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Upheavals in the Middle East and North Africa

10 years since the Arab Spring

Prospects for democracy and development in the Middle East and North Africa

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In December 2010, demonstrations in the Tunisian hinterland developed into a regional wave of protests that shook the Middle East and North Africa. The demands of the predominantly young demonstrators for "bread, freedom, dignity" on Avenue Bourguiba in Tunis and Tahrir Square in Cairo found an echo in large parts of the Arab world. Within a year, the authoritarian rulers in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, who had ruled their countries for decades, were overthrown. The term "Arab Spring" was established to describe this historical period, during which many predominantly young people all across the Arab world took to the streets and demanded more socioeconomic participation and political rights.
Yet, rapid democratization and a ‘spring-like’ blossoming of the region did not follow. Instead, geopolitical and identity-based lines of conflict emerged in many contexts, protests were violently suppressed, frustration led to radicalization, and terrorist groups were able to take advantage of the instability in many countries. The past decade has shown that the ‘old order of the Arab world,’ as it had emerged after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire and in the course of decolonization, has broken down while no new model of authority, no Herrschaftsmodell, was able to assert itself. The struggle for new structures of order within the societies and between the countries of the region – and the external actors involved in it – continues. Most recently the civil protests of 2019/20 in Iraq, Algeria and Lebanon have once again reminded us that the questions and demands of the "Arab Spring" have still not been answered adequately.

The Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung takes the tenth anniversary of the "Arab Spring" as an opportunity to take stock of the manifold and protracted transformation processes in the Middle East and North Africa. Why has the "Arab Spring" failed in so many countries? Are there nevertheless signs of democratic change? What future do young people in the region want for themselves today? And is there a role for Germany and Europe in this process?

On the theme page you will find a list of events that Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung and its country offices and regional programmes abroad are organizing on the occasion of the "Arab Spring" anniversary as well as references to relevant political reports, studies, surveys, interviews and video statements.