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Archive for the ‘Tunisia’ Category

Middle East Transitions: A Long, Hard Road

August 11, 2014 Comments off

Middle East Transitions: A Long, Hard Road
Source: International Monetary Fund

Since the onset of the Arab Spring, economic uncertainty in Egypt, Jordan, Libya, Morocco, Tunisia, and Yemen (Arab Countries in Transition, ACTs) has slowed already sluggish growth; worsened unemployment, particularly of youth; undermined business confidence, affected tourist arrivals, and depressed domestic and foreign direct investment. Furthermore, political and social tensions have constrained reform efforts. Assessing policy options as presented in the voluminous literature on the Arab Spring and based on cross-country experience, this paper concludes that sustainable and inclusive growth calls for a two pronged approach: short term measures that revive growth momentum and partially allay popular concerns; complemented with efforts to adjust the public’s expectations and prepare the ground for structural reforms that will deliver the desired longer tem performance.

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FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world

November 23, 2013 Comments off

FACTBOX — Women’s rights in the Arab world
Source: Thompson Reuters

Egypt is the worst country for women in the Arab world, closely followed by Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Yemen, according to gender experts surveyed in a Thomson Reuters Foundation poll released on Tuesday.

Comoros, Oman, Kuwait, Jordan and Qatar came top of the survey, which assessed 22 Arab states on violence against women, reproductive rights, treatment of women within the family, their integration into society and attitudes towards a woman’s role in politics and the economy.

The results were drawn from answers from 336 gender experts invited to participate in an online survey by the foundation, the philanthropic arm of the news and information company Thomson Reuters, in August and September.

+ Complete poll results

Arab Countries in Transition – Economic Outlook and Key Challenges – Deauville Partnership Ministerial Meeting

October 11, 2013 Comments off

Arab Countries in Transition – Economic Outlook and Key Challenges – Deauville Partnership Ministerial Meeting
Source: International Monetary Fund

In an environment of heightened socio-economic tensions, regional insecurity, and strained public finances, the Arab Countries in Transition (ACTs) 1 face the difficult task of delivering on the expectations for jobs and growth. Despite patchy improvements in some countries, economic growth remains subdued, private investment is weak, and external and fiscal buffers are running low. Fostering social cohesion and avoiding a downward spiral of economic and political malaise calls for urgent implementation of economic reforms and coordinated support from the international community.

Does food security matter for transition in Arab countries?

August 13, 2012 Comments off

Does food security matter for transition in Arab countries?
Source: International Food Policy Research Institute

Expectations are high that transition in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen will bring about more freedom, justice, and economic opportunities. However, experiences from other world regions show that countries in transition are at high risk of entering conflicts, which often come at large economic, social and political costs. In order to identify options on how conflict may be prevented in Arab transition countries, this paper assesses the key global drivers of conflicts based on a dataset from 1960 to 2010 and improved cross-country regression techniques. Results show that unlike in other studies where per capita incomes, inequality, and poor governance, among other factors, emerge as the major determinants of conflict, food security at macro- and micro-levels emerges as the main cause of conflicts in the Arab world. This “Arab exceptionalism in conflict” suggests that improving food security is not only important for improving the lives of rural and urban people; it is also likely to be the key for a peaceful transition.

The Rise of Diabetes Prevalence in the Arab Region

May 31, 2012 Comments off
Source:  Open Journal of Epidemiology
Introduction:
Arab populations have many similarities and dissimilarities. They share culture, language and religion but they are also subject to economic, political and social differences. The purpose of this study is to understand the causes of the rising trend of diabetes prevalence in order to suggest efficient actions susceptible to reduce the burden of diabetes in the Arab world.
Method:
We use principal component analysis to illustrate similarities and differences between Arab countries according to four variables: 1) the prevalence of diabetes, 2) impaired glucose tolerance (IGT), 3) diabetes related deaths and 4) diabetes related expenditure per person. A linear regression is also used to study the correlation between human development index and diabetes prevalence.
Results:
Arab countries are mainly classified into three groups according to the diabetes comparative prevalence (high, medium and low) but other differences are seen in terms of diabetes-related mortality and diabetes related expenditure per person. We also investigate the correlation between the human development index (HDI) and diabetes comparative prevalence (R = 0.81).
Conclusion:
The alarming rising trend of diabetes prevalence in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for heath decision makers. In order to alleviate the burden of diabetes, preventive strategies are needed, based essentially on sensitization for a more healthy diet with regular exercise but health authorities are also asked to provide populations with heath- care and early diagnosis to avoid the high burden caused by complications of diabetes.

Unveiling the Revolutionaries: Cyberactivism and Women’s Role in the Arab Uprisings

May 24, 2012 Comments off
Source: James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy (Rice University)

This research introduces several of the key figures leading the revolutionary convulsions in Egypt, Tunisia, Bahrain, and Yemen, and explores how young women used social media and cyberactivism to help shape the “Arab Spring” and its aftermath. The engagement of women with social media has coincided with a shift in the political landscape of the Middle East, and it is unlikely that they will ever retreat from the new arenas they have carved out for themselves. Throughout the region, women have taken to the streets in unprecedented numbers, translating digital advocacy and organization into physical mobilization and occupation of public spaces in a dialectic of online and offline activism that is particular to this era. They have used citizen journalism and social networking to counter the state-dominated media in their countries and influence mainstream media around the world. In the process, they are reconfiguring the public sphere in their countries, as well as the expectations of the public about the role women can and should play in the political lives of their countries.

From Tunis to Tunis: Considering the Planks of U.S. International Cyber Policy, 2005-2011

May 23, 2012 Comments off
Source: James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy (Rice University)

How have U.S. policies on the governance of the Internet and cyberspace evolved between the 2005 World Summit of the Information Society (WSIS) in Tunisia and the massive, cyber-fueled uprisings in the Middle East of 2011? The paper develops a framework of possible actions regarding Internet or cyber governance to produce contexts for the timeline of significant policy statements by U.S. government officials and agencies on the topic. In the resulting narrative, Internet governance policy rises from a relatively marginal issue for the foreign policy establishment to a significant component of U.S. grand strategy. Because it covers a brief time period and focuses on a single actor (the United States), this narrative provides input as to how and how rapidly Internet politics and policies have become integral to international affairs.

Economics of the Arab awakening

February 22, 2012 Comments off
Source:  International Food Policy Research Institute
Few observers would have predicted the dramatic changes over the past few months in the Arab world. Arab governments appeared to be in tight control, and many Arab economies were growing around or above the world average over the past few years. Annual growth rates in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Oman, and Sudan averaged more than 6 percent between 2005 and 2010; and Syria, Tunisia, and Libya grew at about 5 percent on average during the same period of time. Official poverty rates in most Arab countries are lower than in many Asian and Latin American countries.
However, experts have long identified slow progress in economic diversification and job creation, social inequalities, and persistent food insecurity as major development challenges for Arab countries. Did these factors and, more broadly, people’s dissatisfaction with their living standards contribute to the recent uprisings? At first glance, the sudden turn of events and the generally low coverage, quality, and accessibility of data in the Arab world make it difficult to find answers to this question. By looking beyond more conventional data, however, this policy brief provides some insights into the potential role of economics in the ongoing uprisings. It also reviews major policy responses of Arab governments and provides a new narrative of Arab development that is based on inclusive economic transformation, food security, and decisionmaking.
Full Paper (PDF)

CRS — Political Transition in Tunisia

December 27, 2011 Comments off

Political Transition in Tunisia (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via U.S. Department of State Foreign Press Center)

On January 14, 2011, Tunisian President Zine el Abidine Ben Ali fled the country after weeks of mounting anti-government protests. Tunisia’s mass popular uprising, dubbed the “Jasmine Revolution,” sparked anti-government movements in other countries across the region. Ben Ali’s departure was greeted by widespread euphoria within Tunisia. Yet disputes over reform priorities, economic crisis, labor unrest, tensions between the privileged coastal region and relatively impoverished interior, and lingering insecurity are continuing challenges. The humanitarian and security impact of events in neighboring Libya present additional difficulties.

National elections were held on October 23 to select a National Constituent Assembly. The Assembly has put in place a transitional government and is expected to draft a new constitution, ahead of new elections that have yet to be scheduled. Thousands of candidates competed for seats in the Assembly, but the outcome showed popular support to be primarily focused on a handful of political parties. Harakat al Nahda (alt: Ennahda/An-Nahda), a moderate Islamist party, won 41% of the seats, and has formed a governing coalition with two center-left secular parties, the Congress for the Republic (CPR) and the Democratic Forum of Labor and Liberties (FDTL/Ettakatol). Certain aspects of the Assembly’s mandate, duration, and internal structure are still to be determined.

Prior to January 2011, Ben Ali and his Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party exerted near-total control over parliament, state and local governments, and most political activity. Tunisia cultivated strong ties with France and the European Union, its largest trading partner, and with the United States. Despite many political and economic characteristics shared across the region, Tunisia exhibits a number of unique attributes: a relatively small territory, a sizable and well educated middle class, and a long history of encouraging women’s socioeconomic freedoms. Some policymakers view these factors as advantageous, and Tunisia as a potential “test case” for democratic transitions in the region.

Tunisia’s transition raises a wide range of questions for the future of the country and the region. These pertain to the struggle between reformists and entrenched forces carried over from the former regime; the potential shape of the new political order; the role and influence of Islamism in the government and society; the question of how to transform the formerly repressive security services; and the difficult diplomatic balance—for the United States and other actors—of encouraging greater democratic openness while not undermining other foreign policy priorities.

Congress authorizes and appropriates foreign assistance funding and oversees U.S. foreign policy toward Tunisia and the wider region. U.S.-Tunisian relations were, prior to 2011, highly focused on military assistance and counterterrorism. The Obama Administration has allocated roughly $42 million in non-military “transition assistance,” along with a range of additional efforts aimed at encouraging private sector investment and deepening U.S.-Tunisia relations. International financial institutions, which receive significant U.S. monetary support, and the G8 have also pledged aid for Tunisia. Some Members of Congress argue that additional bilateral aid should be allocated for democracy promotion and economic recovery in Tunisia, while others contend that budgetary cuts take precedence over new aid programs, or that economic stabilization may be best addressed by the private sector or by other donors. Related legislation includes H.R. 2055, S. 618/ H.R. 2237, S. 1388, and S.Res. 316.

State Department Background Note: Tunisia

October 2, 2011 Comments off

State Department Background Note: Tunisia
Source: U.S. Department of State

Official Name: Tunisian Republic

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PROFILE

Geography
Location: North Africa, bordering the Mediterranean Sea, between Algeria and Libya.
Area: 163,610 sq. km. (63,378 sq. mi.), slightly smaller than Missouri.
Cities: Capital–Tunis; Sfax, Bizerte, Sousse, Nabeul.
Terrain: Arable land in north and along central coast; south is mostly semiarid or desert.
Climate: Hot, dry summers and mild, rainy winters.
Land use: Arable land–17.05%; permanent crops–13.08%; other–69.87%.

Commission proposes better management of migration to the EU

May 5, 2011 Comments off

Commission proposes better management of migration to the EU
Source: European Commission

Today, the Commission presented initiatives for a more structured, comprehensive, rapid-response approach from the EU to the challenges and opportunities of migration, not least in view of the current developments in the Mediterranean. The initiatives cover various aspects of migration, including strengthened border control and Schengen governance, completion of the Common European Asylum System, more targeted legal migration, exchange of best practices for successful integration of migrants, and a strategic approach for relations with third countries on migration. These initiatives come in addition to the urgent short-term measures already taken by the Commission to deal with the migration situation in the Mediterranean and migration pressures on frontline Member States.

“It is clear that the EU needs a strong common asylum and migration policy. This has only become more evident in recent months, in view of the historic events taking place in North Africa. The EU must live up to its vocation to offer a haven to those in need of protection, and at the same time show solidarity both with the countries in North Africa which are currently sheltering the vast bulk of the migrants from Libya, as well as with those of our Member States faced with the greatest influx of migrants arriving by sea. It is also clear that the EU would benefit from some targeted labour immigration in order to help address expected labour shortages in many sectors, and to redress the projected decline in Europe’s working age population in the coming years. But migration must at the same time be properly managed – this means ensuring effective border control and the return of irregular migrants. This also means that we should not leave it only up to the Member States at our external borders to deal with extraordinary migratory situations. And this means setting up migration and mobility partnerships with non-EU countries so that we can work together. We must keep these long-term goals in mind also when dealing with the more urgent needs resulting from the turbulence in North Africa”, said Cecilia Malmström, Commissioner responsible for Home Affairs.

+ Frequently Asked Questions: Addressing the Migratory Crisis
+ The European Commission’s response to the migratory flows from North Africa (8 April 2011)
+ Travelling without borders: Commission proposes stronger monitoring of respect of Schengen rules (16 November 2010)

Country Specific Information: Tunisia

April 3, 2011 Comments off

Country Specific Information: Tunisia
Source: U.S. Department of State

Tunisia is a presidential republic with a developing economy. Tourist facilities are widely available in large urban and major resort areas. Read the Department of State Background Notes on Tunisia for additional information.

CRS — Political Transition in Tunisia

February 12, 2011 Comments off

Political Transition in Tunisia (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Tunisia has undergone a major political upheaval in recent weeks, dubbed the “Jasmine Revolution.” On January 14, 2011, Tunisian President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali fled the country after several weeks of increasingly audacious anti-government protests. The speaker of parliament, Fouad Mebazaa, has since assumed the role of interim president, and an interim government has been formed ahead of elections expected in six months. However, the stability of the government and the broader impact of recent developments is difficult to predict. The Tunisia uprising appears to have added momentum to latent anti-government and pro-reform sentiment in Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Jordan, and other countries, and has sparked international concern over stability in a region long associated with seemingly secure, autocratic, pro-U.S. regimes.

Prior to the December-January protests, Tunisia had been seen as a stable, albeit autocratic country since its independence from France in 1956. Ben Ali, in power since 1987, was elected for a fifth term in October 2009 in an election widely seen as flawed and boycotted by leading opposition parties. His Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party exerted near-total control over parliament, state and local governments, and most political activity. The government cultivated strong ties with France and the European Union, its largest trading partner, as well as with the United States. Despite many political and economic characteristics shared across the region, Tunisia exhibits a number of unique attributes: it has a relatively small territory, a large and highly educated middle class, and a long history of encouraging women’s socio-economic freedoms. Tunisia’s Islamist movement has not played a leading role in the expression of domestic dissent in recent years, although it did in the 1980s before it was banned by Ben Ali.

The unexpected and rapid transition in Tunisia raises a wide range of questions for the future of the country and the region. These pertain to the struggle between reformists and entrenched forces carried over from the former regime; the potential shape of the new political order; the potential future role of Islamist and/or radical movements in the government and society; the role of the military as an emerging political power-broker; and the difficult diplomatic balance—for the United States and other actors—of encouraging greater democratic openness while not undermining other foreign policy priorities. Congress may play a role in developments through its foreign assistance policies and oversight of U.S.-Tunisia relations, and of broader U.S. policy toward the Middle East.

U.S. officials, who grew increasingly critical of the government in the days prior to Ben Ali’s departure, have since stated their support for political transition and called for free and fair elections. U.S.-Tunisian relations largely emphasize military and counterterrorism cooperation, although Tunisia has pushed for a greater focus on trade. The United States is Tunisia’s primary supplier of military equipment, which is provided through both direct sales and grants, and a large number of Tunisian military officers have received U.S. training. Congress has been supportive of security assistance programs in Tunisia, directing the State Department in FY2009 and FY2010 to allocate levels of Foreign Military Financing (FMF) that surpassed budget requests by the executive branch.

For analysis of the potential impact of Tunisia’s uprising on Egypt, see CRS Report RL33003, Egypt: Background and U.S. Relations, by Jeremy M. Sharp.

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