The events of the Arab Spring have had tectonic effects on Middle Eastern civil society from Tahrir Square to Benghazi. Today at 11:30am, USAID is hosting a panel of policy experts, moderated by our own Deputy Administrator, discussing how the international community can best respond to this historic opportunity to support freedom and opportunity in a region that has had neither. We’d like you to join us for that conversation. Streaming live as part of our upcoming conference: DRG 2.0: Promoting Democracy, Human Rights, and Governance in 2011, the panel will take questions via social media, and you’re invited to participate.

You can follow along and participate on Twitter @USAID #DRG2011.

On December 17th, 2010, a young Tunisian man named Mohamed Bouazizi doused himself with gasoline and lit himself on fire. This desperate act by a man with no hope for a better life resonated with millions of Arabs and propelled the region into a period of dramatic, disruptive change that continues to evolve on a daily basis. The actions of protesters across the region have been spurred by well-documented grievances, such as the lack of jobs and housing, petty and grand corruption, human rights abuses that robbed people of their sense of justice and dignity, and an overwhelming sense of disconnect between the state and society.

Prior to December 17th, citizens in Arab states across the region lacked any formal political or constitutional process to meaningfully engage with governments that would have allowed them to play an active role in solving these fundamental problems. Therefore, when people demanded change after decades of political, social and economic stagnation, these demands were inherently revolutionary.

The events that began in Tunisia are now being compared to the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 and the revolutions that spread throughout Central and Eastern Europe in the months that followed. However, while the events in the Middle East are of similar historical significance, they are playing out in a far different manner. Rather than a uniform “model” for transition, the region is simultaneously seeing relatively peaceful transitions of great promise in Tunisia and Egypt, nascent and uncertain attempts at regime-led reform in Morocco and Jordan, protests being met by the full weight of the state’s security forces in Syria, foreign intervention in Bahrain, and civil war and international military and humanitarian action in Libya. The one commonality among these revolutions is that while national leadership has been radically changed, the bureaucratic infrastructure of autocratic and authoritarian states remains relatively unchanged and a major challenge for reorienting these governments.

Join us today as we discuss these issues in-depth during our panel “Interpreting the Arab Spring” 11:30 AM on Monday. Presenters include:

  • Hady Amr, Deputy Assistant Adminstrator, Bureau for the Middle East, USAID
  • Lorne Craner, President, of International Republican Institute
  • Michele Dunne, Senior Associate at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace and
  • Robin Wright, Senior Fellow at U.S. Institute of Peace

The session will be moderated by Deputy Administrator Donald Steinberg