“The Road to Democracy: The Arab Region, Latin America and Eastern Europe”

The GDN-AUB Panel Discussion on « The Road to Democracy : the Arab Region, Latin America and Eastern Europe » took place today afternoon at the Campus of the American University in Beirut (AUB), Lebanon.  Gathering speakers from the three regions, the panel assessed the prospects for democratic transition in the Arab region in light of the lessons to be learnt from the recent uprisings, with a special focus on Egypt and Tunisia and against the experience of democratic transformation in Latin America and Eastern Europe.

Prof. Samir Makdisi - AUB

Prof. Samir Makdisi – AUB

In his opening remarks, Samir Makdisi, Professor Emeritus of Economics at AUB, expressed his belief that democratic values are universal values that cut across regions regardless of the uniqueness of each of the three regions’ historical experience. While the issues and concerns of democratic transitions of each of the three regions may differ substantially, the aspirations of their peoples for freedom, democracy, equity and public sector accountability remain common. It is in this sense that the struggle for democracy binds them together.

Following the welcome remarks by Dr. Ahmad Dallal, AUB’s Provost and Dr. Gerardo della Paolera, GDN President, the floor was given to the panelists who orchestrated an interesting exchange of the three regions’ experiences.

Prof. Moez Labidi (University of Monastir) & Prof. Boris Vujcie (Croatia National Bank & GDN Board of Directors)

Prof. Moez Labidi (University of Monastir) & Prof. Boris Vujcie (Croatia National Bank & GDN Board of Directors)

In his presentation, Prof. Boris Vujcic, Deputy Governor, Croatia National Bank and GDN Board of Directors, shared the Eastern European experience with a focus on Croatia. He stressed on transitional justice and good governance being vital for the people’s trust in the new structure, as well as for the universal confidence in the country. In light of the current developments in Egypt, he stated that a new constitution is essential for the democratic transition of each country. As for the economic dimension, “one size does not fit all” he stated, “every country has to find its own path over the market economy”.

Mr. Rami Khoury (AUB); Prof. Torcuato Di Tella (Ambassador of Argentina to Italy) & Dr. Noha El-Mikawy (Ford Foundation)

Mr. Rami Khoury (AUB); Prof. Torcuato Di Tella (Ambassador of Argentina to Italy) & Dr. Noha El-Mikawy (Ford Foundation)

The Latin American experience was addressed by Prof. Torcuato Di Tella, Ambassador of Argentina to Italy who highlighted the particularity of the region having had a democratic experience before the dictatorship one. He also discussed the important role of the strong Latin American bourgeoisie in supporting dictatorships by providing the examples of Brazil, Chile and Argentina.

Dr. Noha El-Mikawy, Regional Representative for the Middle East and North Africa at the Ford Foundation, focused on the social justice agenda of the democratic transition in Egypt. According to her, Egypt faces two challenges today: the unreadiness for the sequencing of social and economic policies on the one hand; and the Muslim brotherhood movement, on the other hand, with its original social justice agenda being marginalized in favor of its current populist policy agenda.

Prof. Moez Labidi, Professor of Economics at the University of Monastir in Tunisia, discussed the different factors that led to the Tunisian revolution and the current challenges of its democratic transition.

Mr. Rami Khoury (AUB) & Prof. Torcuato Di Tella (Ambassador of Argentina to Italy)

Mr. Rami Khoury (AUB) & Prof. Torcuato Di Tella (Ambassador of Argentina to Italy)

Finally, Mr. Rami Khoury, Director of Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, underlined the particularity of the Arab region that relates to tribalism in some countries and religion in others, among other factors. According to him, the road to democracy is a very complicated process that involves many dimensions, among which political, economic, social, judicial and historical. While action has to be taken on all of them, a balance is needed between all of them.

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