ICWA-IRNRD Conference on the Arab Spring

The Future of the Arab Spring:
Local, Regional & International Perspectives

Hosted and Generously Sponsored by the 
Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA)

Indian Council of World Affairs
Venue: Sapru House, 
Barakhamba Road, New Delhi - 110001

Dates: 10-11 December 2012

The events of the Arab Spring and the controversial developments that have followed the downfall of authoritarian regimes in the Arab world are in the focus of the media and the analysts. This conference aims at enlightening the background of these complex happenings, the possible directions of the further developments, as well as the possible influences that the Arab Spring can bear on the local, regional, and global political life. Special attention will be given to the effects that these developments can trigger in the South Asian region and the relation between India and the countries involved in the Arab Spring. 



9:30 am Welcome
Shri Sudhir T. Devare (Director General - ICWA)
Aakash Singh Rathore (Director, IRNRD / Visiting Fellow, DCRC)

10:00 am Panel 1: The Arab Spring: the Local Level: States, Uprisings &Revolutions
Chair:David Rasmussen (Boston College)

10:00: Larbi Sadiki (University of Exeter)
Larbi Sadiki's talks will historicise and contexutualise the 'Arab Spring' phenomenon, capturing the dynamics of a historic moment of popular protest, bottom-up transition, and re-writing of the governing bargains in the Arab Middle East. The crux of his interventions speak to the people's power, seeking to map out the geography of protest and revolution. To this end, Sadiki attempts to re-read the catalysts that triggered the Arab uprisings in the first place, noting their nuanced content and specificity, whilst offering a guide to understanding the democratising substance by way of assessing forces and discourses of the Arab Spring - with special focus on Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

10:30: Gennaro Gervasio (British University of Cairo)
This presentation will analyse the main developments in Egyptian politics, since 25 January 2011 Revolution, that put to an end the almost 30 year rule of Hosni Mubarak. In particular, Gervasio looks at the main actors, focusing on both the ‘old’ political forces (the army, the established political parties and movements), and on the new political subjects emerged after the revolution (civic activists, independent trade unions, revolutionary youth). Moreover, he will examine the Egyptian political trajectory within a regionally and internationally changing context.

11:00: Fazzur Rehman (ICWA)
Rehman will explore the impact of the Arab uprising on the future of Islamic ideology in the regional politics, how the Islamic ideology of different groups like MBH (Egypt) and An-Nahda(Tunisia) will accommodate the different political voices emanating from the region, and will explore the regional variation in the nature and objectives of the Arab Spring.

11:25: Discussion

11:45: Coffee Break

12:00 pm Panel 2The Arab Spring: From Local to Regional: Ripples and Repercussions
Chair: Walter Van Herck (University of Antwerp)

12:00: Waiel Awaad (Syria)
An Arab Spring that Never Was.The Arab world witnessed a tsunami like political and social unrest that led to massive popular movements where all strata of society joined together calling for change anda better future based on democracy and freedom.This movement might have taken many in Europe and the US by surprise, whose leadership were quickly intervening to hijack these popular movements and steal the agenda.Gradually the steam calmed and took a violent u-turn and led to its burial.This paper will address the reasons for the uprising,the set up,the changes, and the post scenario, both internal and external factors.

12:25: Zakir Hussain (ICWA)
Syria and the Future of Arab Politics.

12:50:  Uriel Abulof (Tel Aviv University)
“The people want(s) to….”The Arab Spring unearthed a pervasive legitimacy crisis masked by a semblance of durable authoritarianism. This crisis is vividly captured by the uprisings’ immensely popular slogan—“The people want(s) to bring down the regime”—which posits “the people” as a singular agent, with the right to tell right from wrong, morally and politically. Whether or not the Arab Spring will usher in Arab democracies or theocracies, it has already engendered, and been partly driven by, this unprecedented nationalism, which unlike the “hollow nationalism” of the 20th century also bears the marks of popular sovereignty and self-determination, thus challenging both authorities and existent polities. Non-Arab societies’ concerns are understandable, but they must be equally hopeful about the prospects of finally constructing a normative common ground on which to build coexistence in the region.

1:20: Discussion

1:40: Lunch (all participants and audience)

2:30 pm Panel 3: Presentations on the Arab Spring: Local and Regional Perspectives by the IRNRD Special Research Group: “Political Thought of the Islamic World”
Chair: Tapio Nykanen (Lapland University)

2:30: Tania Hadad (American University of Beirut)
The Arab Spring questioned the relationship “state-civil society” that existed in the region for the last decades. The discussion will analyze the nature and the political environment governing this relationship in pre and post Arab Spring and will further analyze the future and challenges that this society will face.

2:45: Devrim Kabasakal (Izmir University)
Turkey constitutes an interesting topic of debate regarding the Arab Spring. From the beginning, some commentators argued that Turkey represents a model for the newly emerging regimes in the region. The presentation examines the arguments for and against the idea that Turkey represents a model for the post-revolutionary Arab countries. Even though Turkey cannot be labeled as a model that might be readily implemented in the Arab countries, it might still sustain its inspirational power (soft power) over the debate that is going on about the necessity of democracy and how democracy can be achieved in those countries.

3:00:Mohammad Hashas (LUISS University, Rome)
The changes the Arab Spring is bringing to the political scene in the MENA region are visible. However, the idea of “Moroccan exceptionalism” is often heard both among government officials in the country and many external political analysts and commentators. “Moroccan exceptionalism” is meant as a positive status, better than neighboring countries, whereby reform has been taking place especially since 1999, a decade before the Arab Spring events. Civil society inside the country, and the 20 February Movement, born amidst the waves of the Arab Spring, are often critical of this exceptionalism and call for more reforms. This presentation sheds light on some of both views, with reference to the New Constitution of 01 July 2011, and the legislative Elections of 25 November 2011. It concludes with the view that the “Moroccan exceptionalism” is yet to be fully realized on the ground. 

3:15: Meysam Badamchi (Istanbul Şehir University)
Why Reformists Fail? An Analysis of Iranian Green Movement. It is sometimes argued that the Arab Spring was partly inspired by the Iranian Green Movement--the 2009 Iranian uprisings in protest to the controversial results of the presidential election where Ahmadinejad took office for the second time. Though still active in social networks, the Green Movement is highly oppressed and its leaders are in house arrest for almost two years. Why was this movement unsuccessful in attaining its purposes in spite of the Arab Spring? Considering the Green Movement as a renewal of the Reform Movement during the eight years presidency of Mohammad Khatami (1997-2005), the failures of both Reform and Green movements are partly rooted in Iranian Reformists’ lack of any serious plan for the amendment of the present Iranian constitution. Assuming that any deep political reform in Iran is prone to fail within the present constitutional framework, Iranian democrats need to place constitutional amendments as the top priority in their political agenda.

3:30: Meryan Akabouch (LUISS University, Rome)
The presentation looks at the debate about the role and the usefulness of social networks in the so-called “Arab Spring”. On the one hand, it is argued that the innovative use of social networks by the Arab youth has greatly contributed to the developments of the Arab Spring through the diffusion of information, the organisationof key events and the countering of state censorship. On the other hand, however, social networks have been criticized for failing to provide political substance to the insurrectional revolts and to create an identity and a collective memory necessary to such movements. One thing, nevertheless, is sure: social networks have brought in a new dimension to the Arab political sphere which nowadays seems totally taken-for-granted in the Western world: communication.

3:45: Discussion

4:00:  Coffee Break

4:15 pm Panel 4: The Future of the Arab Spring: International Impact in Theory & Practice
Chair:Michael Hoelzl (University of Manchester)

4:15: Dara Salam (LUISS, Rome / King’s College London)
Are MENA revolutions and revolts surprises to both political theory and praxis and unpredictable events to the world outside this region? Can they be analysed along the traditional lines of revolutionary movements or does the spontaneity of these uprisings require fresh and original political understanding and, by implication, new tools for a political theory to comprehend these (ongoing) trends of people’s movement? What characterizes these uprisings and movements and is religion a driving force in mobilizing people on the streets, and will the domineering of religion in the political landscape of this region lead, so to speak, to ‘autumnize’ the essence of these movements or, in other words, exhaust the energies of people for change? Finally, does religious ideology offer itself as a solution to the inequality embedded in the authoritarian regimes or does it actually problematize the solution?

4:40: Anwar Alam (Jamia Millia Islamia)
The region of West Asia and North Africa has been considered a ‘frozen space’ that has historically resisted the mandate of Enlightenment goals. The Arab Spring, with its overtone of freedom and democracy, questions this narrative. But it appears to vindicate the contention of modernity that human societies are destined to march towards the ideals of progress, freedom and democracy. The ‘literate, urban, bilingual, metropolitan middle class’ is again at the forefront of emerging social and political transformation of the region. Is the articulation of democracy in the Arab middle class different from the Western trajectory of modernity and democracy? The dominant section of the Arab middle class is relatively at peace with Islam and democracy going together, whereas the outside Westernized world is apprehensive about the outcome of an ‘Arab Spring’ where so-called ‘Islamists’ are likely to dominate in these emerging democracies.

5:05: Discussion

5:25: Closing Remarks – Day 1
Sandra Wallenius-Korkalo (University of Lapland)


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7:30 DINNER (only invited participants)
VENUE: -to be determined-

9:30 am Welcome & Opening Remarks
Peter Losonczi (Director, IRNRD / Research Associate, Catholic University of Leuven)

10:00am: Round-Table 1: Theorizing the Arab Spring: International Perspectives
Chair: Graham Ward (Oxford)

10:00: Maeve Cooke (University College Dublin)
Freedom is at stake in the pro-democracy movements that have been given the name Arab Spring. But what does freedom mean in this context? The conceptions of freedom dominant in contemporary political theory – for example, freedom as non-interference or freedom as non-domination –fail to capture key elements of the protesters’ concerns. The paper makes the case for an alternative conception that casts the struggle for freedom in a different light. The proposed conception highlights the importance of autonomy, understood as a form of ethical self-authorship through interaction with others, as well as a feeling of being “at-home-in-the-world”. While it places emphasis on self-determination and self-realization, it is a conception of social freedom – a form of freedom available only to members of society. The paper concludes by drawing attention to some implications of its proposed reconceptualization of freedom for public policy.

10:25: Andrej Zwitter (University of Groningen)
After what is commonly called the Arab Spring, new constitutions are being drafted that try to be more democratic and to better abide by the rule of law. What role the state of emergency regulations will be playing in these new constitutional systems is yet to be seen. Whether states of emergency will protect these new-born political systems or dissolve them, is a matter of whether the legislators are learning from other constitutions and their own experience, as Germany did learn from the Weimar Republic. The effect of diffusion of international legal guidelines, human rights and national emergency norms of Western countries will be a key focal point for this paper.

10:50: Discussion

11:00am:  Round-Table 2: Negotiating the Arab Spring: Ambassadors’ Session
Chair:Veit Bader (University of Amsterdam)

11:00: H.E. Khaled al Baqly, Ambassador of Egypt to India

11:25: H.E. … Ambassador to India

11:50: Discussion

12:00pm: Round-Table 3: India and the Arab Spring: Policy Implications

Chair:Zakir Hussain (ICWA)

Sebastiano Maffettone (Rome)
Torkel Brekke (Oslo)
Gennaro Gervasio (Cairo)
Uriel Abulof (Israel)
Larbi Sadiki (Tunisia)

1:00: Discussion

1:20: Wrap-Up and Closing Remarks

1:30: Lunch (all participants and audience)


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7:00 DINNER (only invited participants)

3, Local shopping Center, Masjid Moth
Greater Kailash II