Sunday, 24 June 2012

Shaping the aspirations of Arab awakening

One thing for sure, the countries that saw the Arab awakening have a vibrant,educated young population that loves technology and are desperate for freedom. In fact, one of the striking features of the Arab revolution was that it was driven by youth and technology.

 At the peak of the revolution in Egypt, 87, 293 had signed up the Facebook page “We are all Khalid Said”(Khalid Said, a 28-year-old Egyptian from the coastal city of Alexandria, Egypt, was tortured to death at the hands of two police officers became a symbol of the protestors). 

Later, Wael Ghonim, the Egyptian-born Google marketing executive, who first played a role in organising the opposition through Facebook, told the American audiences that without Facebook and Twitter their revolution ‘would never have happened.’
Similarly, when it came to the protests in Tunisia the main stream media took time to get into grips with the situation, whilst hints of unrest was already brewing on Twitter soon after Bouazizi ,the vegetable vendor, who later became an immortal face of the protests set himself on fire.
In many ways, the zeal and the enthusiasm of the youth in particular, and their smart adoption of social media tools to propel their revolution debunked certain stereotypes about the youth of the region. The misperception amongst many in the world that the region is traditional, inward looking and adverse to modernity and technology was unfounded.
In fact, when the young protestors went to the street in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere, they also sent out a clear message to their rulers and the world at large that they too have the aspirations to live in a world that is based on the principles of dignity, justice and freedom.
Now that the Arab awakening has taken its course and in the dictators toppled, it is largely in the interest of the world that the aspirations of the youth are given shape and their dream is not lost.
The top 10 points of  Burson – Marsteller’s   Arab Youth Survey  indicate in general the views and the concerns of the youth from the region. While they say that lack of democracy and the civil unrest are some of the biggest obstacles facing them, their personal preference is however to able to earn a good pay and lead a decent lifestyle. And this is a priority number 1.
Their demand is clear: they want a transparent, corruption free government that creates amongst other things, good job  opportunities and guarantees a decent life . Democracy, they say is of no use if it doesn’t improve their lives or is replaced by a system that is equally inefficient or more corrupt than the dictatorial regimes that preceded them. The survey shows that the youth across the Middle East increasingly look at UAE as a model that their countries should emulate. 

The political crisis in Egypt is unfortunate. However, whoever takes charge of the nation eventually will run the risk of triggering another mass movement if their aspirations are not satisfied. At the end of the day, as Hillary Clinton says, it is up to the Egyptian people to determine their own future but there will be will no going back on the democratic transition.

Whilst such assurances are welcome, the West must also understand that it can takes decades or at least a generation before the democratic institutions in these states can mature. Democracy in the Middle East should conform to the culture, history and tradition of the region. In a recent interview with the BBC, Tariq Ramadan, the Islamic philosopher at Oxford University says that if democracy in the region has to succeed in the future, it is important not to follow the Western model blindly but it should based on innovation that premises on local values and progressive aspects of culture and tradition.

For the world outside, one of the best ways to help these young democracies will be to use the aid money to built modern education institutions and  help develop teachers training programme that acknowledges progressive education based on universal values. Such initiatives alone can guarantee peace and democracy in the region as well make the newly formed democratic institutions stronger in the long run.