Success of „Dubai Debates“ surpasses expectations
KAS-Regional Program Gulf-States organized high-profile panel on the Arab Spring – life tweets reach 15.000 followers
Also available in Deutsch
With the newly established „Dubai Debates“ the KAS Regional Program Gulf-States in cooperation with bridgemedia and CNN explored new territories of public debate formats in Dubai: A life audience of more than 120 guests, among them leading national and international political analysts and journalists, followed the intense discussions on the issue „After the Arab Awakening: Opportunities und Challenges for a New Arab World“. Listeners and participants in the high-profile panel alike twittered the debate proceedings life and reached out to more than 15.000 Twitter-followers.
Dalia Mogahed, pollster and director of the Abu Dhabi Gallup-Center and according to the Arabian Business Magazine „the most influential woman in the Arab World“, Shadi Hamid, Director of Research at the Brookings Doha Center, Tarik Yousef, founding Dean of the Dubai School of Government and Abdel Bari Atwan, Chief-Editor of „Al-Quds Al-Arabi“ newspaper (London) engaged into a controversial discussion of highest quality. The debates can be viewed in six different segments on www.dubaidebates.com and will be marketed by CNN.com. International Contributions via Skype or video added to the spice of the debate.
Moderator Dr. Matt J. Duffy from Zayed University in Abu Dhabi opened the discussion by posing the question whether the Arab Spring was over or not. The panelists largely agreed: the situation of the people has not changed significantly but they have lost their fear to revolt. The change process has only been inaugurated and will carry on for a significant amount of time. Tarik Yousef stated „The revolution has been a quantum leap the dynamic of which will be felt for a long time to come."
Another central topic of discussion was the future of Egypt. Abdel Bari Atwan said that in the short-term Egypt faces a very bumpy road to recovery. High unemployment numbers as well as the conflict between the military and the revolutionary establishment pose big challenges to the incoming government. But he was confident that in the long-run Egypt will prosper economically and will regain its leadership role in the Arab world. Shadi Hamid expects the Moslem Brotherhood become increasingly more important. They will win the upcoming elections in the fall – contrary to initial expectations by the West, who has mistaken the revolution as a mainly secular movement. Hamid urged Western governments to establish communication with Islamic groups to better understand their motivations and to engage into constructive cooperation. According to Tarik Yousef it does not matter which faction will be voted into power as long as there is good governance and a well established checks and balances system in place, which will prevent any form of extremism. Dalia Mogahed pointed out the dangers chaotic circumstances in Egypt pose for the stability of the entire Arab region.
The debate was most heated on the issue of the role of the West and specifically the role of the United Stats in the Arab democratization process. Shadi Hamid stated that the U.S. has not lived up to the expectations of the Arab world and have only started supporting the revolutionary movements after the toppling of the regimes in Tunisia and Egypt. The Arab world does turn to the U.S. for support, continued Hamid, and it is not too late yet fort he Americans to re-establish its democratic leadership in the Arab region. The will to do so is very strong in Washington as „America does not want to be caught on the wrong side of history!” Abdel Bari Atwan objected vehemently to this. He is convinced, he stated, that the West has not interest in functioning democratic governments in Arab countries. The U.S. acts solemnly out of self interest with a firm focus on securing the supply of raw materials and the safety of Israel – objectives that are easier established through agreements with autocratic regimes.
The panelists agreed that the establishment of democratic governments will in the long-term also lead to economic prosperity. Dalia Mogahed concluded that social stability and entrepreneurship are directly linked with each other. Studies have shown that stabile social structures encourage increased entrepreneurial activities, which in turn lead to new prosperity.
The new format of the event was a great success. ‚The most recent development in the Arab world have shown that people increasingly follow world events via the new media such as Twitter, blogs and Facebook,” commented Thomas Birringer, KAS-Regional Representative to the Gulf-States. ‚Through these communication channels we were able to reach an audience that would have never fitted into any given single hall.” But despite the online-streaming of the event, many wanted to follow the debate personally and filled the venue to the last seat. 70 percent of the more then 120 guests had pre-registered on the facebook-page DubaiDebates.com to secure a seat. The international KAS-fan page covered the event as well
Abu Dhabi, June 2, 2011