8 November 09:00 – 11:00
Corruption and Transformations in the Arab Region: Changing Landscapes and New Horizons?
Lessons learned from the transformation movements in Arab countries so far, as well as experiences from countries that have undergone transitions in other regions, will help shed a light on how to move forward in advancing anti-corruption efforts in the Arab region. Indeed, other than the initiation of a number of high-level anti-corruption prosecutions in a few countries (with limited results achieved in terms of convictions and recovery of stolen assets), the launch of a number of initiatives (with limited progress achieved and even less communicated to the public), and the amendment of a few laws (with less efforts exerted to implement and enforce those laws), it may be argued that “real change” is yet indiscernible, and that most of what has been “achieved” so far is just promises. The counter-argument is that change has indeed started, but it takes more time to reach fruition, and in order for it to do so, it requires concerted efforts by all stakeholders, including governments, civil society, and the international community. Notwithstanding where one stands on the spectrum of positions between those two arguments, it is clear that there are a number of issues that require further debate with a view to informing concrete action in the future, whether it is to trigger “real change” as opposed to the current situation, or whether it is to further support the change that is already underway.
This workshop starts from the presumption that the political, economic, and social landscape in the Arab region is changing, and that while this change has produced anti-corruption commitments and demands, that are now at historic heights, very little has been actually achieved, at least so far, in terms of developing and implementing concrete anti-corruption measures. As such, the workshop attempts to address a set of key interrelated questions: has anything really changed for the anti-corruption agenda in particular over the past two years? If yes, what has changed and how can national stakeholders, and the international community, use these changes to advance anti-corruption efforts? If not, what needs to be done to generate the needed changes and what are the obstacles that need to be overcome in order to move forward?
The workshop then presents for discussion that the most important factor to consider in this changing landscape is the newly created space for open engagement and participation of citizens and civil society in public affairs. Indeed, as we approach two years on the beginning of the Arab transformations, the least common denominator in terms of concrete visible change, at least for Arab countries in transition – the Arab Spring countries – seems to be the materialization this new space. This new space has enabled stakeholders to debate anti-corruption efforts in their countries more freely, albeit in varying degrees and forms, and seems to have encouraged the beginning of a repositioning of frontiers between civil society and governments on anti-corruption issues, and more broadly on issues of democracy and human rights. The formerly dominant understanding of this relationship, as a zero-sum game, seems to be changing, and is at least more amenable for discussion as a result of the Arab Spring.
At the same time, the workshop presents to this discussion that this newly created space has yet to be adequately utilized by national and international actors in the struggle against corruption, particularly in the Arab countries in transition, and accordingly attempts to address another set of key interrelated questions: Is this space sustainable or is it more vulnerable and fragile than it is currently thought to be? Can this space be used more effectively by stakeholders on the ground and by the international community to advance positive change for anti-corruption in the region? If yes, what are the considerations, pitfalls, lessons learned that should be taken into consideration by stakeholders on the ground and the international community? If not, what are the alternatives? Either way, what roles, if any, can Arab governments, civil society, as well as partner countries and political groupings such as the G8, play in this regard?
Ayman AL SAYYAD, Journalist, Editor-in-Chief, Weghat Nazar
Tawakkol KARMAN, Nobel Peace Laureate, Head of “Women Journalists Without Chains”, Yemen
Ghazi GHRAIRI, Member of the Constituent Assembly, Tunisia
Ahmed MAHER, Co-founder of the April 6 Youth Movement, Egypt
Adel ABDELLATIF, Chief of Regional Programmes, Regional Bureau for Arab States, UNDP
Rob LEVENTHAL, Director of Anti-Corruption and Governance Initiatives, State Department, USA
Khalil GEBARA, Lecturer, American University of Beirut, Lebanon