, boat-building, or its pearling industry. Wealth has come to be associated with certain families within the country, thanks to their past success in business that, in some cases, dates back generations. Today these families continue to dominate the private sector. However, according to the official statistics, nearly 85 percent of the Kuwaiti population is still employed by the government. While the last decade has showed a surge in entrepreneurial initiatives, roadblocks and barriers remain.
When I heard about the Nobel Peace Prize awarded to Tunisia, my first reaction was happiness – they deserve it. Not just the members of the Quartet who were the recipients, but every Tunisian participating in this grand democracy experiment.
I have worked in places that never got this far, despite the presence of amazing, intelligent, admirable people trying their best. Over time I have come to think that will is the true secret ingredient. Capacity can be built, but some kernel of shared will needs to be there from the start. You need the right people, with the right intentions, at the right time, and there is no substitute for it.
I think about this same thing every time I read writings from America’s Founding Fathers. From the distance of history, America’s birth looks like a process; a lot of people met repeatedly, argued a lot, reacted to foreign events, hammered things out, and a nation came to be.
But then read the letters between John and Abigail Adams, and you suddenly are plunged into the chaos, stress and daily-ness of it all. Abigail is alone running the farm and business, dealing with insecurity and tending sick children. John is riding back and forth to Philadelphia and beyond, complaining bitterly about recalcitrant short-sighted delegates. There is tedium, inching progress and failure along the way. John was exhausted and frustrated as much as he was inspired. Unlike us reading his letters, he didn’t know if they would succeed.
Creating a Brighter Future for Syrian Youth from CIPE on Vimeo.
This International Youth Day, Syrian youth face a bleak situation. During more than four years of conflict in their country, more than 12,000 children have been killed. Approximately 2 million are living as refugees, and 7.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid.
Syria now has one of the lowest education rates in the world. A 2015 Save the Children report estimates that 2.8 million Syrian children are not attending school and a quarter of school buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Many youth must forego education and work to help their families survive. Yet what often gets lost in this picture is the resilience shown by many young Syrians and their determination to play a role in building a better Syria.
More than a week ago, the city of Beirut ceased trash collection when the landfill stopped accepting deliveries. It turns out the city’s biggest landfill is, well… full. Since then, the streets of this beautiful capital on the Mediterranean Sea have been filled with piles of garbage, rotting in the summer heat– 20,000 tons and counting. This creates obvious health hazards, and undercuts the city’s peak tourist season. Many residents are wearing masks to deal with the stench.
The Lebanese people are rightfully outraged. They see the garbage crisis as a manifestation of larger institutional failures. The country has been without a president for more than a year, and the parliament has extended its own mandate until 2017 without holding elections. The political deadlock breeds institutional paralysis, which in turn exacerbates corruption in a destructive cycle. Essential services like electricity, water, and, sure enough, waste removal are disrupted. CIPE’s longtime partner and Lebanon’s leading anti-corruption watchdog, the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA), is not sitting idly by.
Weather stations like this one in Australia provide information that is vital to agrarian economies. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)
By Gracie Cook
While religious, sectarian, and geopolitical divisions in the world’s hotspots often make headlines, an even more basic driver of conflict is often overlooked: the weather.
In agrarian or water-scarce societies, changes in weather patterns lay the groundwork for resource conflicts between ethnic and religious groups, while severe weather events like drought can exacerbate existing social, economic, and political tensions, often boiling over into violence. While poor governance in conflict-afflicted societies too often turns bad weather into catastrophe, a greater role for the private sector in dealing with weather-related problems might just help prevent future outbreaks of violence.
By Elie Obeid
Lebanon, it’s that country in the Middle East that you sometimes miss while going through a map. Despite its small size, Lebanon enjoyed quite a reputation in the 1960s and early 1970s as being the Switzerland of the Middle East, and Beirut, its capital, was known as the Paris of the Middle East due to the number of tourists it attracted and its role as a financial and trade hub for the region.
In recent years, however, Lebanon has been suffering from various social, political, economic problems. To discuss all these issues and possible solutions for them would require volumes so we’ll stick to economics this time with a little twist of politics. But before getting into that, how about we take a look at the numbers first.