Published on Arab Voices

A TAP on the Arab world’s shoulder

Remember this acronym TAP. It is short for transparency, accountability and participation and is here to stay for a long, long time. It is a simple euphemism for a very complicated roadmap for Arab transition to “dignity, freedom and social justice.”

ImageBut is TAP really a remedy for the chaos gripping the Middle East? Even if it is not, it certainly was the resounding buzz word at a World Bank regional seminar “Transitions and Governance Reforms in MENA,” convened in Rabat, Morocco, recently. It seemed to be a unanimously celebrated principle by participants spanning both the region’s social and political spectra and the world at large: former and current policy-makers, public and private sectors, development partners and civil society representatives. And as a citizen of the Arab world myself, I felt inclined to join the celebration.

If one were to over-simplify the region’s seemingly intractable difficulties, then TAP certainly came across as the one-size-fits-all solution to MENA’s social, economic and political miseries. Transition success stories brought to the conference from Slovenia and Romania provided an impetus for what the former president of Slovenia, Milan Kucan, described as “a river with many sources.” Indeed, the transition in the Arab world is a raging river fed by a number of springs, some of them violent and some less so. Regional turmoil over the past 20 months has seen some regimes embark on pre-emptive reform to stave off potential spillovers, but others remain in denial, or worse, categorically convinced the winds of change will pass them by. 

Yes, TAP is a necessity for MENA’s transition towards democracy, equality and economic prosperity, irrespective of the peculiarities of each of the affected countries. Transparency provides the evidence and knowledge needed to gauge the beneficiaries and losers of public policies. Unrestricted access to information empowers people to exercise social accountability, the undeniable right to hold governments responsible for social injustice, inadequate public services and corruption. Together, transparency and accountability advance participation or inclusion in the policy-making process and are the fundamental building blocks for a new social contract based on mutual government-citizen trust and social justice.

And no, TAP is by no means cost-free. But to lessen the costs, compromise is critical. Governments need to abandon self-serving survival policies to build credibility and win trust; citizens need to be realistic and tolerant. This can be achieved only through an all-inclusive dialogue. But as former Romanian prime minister Petre Roman suggested, transition solutions have to come from within and may not be imposed by external factors. Against this backdrop, one can only wonder: are MENA’s governments and citizens ready to exercise tolerance and engage in dialogue? That’s a tall order. It’s also a lofty challenge and so much more attractive than anything else on offer.


Mona Ziade

Communications Officer

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