By René Tobias Meyer, Master in International Relations Candidate 2011-2012

Rarely can theoretical knowledge on democratic transition and international sensitivities be better applied than in a practical simulation game. Students of IE’s Master in International Relations (MIR) programme 2012 were given this unique possibility by the founders of the EuroArab Forum during their field trip to the European capital one week ago. The Brussels based NGO, which was founded by international professionals of various educational backgrounds in 2007, is dedicated to foster relations by organizing informal information exchange and discussion events. Their main goal is to develop inventive and innovative alternatives to Euro-Arab relations, which allow sustained and trustful cooperation beyond a “Clash of Civilizations” scenario and Islamophobia. At the beginning of the simulation, the MIR students were divided into 12 groups, representing the typically important actors of a sudden transition process as evidenced during the Arab Spring in 2011. Besides classic players such as the Army, secret service, members of the toppled government, foreign investors and the media, more dynamic and subtle actors involved in the Arab Spring were introduced: leaders of the religious opposition, strong local NGOs, representatives of the ICC, and international representatives displaying biased viewpoints such as foreign ambassadors or merit-seeking EU delegations. Each of the 12 groups had a ‘hidden agenda’, which had to be kept in mind and realized at the end of the simulation. The simulation followed through three stages in the classic path of many revolutionary overthrows: public disorder, breakdown of supply and distribution of needed goods, subsequent food scarcity and severe public riots. Each actor was therefore forced to interact and cooperate with others in order not only to stabilize the country’s situation, but also pursue and ensure the final goal of their hidden agenda.

In reality, the openness to inter-actor cooperation would not have been so transparent. However the student’s dedication for a transition with democratic outcome during the simulation produced interesting insights and outcomes. The interactive game played by the students facilitated a greater understanding of the complexities underlying the actual Arab Spring transition processes in 2011. The simulation showed the importance of the army’s behaviour and its cooperation with governmental actors for the country’s stability, the willingness of each actor to speak with every international actor, actors offering financial means on an allegedly neutral agenda, and the subsequent interference of national sovereignty and formation of public will. Additionally, the process showed that alliances, which seemed reliable through old bounds or through negotiation deals, must not prove so, if the situation changes and equivocal interests make the past obsolete (my personal advice for any governmental actor would be to keep a close eye on his secret service..). Overall, the students as well as the IE staff enjoyed the exercise very much and assured that they won insights past abstract theoretical knowledge. I can only encourage everybody to get in touch with the EuroArab Forum and sign up for a similar experience.


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