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  • Author: Eckart Woertz
  • Publication Date: 11-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Saudi Arabia's domestic energy consumption is skyrocketing. The growth of electricity demand is particularly strong and shows a high degree of seasonality due to the need for air conditioning in the hot summer months. Demand drivers are population growth, industrial development and a subsidy regime that encourages wasteful consumption. Saudi Arabia now faces a natural gas shortage and is seeking alternative energy sources like nuclear power and renewables in order to reduce the common practice of using fuel oil, crude oil and diesel in power stations. If unchecked, domestic energy demand will threaten oil export capacity and could compromise Saudi Arabia's role as swing producer in global oil markets. However, a reform of the subsidy regime is politically sensitive, because citizens regard subsidies as an entitlement. The government is reluctant to touch subsidies in order to avoid the kind of political unrest that has occurred elsewhere in the wake of the Arab Spring.
  • Topic: Demographics, Economics, Energy Policy, Oil
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Joe Stork, Nicholas McGeehan
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: At first glance the small but wealthy state of Qatar appears to be an anomaly in the Persian Gulf region, where government human rights records are distinctly poor. Qatari citizens – 225,000 out of a population of 1.7 million – seem largely content with the de facto social contract that provides material benefits in abundance, and political complaints appear to be few. Qatar has experienced none of the street protests that have been seen in Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman, or even the online petitioning that elicited a fierce official crackdown in the United Arab Emirates. On the one issue that these states have in common – migrant workers (and Qatar has the largest proportion of migrant workers to population of any Gulf state) – Qatar is taking tentative, but potentially significant steps to reform a system that currently facilitates forced labour. But the country unmistakably shares the authoritarian character of its neighbours, as is evident from the pervasive red lines confronting potential critics and the punitive responses to the very limited public dissent that has occurred.
  • Topic: Civil Society, Human Rights, Governance, Prisons/Penal Systems
  • Political Geography: Arabia
  • Author: David Roberts
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Emir Tamim has become the new ruler of Qatar after the abdication of his father, Emir Hamad Bin Khalifa al-Thani. The latter followed an independent foreign policy throughout his reign and sought good relations with all states, although Qatar's taking sides in the Arab uprisings have somewhat modified this position. Evaluating Qatar's foreign policy under Emir Tamim is difficult. In his upbringing Tamim was imbued with their vision of Qatar as an internationally oriented state. It would be very surprising if he were to backtrack on this basic thrust and withdraw Qatar internationally. Emir Tamim's Qatar will therefore likely continue to seek to extend the small state's influence throughout the region wherever and whenever possible.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Politics, Regime Change, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The carefully managed handover of power in Qatar on June 25th 2013 will change the style, but not the substance of Qatari foreign policy. The abdication of Emir Hamad bin Khalifa al-Thani and the replacement of Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Shaykh Hamad bin Jassim al-Thani (HBJ) removes from office the two men behind Qatar's rise to global prominence since the 1990s. The new emir, 33-year old Shaykh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, will likely curb the excesses of Qatar's aggressive internationalisation strategy and recalibrate the country's regional policy to address its policy overreach in Syria. While the underlying substance of policy is likely to remain broadly similar, the biggest changes are expected in the hitherto-personalised style of decision-making associated with HBJ and the former emir. Greater emphasis on multilateral co-ordination will also replace the confrontational unilateralism associated with Qatar's post-2011 Arab Spring policies.
  • Topic: Foreign Policy, Regional Cooperation, Governance
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Rachid Tlemçani, Derek Lutterbeck
  • Publication Date: 09-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Even though many of the socioeconomic conditions that have driven the popular Arab Spring uprisings and toppled several regimes across the Middle East have been present in Algeria as well, the Algerian regime has thus far been able to weather the winds of change. This policy brief takes a closer look at the "Algerian exception" by examining the protest movement in Algeria and why it has been more limited than elsewhere, as well as recent political "reforms" adopted in response to the protests. It argues that in addition to the experiences of the bloody decade of the 1990s, a number of factors account for the more limited protest movement in Algeria, such as the regime's larger spending power and its experience in dealing with large-scale protests. While the Algerian regime has introduced reforms over the last two years, these have been mainly cosmetic, largely consolidating the political status quo. The policy brief also briefly discusses the threat of Islamist terrorism in the Sahel region, with particular reference to the recent In Amenas hostage crisis in Algeria. As for Algeria's future evolution and prospects for political reform, fundamental change seems unlikely, at least in the short to medium term.
  • Topic: Democratization, Islam, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Derek Lutterbeck
  • Publication Date: 05-2013
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Tunisia under Ben Ali was a police state par excellence and reforming the country's internal security apparatus has thus been one of the major challenges since the long-standing autocrat's fall. This policy brief examines the various efforts to reform Tunisia's internal security system in the post-Ben Ali period and the challenges this process faces. It argues that reforms in this area have been limited so far, focusing mainly on purges rather than on broader structural or institutional reform of the country's police force. Moreover, not only have human rights violations committed by the police – despite important improvements – continued on a significant scale, but there are also concerns that the police will once again be instrumentalised for political purposes, this time by the Ennahda-led government. Indications to this effect have included in particular the seeming complacency of the police vis-à-vis the growth in religiously inspired violence. The recent killing of opposition leader Chokri Belaid in the first political assassination in Tunisia since Ben Ali's fall has further underscored the need to reform the country's internal security system.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Democratization, Human Rights, Regime Change, Governance, Authoritarianism
  • Political Geography: Arabia, North Africa
  • Author: Michael Kugelman
  • Publication Date: 01-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: This policy brief assesses the potential for two types of youth-led political change movements in Pakistan. One is an Arab Spring-like campaign, fuelled by demands for better governance and new leadership. The other is a religious movement akin to the Iranian Revolution of 1979, which seeks to transform Pakistan into a rigid Islamic state. The brief discusses the presence in Pakistan of several factors that suggest the possibility of the emergence of an Arab Spring-type movement. These include economic problems; corruption; a young, rapidly urbanising and disillusioned population; youth-galvanising incidents; and, in Imran Khan, a charismatic political figure capable of channelling mass sentiment into political change.
  • Topic: Political Violence, Youth Culture, Political Activism
  • Political Geography: Pakistan, Arabia
  • Author: Daniel Seidemann
  • Publication Date: 08-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: What are Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's real intentions vis-à-vis Israeli–Palestinian negotiations and the two-state solution? What does he really want? Speculation aside, a great deal can be gleaned about both Netanyahu's core beliefs and his intentions by examining his words and his actions with respect to Jerusalem. Jerusalem is universally recognised as a key permanent status issue, which, for any peace agreement, will require the reconciling of competing Israeli and Palestinian claims as well as recognition and protection of Jewish, Muslim and Christian equities. In the context of the current political stalemate, however, it has become much more than that. Today, Jerusalem is both the volcanic core of the conflict – the place where religion and nationalism meet and combine in a potentially volatile mix – and a microcosm of the conflict and the imbalance of power that characterises developments on the ground.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Treaties and Agreements, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Israel, Palestine, Arabia
  • Author: Judy Barsalou
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The dominance of neo-patriarchal, semi-authoritarian regimes with little interest in justice, accountability or other values associated with democratic governance has meant that, until recently, the Arab region has had limited experience with transitional justice (TJ). Several states have started down the TJ path since the emergence of the “Arab Spring”, but their progress is uneven. In Egypt, much depends on the nature and speed of the transition, whose outcomes remain uncertain. Whether and how Arab transitional states embrace TJ – especially how they manage the fates of their deposed rulers and essential institutional reforms – will indicate whether they intend to break with the past and build public institutions that inspire civic trust.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Security, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt
  • Author: Aitemad Muhanna
  • Publication Date: 06-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Women's participation in the Arab uprisings has been inspired by the expansion of an Islamist-based model of Arab women's activism and a gradual shrinking of secular liberal women's activism. The uprisings have provided outcomes that prove the possibility of combining Islam with democracy through the political success of Islamist parties in the post-uprisings era, like in Tunisia and Egypt. Although this new de facto political map of the region has largely frightened liberal women, the victory of moderate Islamist voices may also be promising, especially when they are in a position to provide a state governance model. The determining factor in combining Islam with democracy is the willingness of the two major players – Islamist parties and the international community – to ensure that the main debatable issues – religion, gender and human rights – are not discriminated against in the name of either religion or Western democracy. However, the actual practice and outcomes of moderate Islamist discourse remains under experimentation, and it is a space for Islamist and secular women's and human rights organisations to co-operate, monitor, negotiate and strategise, to ensure that gender issues are engaged in policy discussions and formulations as a substantial issue for real democratisation.
  • Topic: Democratization, Gender Issues, Islam
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia, Egypt, Tunisia
  • Author: Jean-Paul Marthoz
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Online media, global TV and social networks played a significant role in the Arab Spring and will be important factors in determining the direction of these “revolutions”.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Science and Technology, Mass Media, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Youssef Courbage
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Since December 2010, the speed, suddenness and scope of events in North Africa and the Middle East have taken everyone by surprise. They nevertheless had to happen. Given the universality of human nature – differences between a European and an Arab are ultimately of minor importance – the processes that began in Europe in the seventeenth century and spread throughout the world would have inevitably reached the Arab countries.
  • Topic: Demographics, Regime Change
  • Political Geography: Africa, Europe, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: David Gardner
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The reign of Arab strongmen supported by the West is drawing to an end. Europe has the duty and the opportunity to get on the right side of history, and to assist in reform and reconstruction, if and when requested. The economic dimension is about more than aid and trade, and will turn importantly on ideas and debate. Policy should be driven by a blatant bias towards democracy and its defenders, the support of competitive politics and open societies, education and the building of institutions, law-based regimes and the empowerment of women – everything many Arabs still find attractive about Western society.
  • Topic: Post Colonialism, Regime Change, Insurgency
  • Political Geography: Europe, Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Jad Chaaban
  • Publication Date: 05-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The Middle East and North African region is currently faced with one of the toughest socioeconomic challenges in its modern history: a "youth bulge" of almost 100 million young people, of which a quarter are unemployed. Between 40 and 50 million new jobs need to be created in the region's countries over the next decade, and this implies that governments in the region should embark on a labour-intensive and job-creating growth trajectory. Special attention should be given to reducing the unemployment and emigration of skilled youth, and to integrating young women into the labour market. Policies that tackle the institutional and structural impediments to meaningful job creation should be pursued, together with public interventions in social protection and housing programmes that would reduce youth's social exclusion in the region.
  • Topic: Demographics, Gender Issues, Islam, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Yossi Alpher
  • Publication Date: 04-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Syria is geo-strategically, historically and politically the most central of Middle East countries, hence the over-riding importance of the conflict there. Yet any discussion of the regional implications of that conflict is necessarily highly speculative. Its points of departure are the instances of regional intervention and "overflow" from the situation already taking place. Turkey, with its open support for the armed Syrian opposition, is the leading candidate to establish "safe zones" or even "humanitarian corridors" that could conceivably lead to war. Ankara's growing rivalry with Iran is increasingly being acted out in Syria and is interacting with tensions between Sunni Muslims and Alawites/Shias not only in Syria, but in Lebanon and Iraq as well.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Regime Change, Bilateral Relations, Territorial Disputes
  • Political Geography: Iraq, Turkey, Middle East, Israel, Arabia, Syria
  • Author: Steffen Hertog
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) countries' financial sectors are solid, but not very sophisticated: business is mostly financed through bank lending rather than bonds or stock issues, and banks continue to rely on state support and, in many cases, are directly state owned.
  • Topic: Economics, International Trade and Finance, Markets
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Andrew Gardner
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Although large-scale migration to the Arabian Peninsula is often framed as a new or novel situation, an examination of historical accounts reveals cities, ports and peoples intricately connected with the greater Indian Ocean world for more than a millennium. For much of the past century, however, migration to the region has been organised through the kafala , or sponsorship system, which is almost ubiquitously posited as the causal force behind current labour-related problems. The right to work in the Gulf Co-operation Council (GCC) states has been globally commodified, and low-skilled workers often pay $2,000 or more for the right to work in Arabia for a year or more. Low-skilled workers in the GCC states are best conceptualised as emissaries of a larger household livelihood and investment strategy. Living quarters for such workers in Arabia are often substandard, and the enforcement of existing laws, regulations and policies is often poor to inadequate. Youthful and worldly local populations have a demonstrably different attitude to labour rights and issues than their predecessors and elders, and these growing trends should be broadly supported through policy planning in the region. The enforcement of existing regulations and labour laws should also be supported where possible. Finally, the overall number of international organisations now focused on labour rights in Arabia provides ample opportunity for policy planners to seek collaborative relationships that might strategically yield significant benefits.
  • Topic: Economics, Human Rights, Migration, Labor Issues
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Arabia
  • Author: Joe Stork
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: Human rights conditions in the five smaller Gulf states are quite poor overall. Political and economic power is the monopoly of hereditary ruling families. There is little respect for core civil and political rights such as freedom of expression, assembly and association. Peaceful dissent typically faces harsh repression. The administration of justice is highly personalised, with limited due process protections, especially in political and security-related cases. The right to participate in public affairs by way of election to offices with some authority is extremely limited; the only exception is Kuwait.
  • Topic: Democratization, Gender Issues, Human Rights, Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Kuwait, Arabia, Bahrain, Oman
  • Author: Kristian Coates Ulrichsen
  • Publication Date: 12-2012
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: This overview paper examines the challenges facing regional security co-operation in the five smaller Gulf States. It demonstrates the resilience and durability of intra-regional differences, particularly scepticism of Saudi Arabia's greater size and regional objectives. With the notable exception of Bahrain, differences of outlook have continued into the post-Arab Spring period as Kuwait, Qatar, and Oman hold significant reservations about moving toward a closer Gulf union. The Arab Spring has injected urgent new domestic considerations into a regional security complex hitherto marked by external instability. Yet the bold political action and longer-term planning that is needed to address these issues is lacking, because ruling elites prioritise short-term policies designed to ensure regime security in a narrower sense. This means that security remains defined in hard, “traditional” terms and has not evolved to include the security of individuals and communities rather than rulers and states. The future of regional security co-operation is therefore uncertain and bleak, and the closing of ranks may yet herald a closer Gulf union as rulers come together to deal with the pressures generated by the Arab Spring.
  • Topic: Security, Foreign Policy, Democratization
  • Political Geography: Middle East, Kuwait, Arabia, Bahrain, Oman
  • Author: Øystein Rolandsen, Jacob Høigilt
  • Publication Date: 07-2010
  • Content Type: Policy Brief
  • Institution: Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre
  • Abstract: The conflict in Sudan's western province of Darfur has revived even as the peace talks in Qatar between Sudan's government and the rebel Justice and Equality Movement (JEM) seem to have collapsed. Egypt has hitherto refrained from involvement in negotiations to end the conflict, a strategy that has contributed to further diminishing Cairo's already weakened status as a major player in regional politics and diplomacy.
  • Topic: Conflict Resolution, Diplomacy, Ethnic Conflict, War
  • Political Geography: Africa, Sudan, Arabia, Egypt