“I think inclusion is going to be the future of these states. I don’t think we’re going to see the kinds of oppressive regimes that we used to have before,” said Amal Mudallali, senior scholar at the Wilson Center. “The Arab states that were established during that period in the last 40-50 years are collapsing.”
Speaking to Andrea Ó Súilleabháin of the International Peace Institute, Ms. Mudallali said that while countries like Tunisia have seen progress in political participation and inclusion, there are states that are either going back to the status-quo or are still in flux. But regardless, the future of the region will be very different from previous years, she said, because new technologies such as social media allow less control and people will demand representation, political rights and freedom more than before.
The multilateral system will also be affected by these changes. “The multilateral system will be very successful and will be more productive if these states are rebuilt and reformed to be strong, durable, equitable, and democratic states,” Ms. Mudallali noted. “You don’t have the kinds of decaying structures that do not lend strength or durability to solving conflicts around the world in the multilateral system if you have that kind of weak system. When you have strong states, you have a strong multilateral system, ” she said.
This discussion was part of a series of interviews done on the margins of ICM’s second retreat on social inclusion, political participation, and effective governance in challenging environments, held on March 13-14.
Listen to the interview:
In our discussions today on effective governance you said, “We are witnessing the end of the Arab state as we know it.” Can you tell me more about this?
I’m talking actually about the Arab states that were formed after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and after the withdrawal of the colonial powers in the Middle East, and after the military regimes were established—I’m talking about these regimes that were established. When I say we see the end of them, we’re seeing the end of dictatorships. I don’t think dictatorships are going to come back. I think inclusion is going to be the future of these states. I don’t think we’re going to see the kinds of oppressive regimes that we used to have before. I think the Arab states that were established during that period in the last 40-50 years are collapsing. We see four or five different Arab countries are collapsing because they had no leadership that was accountable to the people, they had no mechanisms for debate, and they had no freedoms to speak of. I think now we see things are still in flux, but in the future I don’t think we’re going to see the recreation of these states, I think we’re going to see a new state. What shape of a state will we see? How long will it take for that state to take shape? This is something yet to be seen, but I think it’s coming.
Today, in addition to governance, we’re also discussing social inclusion and political participation. So four years on from the start of the Arab Spring, how have citizen demands for legitimacy and accountability progressed in the Middle East?
It’s a mixed bag because you see models that are working and successful like in Tunisia, for instance, the process is working very well and it’s moving forward, and we see progress, political participation, and inclusion, and we see a new vision and new outlook that’s being implemented. And there are other places where it’s not the same, it’s either going back to the status-quo ante or it’s still, as I said, in flux and we don’t know what the result is going to be. The future is going to be very different from what we’ve seen the last 40-50 years. I think [with] the new generation, with all the new instruments of participation like social media and the new technology, you cannot really have the kind of controls you used to have before, and I think people are going to demand representation, political rights and freedom, security, social security more than before. They’re not going to accept going back in the past and relive what their parents and grandparents lived.
And what do these changes mean for the multilateral system at large?
I think the multilateral system will be very successful and will be more productive if these states are rebuilt and reformed to be strong, durable, equitable, and democratic states because when you have strong states, the multilateral system will be a strong system—the future of conflict resolution, the future of cooperation and everything will be stronger. You don’t have the kinds of decaying structures that do not lend strength or durability to solving conflicts around the world in the multilateral system if you have that kind of weak system. When you have strong states, you have a strong multilateral system.
And finally, the Syrian refugee crisis, which is a topic you’ve written about, demonstrates the need for this stronger multilateral system to resolve internal crisis in countries, and to prevent severe regional and global implications. In your view, what has been lacking in the international response to the conflict in Syria?
I think what’s lacking is a resolution for the conflict because the problem is the focus on the symptoms of the problem, which is basically the refugees and how to help them and solve the humanitarian crisis—which is very noble and important—but the best solution is to prevent these people in the first place to be refugees by finding a political solution in Syria. This is what has been lacking and this is what the international community has to really step up to the plate and try to do something about solving this conflict once and for all because this conflict has metamorphosed and it became one of the worst conflicts we have seen in modern history in terms of the number of people killed, in terms of the brutality, in terms of the humanitarian crisis that we have seen, so what’s needed is a political solution.
Thank you so much for speaking with me.