22.12.2020

A decade of change

10 years ago, the self-immolation of Mohamed Bouazizi was the event that led to a whole cascade of major political and social changes in North Africa and the Middle East. The initially hopeful uprisings were quickly to capture Western imagination.

Hopes of democratic transformation and promises of also a social and economic dividend of liberty led to terms such as “Jasmine Revolution” for the Tunisian uprising or “Arab Spring” for the regional revolutionary process that followed. Such hopes proved to be premature or based on misunderstandings of both the population and its wishes and the ruling elites and their ability to cling to power at all cost. What in fact followed from these events, was a decade of at times revolutionary, at times evolutionary change, resulting in many different outcomes, some positive, many others rather negative for the broader populations or the youth, often driving the change.

As an international organization committed to strengthening democracy, social and economic participation, social and gender equality and progressive politics based on social democracy, the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung is glad to be at the side of progressive political actors and activists all over the region during this past decade. As progressives, we believe that transformative change is not only possible, it in fact is a necessity. We should never content with the status quo, but instead support those who continuously strive towards the betterment of society. Even where revolutionary change is suppressed or mutated into terrible conflicts, we must still campion the values of freedom, equality and participation.

From Morocco to Iraq, from Lebanon to Sudan, change is happening. FES is proud to support some of this change. Offering possibilities for the creation of regional networks, strengthening young political actors, supporting independent trade unions and civil society, we stay committed to our core values. The last decade of change has not just transformed the region, it has also transformed the foundation: How do we see our own work and our relations with partners? Formerly small country offices, such as Tunisia, have grown into regional hubs for our work. As the decade has shown the political connectedness of the region despite many barriers, also FES’ work has become more regional: Subjects such as economic policy, climate change, migration or feminism are no longer limited to national contexts, but are in fact part of a regional conversation.

Our communication project “Decade of Change” will try to highlight these regional conversations, how they interact with national or international discourse and which role FES sees for its partners and itself, reflecting on the many changes of the last decade and looking ahead to the next decade and which changes it might have in stock.

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By Thomas Claes, Director of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation office in Libya

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