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Development and Geostrategic Challenges in Post Covid Risk Society, The Case of North Africa

Call for papers

6th International conference of North African Studies

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Covid-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented existential threat on contemporary societies. Obviously, this pandemic can be seen as an ordinary crisis that shaped the history of humanity. However, put in the context of the postindustrial society, the pandemic may usher in what can be described as an invisible transition towards Risk society. From this perspective, this symposium seeks to untangle the complexities and challenges of the post Covid era, using the theoretical and conceptual framework developed by sociologists Ulrich Beck and Anthony Giddens.

Beck argues that risk is inherent in modern society and it would contribute to the formation of risk society. Although he assumes that risk society is not limited to environmental risks alone, Beck deemed the Chernobyl disaster a turning point in the way hazards and dangers of risk society should be perceived. Indeed, environment-related dangers that have long been seen as merely side effects of the industrial society, have now proven to be one of its dominant features. In a similar vein this concept paper argues that Corona pandemic usher in major social changes that can be approached through the lenses of Beck’s risk society. This may require social science to undertake a paradigmatic shift in the ways it approaches different aspects of the post Covid society. More specifically it seems that the ability of  social science to understand and deal with development related-challenges will increasingly depend on what A. Giddens calls "hazards and insecurities" that characterize the risk society as a "society preoccupied with the future," as U. Beck puts it. From this perspective, two intertwined questions need to be asked:

To what extent can the Covid-19 pandemic be considered as symptomatic of risk society? In other words, to what extent can the pandemic be seen as a form of manufactured risk; a risk that is unpredictable and caused by the impact of human knowledge and technology upon the natural world. It is worth recalling that the 2020 Human Development Report warned that, due to planetary pressures, human activity has become a dominant force shaping the planet, instead of the planet shaping humans. The Corona pandemic may be only a glimpse of what life in the Anthropocene epoch will look like.

Since risk society is reflexive and has the ability to assess the level of risks produced by the society or those that are likely to be generated in the future, how can North African societies reflect on the risks of Covid-19? In other words, how likely are inequalities and vulnerabilities heightened by COVID-19 are to engender reflexivity and constructive policy critique, in a way that would transform the threats posed by the pandemic into opportunities of genuine reform?[1]

Economic Recovery-Related Challenges:

 

The lockdown measures decided by authorities in the Maghreb have had negative repercussions. This crisis has shown the limits of economic policies and made painfully clear the depth and the pervasiveness of social and economic insecurity and inequality throughout the region. It should be noted however that vulnerability to COVID-19 in North Africa is “structural for the countries, regions and/or segments of the populations within them”.[2] Moreover these structural inequalities are often exacerbated by the fact that the distribution of burdens is unequal.

 

As a consequence, in spite of the efforts made by authorities in North Africa, the virus put a huge amount of pressure on their health systems. Unsurprisingly, the deplorable condition of healthcare services in the region is symptomatic of deep social and territorial inequalities that had become a real threat to social cohesion in the North African societies. Development policies that were implemented over the last few decades seem to have fallen short of overcoming these weaknesses.

 

Based on the above these countries are expected to face a double challenge in planning their economic recovery. In the short term they need to find immediate solutions to mitigate the economic impact of the pandemic. (Tourism is one of the hardest hits by COVID outbreak in Morocco, Tunisia and Egypt, the decline of energy exports in Algeria and Libya). On the long term, they will have to cope with the post Covid new normal. Indeed, this does not only imply that Covid-19 risk is unlikely to disappear, but it also suggests that other unknown and manufactured  risks will probably emerge, as being at risk is progressively becoming a human condition in the work risk society.

 

Building more self-reliant economies: the lack of economic sovereignty was a major obstacle in handling the pandemic in North Africa. Hence, a genuine recovery may require striking the right balance between the constraints of global economic integration and self-reliance.

Rethinking development: this entails, as shown by the pandemic, the need to prioritize non-economic factors of development, with a special focus on sustainability and human security related issues.

Investing in science, technology and innovation: the lack of a stronger research infrastructure has been one of the driving forces of economic dependence in North Africa. Bridging the knowledge gap with the developed world is key in living in risk society in North Africa.

 

Rebuilding the Maghreb Regional System:

To what extent can the difficulties facing developmentstrategies in the Maghreb be attributed to the low level of economic and political integration in the region? This question has never been as relevant and urgent as it has become in the post-pandemic context. Indeed, this part of the eastern Mediterranean remains one of the least integrated regions in the world. The root cause of this stalemate is undoubtedly Morocco and Algeria’s long-lasting misunderstanding over the Western Sahara. The establishment of a genuine Maghreb economic integration would allow the two countries to save over $2 billion per year, according to IMF estimates. Obviouslythe negative effects of the political tension between rival Algeria and Morocco are not limited to their economies. These tensions continue to waste time, rendering the Maghreb, according to various observers, is today a “non-region” on the economic level.[3]

 

In all likelihood, the price of non-Maghreb is expected to rise significantly due to the multiple risks each country will have to face on its own in light of the escalating tension between Morocco and Algeria. Thus, overcoming the obstacles that hinder Maghreb integration, brought back to the fore by the pandemic is, by far, the most urgent and challenging issue that needs to be put on the agenda of both politicians and academics alike. To this end, this conference invites academics are to reflect on the two following questions :

The issue of democracy seems to be of paramount importance , given the fact that the low level of economic integration the region is partly due to the nature of the incumebnt regimes in North African countries. This has also to do with the lack of democratic mechanisms of conflict resolution both within and between member states.

 

The issue of peaceful conflict management that would have helped with setteling the long lasting regional conflict on western Sahara between Morocco and Algeria. Such a mechanism would have also helped with preventing intrastate conflict (The case of Libya).

By asking these two interlinked questions, the conference seeks to use reflexive modernization theory to explore the various manifestations of the impact of the deadlocked integration process on development strategies in the Maghreb. It also aims to assess the impact of the risks these countries have been facing, before and after the pandemic, in reshaping the awareness of the ruling elites in the region.

Facing the New Geostrategic Challenges.

The global economy has reached an unprecedented level of interdependence over the last half century. This phenomenon that shaped the trading relationships between national economies, makes the behaviour of the states affect their trading partners and it would be costly to rupture this relationship. This has resulted in making development strategies in the developing world increasingly vulnerable to geopolitical transformations. Indeed development is increasingly dependent on the supply chains and other factors over which nation states have no control. From this perspective geopolitical risks are to be taken seriously when it comes to exploring the new development challenges in the post COVID North Africa. The importance of geopolitical analysis in development studies in post COVID era stems from various considerations, inter alia:

 

The rise of the impact of geography, physical and human, in shaping internal as well as foreign policies. The unprecedented transnational threats posed by COVID crisis, climate change, global migration...etc are exemples that illustrate this state of affairs.

 

The post Cold War balance appears to be seriously challenged by the war in Ukraine. Obviously, there many indicators that show that this war is far from being an ordinary one. The nature of economic and geopolitical interests at stake, the actors involved in this war, are factors that make it an existential war. Hence it poses serious challenges to economic recovery and development policies in North African countries.

 

What strategy should they adopt in dealing with the expected long lasting effects of the war in Ukraine, especially as far as food security is concerned? It is worth mentioning that all North African countries import large amounts of wheat from Ukraine and Russia? What impact this war is likely to have on the strategic balance of power between key players in interstate and intrastate conflicts in North Africa?

 

This conference is organized by the Center for Studies and Research in  Social Sciences in partnership with the Konrad Adenauer Foundation. It is part of the academic project of the International Working Group in the State, Society and Dynamics of Social Change in North Africa sponsored by the two institutions. it offers a unique opportunity for social scientists from and of North Africa to debate on issues related to socioeconomic and political dynamics in the region. As part of this conference  Larbi Sadiki and Layla Saleh will present the book they edited on “Covid-19 and Risk Society Across the MENA Region”.

 

Conference coordinators:

Mohamed El Hachimi, Senior Research Fellow (CERSS).

Larbi Sadiki, Qatar University, Doha.

Abir Ibourk, Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, Morocco.

 


Important Dates:


June 20, 2022: launching the call for papers.

July 20, 2022 : Deadline for submitting the abstract: A one-page abstract  in Word.doc format, Times New Roman 12, 1.5 spacing size that highlights the  importance of the subject, and specifies the theory (ies), the method (s) and  the data, as well as the expected results and the issues to be discussed. 

July 22, 2022: Notification of the selected abstracts.


November 10, 2022: Deadline for the submission of the final version.

 
November 25/26, 2022: Conference holding.

 

Abstracts should be sent to: conferencenorthafrica6@gmail.com


Submission Rules:
Abstracts:
-Title
-Name of Author, status, affiliation, email
-Abstract (1 page)
-key words
-12 Times New Roman, simple spacing
Final Papers :
-The final papers should be between 7 000 and 9 000 words, without counting the abstract and the bibliography.
-Format: 12 Times New Roman, simple spacing, margins 2,5.
-Titles and subtitles : 1., 1.1., 1.2., 2., 2.1., 2.2., etc.
-The paper should be sent in Word Format.
-Bibliography: The bibliography should classified in alphabetical order, w Author’s Name, title (book or article), publishing house, date ; and be classified in alphabetical order

 

 

[1] Larbi Sadiki, Layla Saleh, The COVID-19 pandemic and possibilities for Arab ‘risk society’, Melbourne Asia Review, 2021.

[2] Sadiki and Saleh, op.cit

[3]Ghiles Francis 2010. Le « non-Maghreb » coute cher au Maghreb,” Le Monde Diplomatique, https://www.monde-diplomatique.fr/2010/01/GHILES/18755 (accessed April 13,2021).

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Interlocuteur

Steffen Krüger

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Représentant Résident au Maroc

Steffen.Krueger@kas.de +212 5 3776 12 32/33 +212 5 3776 12 35
Interlocuteur

Abir Ibourk

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Coordinatrice de Projet (Promotion de la Démocratie)

abir.ibourk@kas.de +2125 3776 12 32/33 +2125 3776 12 35

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