Arab Spring: What now?

Published: July 2, 2011

Demonstrators hold the flags of Arab nations aloft during a rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square. PHOTO: AFP

The buzzword in the Arab world nowadays is ‘change’. There has been a shift from criticising the Israel-Palestinian issue to protesting against internal state hegemony.

The Arab Spring is not over yet. Tahrir square is protesting again. Tunisia and Libya are both unsettled and there are ever more crackdowns across Syria. King Hamad of Bahrain will be addressing his nation today. And, women in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia (KSA) have taken to the wheels.

Historically, this change, among others, was due. Socio-economic development in the region and the unjust polarisation of economic wealth across the spectrum, in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and beyond, had made this change inevitable. And, as the boat rocked, the once sleepy waters stirred some monarchies and civil societies towards recognising that ‘change’ is here.

What has dispensed this year is not phenomenal, but can be termed encouraging. Economic packages in KSA, Bahrain and Qatar, concessions in Bahrain, strong emiratisation goal setting in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and KSA’s refusal to accept International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans for a beleaguered Egypt, are indicators of self empowerment, dictated by the people.

Regionally, the GCC requires steep investment in Human Capital Development and persuasive programmes for women’s empowerment. Social issues that need immediate remedial measures include better quality of education across genders, more colleges and encouragement of innovation among the youth.

Making the most of the Arab Spring

As an expatriate living in Dubai, I have felt that regional adoption of western products and ideas are not always beneficial. Stakeholders should be aware of the perils associated with imported ideals that are non-reflective of local cultures and history. The Arab world can seize this time to initiate dialogue within communities, strengthen the local or district councils, encourage historical learning for knowledge bank creation and inculcate a sense of patriotic pride. Especially, the GCC should use its vast economic wealth for sustainable evolution of its societies through investments in renewable energy and products.

Within the UAE, constructive social change began before the Arab Spring descended on the region. Government and society led initiatives recognising social issues have already been discussed at strategic forums and are being addressed by policy makers. Sustainable energy usage, mainstreaming quality education, culture protection from a non-tourism perspective, encouragement of arts and gender diversity in government and corporate sectors are all affirmative actions.

Last year’s Abraaj led celebration of entrepreneurship has been key in encouraging innovation and enterprise development across GCC. Grassroots organizations like CareZone, Baraka Ventures, The HUB-UAE, Bokashi-Dubai & Goodgate among others are working alongside volunteer groups like PCRF (Palestine relief), Dubai for Acumen & Salaam Pakistan to contribute towards positive dialogue and action in mobilising both local and expat communities.

Across the Arab world, social and print media is ripe with journalists and activists, questioning mainstream thought that is has become redundant with time. Arab societies understand that the region is in flux and voicing the concern will determine action.

Organic growth within councils, addressing and seeking solutions internally will strengthen the youths and governments.

The Khalifa Fund for Enterprise Development is an excellent mechanism to drive Small and Medium Enterprise (SME) growth using local sourced product and peoples.

The Arab Spring is an opportunity for everyone really, not just for society, but more so for the governments.

The only element of fear is the corruption of goodwill and intent by foreign vested interests dictated by the oil starved developed economies.


Sophia Ahmed

An accountant based in Dubai who has been associated with Acumen Fund, Aga Khan University Education Foundation and Micro Drip

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  •!/needroos Syed Nadir El-Edroos

    United Arab Emirates (UAE) and KSA’s refusal to accept International Monetary Fund (IMF) loans for a beleaguered Egypt You really think the people protesting against despots and monarchies such as those that rule the UAE and KSA are heartened because these governments have refused to support IMF support for Egypt?

    Please dont sugar coat the UAE for pittys sake. This is a country whose rulers are paying billions of dollars to the founder of Blackwater to setup a mercenary army to violently put down any protests by migrant workers.

    Since you are an ex-pat in UAE, why dont you highlight the pathetic state of migrant workers in the UAE and other gulf states? For them all the “reforms” and “achievements” have little or no impact! These economic packages the governments of UAE, KSA and Qatar have announced are nothing more than an attempt to buy of their citizenry.

    The barbarity of the Bahraini regime is shameful and disgusting and the blind support of the KSE and UAE for the Bahriani royal family is despicable. I dont know which Arab spring you are following, but its surely passed you by. Recommend

  • Asif

    This post wreaks of economistic developmentalism.. and generally neoliberal crap that people don’t need to hear.. Of course Dubai has been “Liberated” long before the backward and downward trodden Arab World countries that are now having their spring showers.. Everyone wants to be like Dubai right.. that’s the Arab world model.. Soon Arab Spring or whatever it is will be no more than a product, or an opportunity for returns on investments.. keep your financialism to yourself Recommend

  • ba ha

    BBC calls it “Arab Uprising”. I wonder what are the Arabs rising against… The West?, Western sponsored dictators?, or high food costs?. Similarly “Arab Spring” is another meaningless term. If anyone delayed the summer in arabiaistan its the West. So it is with some degree of Glee that they coined this phrase to mark their success. But what is most frustration is the fact that none of the western sponsored Dictators are ready to quit. They seem to be forever. Knowing full well what the western countries do to places they enter [case in point Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalis, Libya etc]; It makes no sense when some people calling themselves “Rebels” and systematically destroying their own country all the while pretending its a revolution. Its insulting the memory of revolutions. Its America changing customers not anything new like a revolutionRecommend

  • hassan

    Arab uprising? What is that?

    In Egypt, the people organised protests not for economic development or democracy, they wanted to show their anger against a government which was perceived as pro-US and not sufficiently hostile to Israel.

    So, they want a regime which will score 10 out of 10 in the ‘anti-Israel’ barometer and they also want more islamization of society. That’s why many people that the next regime the Egyptians get will be headed by Muslim Brotherhood guys, who are good at ticking all the boxes. Egyptians don’t mind one dictator being replaced with another dictator as long as the new one would show the middle finger to both US and Israel. That is the essence of these protests.

    Because, economic development and prosperity cannot happen in an insular society and it has to happen with the country getting globalized, integrating with all societies. Egypt, with its stress on Islamic values, would have none of that. For Islam, the West (where the markets are) is essentially evil and antithetical to its tenets.

    Arabs want a government that will be hostile to US and Israel and would also introduce Khomenei/Zia ul Haq type of reforms in their country.

    Of course, many Pakistanis might think, what is wrong in that…well…..Recommend

  • SEB

    I am GCC based expat and back in March/April, I asked some of my Egyptian friends about their expectations from the army takeover and they were all positive about the army’s intentions and capability to implement reforms and all. I just couldn’t help but have that deja-vu feeling from 1999 when Musharraf took over promising similar kind of stuff in his 7-point agenda… Lets hope Arabs get what they actually desired/expected going into their struggle.Recommend