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Middle East and North Africa

Ask the experts! Upcoming MENA Forum on Economic and Political Transitions

Caroline Freund's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
The year 2011 will be remembered as the year of the Arab Spring. Revolutions brought new governments to Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen, while a number of other governments in the region introduced important reforms.  The peoples’ demands are clear: democracy, dignity, better governance, and a more inclusive growth model.  Now is the time to deliver. Yet, the political, economic and social developments are shifting and it is not clear how the population’s heightened expectations can be met. 

Women in transition

Caroline Freund's picture
Also available in: Français
In a new study, Mélise Jaud and I examine how countries transit from autocracy to democracy.  We find that 86 countries have tried over the last 50 years, with 42 successful and quick, 13 successful but slow, and 31 failed.  We also look at the determinants of attempting transition, given you are in autocracy--as well as the determinants of sustained success, given that you try to transit.

Djibouti’s "Shining Mothers": Role models for behavior change, better health

Guest Blogger's picture
My Djiboutian counterparts told me the embarrassed woman was being criticized because her 5-year-old son still doesn’t speak.  Rather than follow the ancestral tradition of giving water to her newborn, she chose to exclusively breastfeed her last child until he was 6 months old. The group asserted that this choice had led to the child’s developmental problems. My immediate reaction to the scene was, “Peer pressure is a true obstacle to promoting optimal breastfeeding in Djibouti!”

Alert! Arab world women at bottom of global workforce participation

Tara Vishwanath's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
World Bank | Arne Hoel | 2011Worldwide, women remain at a disadvantage relative to men and the same is true in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. But, there is a stark paradox in gender equality: while, for the most part, MENA countries have made admirable progress in closing gender gaps in education and health outcomes, these investments in human development have not yet translated into commensurately higher rates of female participation in economic and political life. For example, female labor force participation rates at 25 percent are half the world average and the lowest among other regions.

Trucks, tankers, camels and salt all ply the Djibouti-Ethiopia trade corridor

Vincent Vesin's picture
Also available in: Français
We drove 140 miles across the Djibouti desert to the Ethiopian border to gain a better understanding of the flow of transported goods between the two countries. Djibouti depends on its deep sea port around which the Djibouti city built up over the centuries.  It is the closest and best equipped port for Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, which has no sea coast of its own.  Ethiopia has a population of around 90 million, exceeding that of any one country in Europe, while Djibouti has less than one million, fewer than Fairfax County, Virginia. Almost all of Djiboutians live in the port city.  

In Change Square

Wael Zakout's picture
Also available in: Français

I visited Change Square in the center of Yemen’s capital Sana’a a few days back to meet with Tawakkol  Karman, Nobel Peace Laureate. We met in her tent, a simple space but full of ideas, energy, love of Yemen and a strong desire for change.The visit reminded me of the camp we used in Bir Zeit University in the West Bank where I studied in the eighties. I was a young student then, like Tawakkol, full of energy, hope and desire for change and for a free Palestine and a democratic state where Muslims, Jews, and Christians can live together with equal rights and as good neighbors.

Morocco: Opening the door towards gradual and steady reform

Lida Bteddini's picture
Also available in: Français
Against the noise of citizens echoing their demands from the streets of Rabat, our discussions with Moroccan authorities in preparation of the Accountability and Transparency Development Policy Loan (DPL) were promising – both on the central and local level.  There is a strong will to deliver on governance reforms which respond to popular demands for change and an urge to produce strong and visible results in the short term.  This interest is also reinforced by an ambition to translate recent constitutional reforms into real change on the ground.  On Monday, Moroccans marked the one-year anniversary of the country’s own version of the Arab Spring uprisings. Thousands of citizens joined in Casablanca and Rabat, and a few more thousand across the country , to reaffirm demands for democratic change.

Quick win for government accountability

Caroline Freund's picture
Also available in: Français
In an attempt to improve government transparency and accountability, Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti this week made his cabinet disclose their finances. The public was so curious that the government website crashed. Is this a sensible step towards better governance?  A recent paper on disclosure by politicians says yes. Djankov, La Porta, Lopez-de-Silanes, and Shleifer (2010) collect data on the rules and practices of financial and conflict disclosure by members of parliament in 175 countries.  They find that less than one third of countries make disclosures available to the public, and less than 15% of potentially useful information is presented. 

From Spring to renaissance: repositioning of the Arab cities

Franck Bousquet's picture
Also available in: Français | العربية
Home to one of the world’s most rapidly expanding populations, the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is currently around 60% urbanized. Its urban population is expected to double or triple in the next 30 years. The region will experience a 65% increase of its urban population, corresponding to over 130 million additional urban inhabitants by 2030.  Indeed, the region’s average annual urban growth rate in the past two decades is exceeded only by Sub-Saharan Africa, which is far less urbanized.

Can the Arab Spring spur regional integration?

Omer Karasapan's picture
The list of challenging issues that led to the Arab Spring are now well known and will need to be overcome to meet the aspirations of the people of the region. These range from governance, education and bloated public sectors to a correspondingly weak private sector, all of which crystallize around the issue of employment, particularly for youth and women. The OECD's "Arab World Competitiveness Report, 2011-2012" estimates that 25 million jobs will be needed over the next decade just to keep unemployment at current levels (over 10%).

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