Archive for the ‘Master in International Relations (MIR)’ Category

11
Feb

Theme: Egypt has undergone a frantic succession of political and social changes since January 2011. Today it is possible to envisage three different ‘futures’ for Egypt, described here as the good, the bad and the ugly.

Summary: Egypt is in a central position in the Arab world. Whatever happens there will have a substantial impact on the future of its wider neighbourhood. Three interconnected factors will determine its transition: the economy, security and its capacity for political and social integration. The main actors need to reach a consensus on basic issues that are essential to stabilising the country, salvaging the economy and pushing the democratic process forwards. The first half of 2014 will provide some clue as to which of the three ‘futures’ outlined here will be most likely.

Analysis: Three years after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is in a state of profound uncertainty. The euphoria of world-wide resonance that emerged from Tahrir Square in January and February 2011 has given way to other moods, ranging from impatience and disenchantment to stupefaction and disappointment. In Egypt there are not too many people who look back at what has happened over the past 36 months with optimism. Even less optimistic are many of the foreign observers who have followed the events of the Egyptian transition and its continual upheavals, surprising twists and turns and too many serious collective mistakes.

Since 25 January 2011, Egypt has undergone a frantic succession of political and social changes, including: (1) the loss of fear that led the population to demand the overthrow of a President in 2011 and again in 2013; (2) the first democratic election of a head of state in the country’s history (June 2012); (3) the coming to power through the ballot box of an Islamist, Mohamed Morsi; (4) a military coup with considerable social support that deposed Morsi after just a year in office; (5) the drafting of two constitutions in only two years, neither of which was based on a consensus; (6) a bloody repression, including modern history’s biggest one-day massacre between Egyptians; (7) unprecedented levels of social polarisation; and (8) a rapid return to the old police-state methods that kept Mubarak in power for three decades.

Egypt’s turbulent transition has so far been marked by: (1) repeated changes in the rules of the game, in a mixture of improvisation and political interference of the courts, sometimes with a questionable legal basis; (2) the inability to reach a consensus on basic issues that would be essential to stabilising the country, salvaging the economy and pushing the democratic process forwards; and (3) a ‘zero-sum’ attitude among the main players (the military, the Muslim Brotherhood and the state bureaucracy), according to which any improvement in the positions of one can only be achieved at the expense of the others.

To these difficulties, which are present in other transitions after decades of authoritarian rule, should be added other factors, such as the inability so far to create stable alliances with clear objectives that are shared by large segments of society, the emphasis on battles over identity (the role of sharia law, etc.) to the detriment of the discussions on the institutions and mechanisms that ensure good governance and, finally, the repetition of mistakes made by others in the recent past. One of these mistakes has been the drafting of constitutions that are far from providing a framework for coexistence that is both inclusive and widely accepted.

Egypt has devoted much energy and precious time in 2013 to internecine struggles for control over the ‘legitimacy’ necessary to impose conditions on opponents. Despite their sectarian and incompetent management, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood considered that their electoral victory, albeit with 51.7% of the vote, gave them the right to legislate at will, to be above the law and to impose a tailored constitution. The problem that Egypt now faces is that those who have taken over the country after Morsi’s overthrow also claim to possess the ‘legitimacy of the masses’ to approve laws that restrict rights, to draft a non-inclusive constitution and to impose a narrative of ‘fighting against terrorism’, which is blamed on the Muslim Brotherhood as a whole. This has been done even at the risk of such a generic accusation becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy in the case of some of the Brotherhood’s members.

Egypt is in a central position in the Arab world. Whatever happens there will have a substantial impact on the future of its neighbours. Similarly, the implications of its sociopolitical developments will be felt throughout the entire Euro-Mediterranean area. Today, it is possible to envisage three different ‘futures’ for Egypt, described here as the good, the bad and the ugly. Read more…

Haizam Amirah-Fernández
Senior Analyst for the Mediterranean and Arab World at the Elcano Royal Institute and Professor of International Relations at IE Business School.


[1] This article was originally published in Spanish as ‘Los futuros de Egipto: el bueno, el malo y el feo’ in Política Exterior, nr 157, January-February 2014, pp. 140-9.

 

4
Feb

Arab

On Friday 31 January, the IE School of International Relations and the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax) had the honor of hosting a fascinating panel discussion entitled An Overview of the Political and Social Transformation in the Arab Region.

Three distinguished guest speakers from the region composed the “A Team”, as Ambassador Emilio Cassinello, Director General of CitPax quipped.  The panel included  Marwan Muasher,    Vice President for Studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, and Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan; Nassif Hitti, Senior Arab League Official, former Head of the Arab League Mission in Paris, and permanent observer at UNESCO; and Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute and Head of Program at the Geneva Center for Security Policy.

Mr. Muasher began the seminar by presenting his latest book The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism. The Second Awakening is a referral to the First Awakening in the Arab region that started as an intellectual movement in the mid-20th century. It later led to the independence of many Arab states, but not to democratic rule in these countries. If the Second Awakening that is taking place today in the Arab world is to be a successful continuation of the First one, it must necessarily lead to the creation of a pluralistic government. Three years after the Arab Spring, achieving pluralistic rule is no easy task. What we see today is the struggle between religious and secular elements that are exclusionist in their desire to control power. Yet Islam as a solution in the Arab world has lost its appeal. The “Arab street”, as Mr. Muasher calls it, does not want more religion (they are quite religious as it is). What they want is a better economy, an improved livelihood. In his words, performance trumps ideology. People will judge whomever is in power not by their religion or values but by how the economy is doing under their mandate. In the end, neither a theological government such as the one seen in Iran or a secular dictatorship such as the Mubarak regime is the solution. Both types oppress the people and strip them of their rights. A pluralistic government should be the end goal.

How long will a successful transition to democracy take in the Arab world? According to Muasher and his co-panelists, perhaps decades. Democracy took centuries to get established in Europe, so how can one expect it to be firmly consolidated in the Arab region in only just 3 years? This is an unrealistic expectation.  Pluralistic rule will be achieved over time through toil and sacrifice.  For this, education is fundamental and this entails teaching the youth critical thinking , not just absolute truths as it is being done today.

What are the threats to a transition to pluralism? All three panelists agree that a big problem in the Arab region is the lack of national unity or national identity. Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Libya were created as states without taking into account the different nations or minorities that composed them. The result is a lot of sectarian violence within these countries and a struggle for citizenship. Another threat is the rise of extremism. Indeed the road to democracy means that everyone has a voice including extremists that use ideology and demagogy to control power. Linked to this is the threat of transnationalism as we are currently seeing in Syria, where jihadists from other countries come to fight the secular oppressor but only add to the turmoil.

To conclude: is there reason for optimism? Yes. In spite of many problems and obstacles, the road to democracy is being paved by the new generation. This generation will need leaders who are willing to sweat and toil in order to make pluralism a reality. Tunisia is an example of an Arab state that is slowly transitioning to a democracy without the interference of the armed forces or the West. Let us hope this model is followed in the rest of the region.

27
Jan

Rusia ha derrotado a la UE en Ucrania. Mientras nos lamemos las heridas, recordemos. Empecemos con un poco de historia. Volvamos a la Crónica General del Rus (a.D. 860). “A estos vikingos se les conocía como rusos, lo mismo que a otros vikingos se les llama suecos, normandos, anglos o godos (…) Rurik llegó a ser el Señor de todos ellos (…) Dos de los hombres de Rurik, Askold y Rir, navegaron Dniéper abajo y, en el curso de su viaje, vieron una pequeña ciudad sobre una colina (…) Askold y Rir se asentaron en esta ciudad y, después de reunir a muchos vikingos, reinaron sobre el país de los polacos (Polianis). Rurik reinó en Nóvgorod”.

Así pues, vemos que Kiev y Nóvgorod son los dos puntos políticos originales de Rusia. Nóvgorod subsistió como república propia, sobre el modelo hanseático, hasta los días de Iván el Terrible. Kiev cayó antes. Ante la imposibilidad de defender la ciudad de las invasiones mongolas (a.D. 1.280), los rusos abandonaron la urbe y se protegieron de la Horda Dorada parapetándose tras los bosques de Moscú. Ucrania se recuperó para Rusia a finales del s. XVIII con Catalina la Grande. Desde entonces, y hasta la caída de la URSS, formará parte de la polis rusas.

Estrategia. Dejando aparte los Caballeros Teutónicos, el corredor ucraniano ha sido el lugar privilegiado de todas las invasiones que Rusia ha conocido. Lo que se le opuso a Rusia en este frente fueron enemigos epónimos, todos ellos parte nuclear del relato nacional. Los polacos de Tarás Bulba; los jesuitas italianos de Boris Godunov; los suecos que retrató Von Heidenstam, y a los que mandaba un rey temerario como Carlos XII; los turcos a los que derrotó Potemkin mientras leía, moribundo, las cartas de amor de Catalina la Grande; los revolucionarios franceses de Guerra y Paz de Tolstói y la Obertura 1.812 de Tchaikovsky; y, finalmente, los nazis de Vasili Grossman o los nacionalistas ucranianos de la “Guardia Blanca” de Bulgakov. Recomiendo al lector el testimonio de Chaves Nogales para la I Guerra Mundial (El maestro Juan Martínez que estaba allí) y, para la II Guerra Mundial, a Jonathan Littell (Las benévolas). Leer mas…

 

Escrito por el Ambajador José A. Zorrilla el 25 de enero en El Confidencial http://blogs.elconfidencial.com/espana/

24
Jan

An Overview of the Political and Social Transformation in the Arab Region

Madrid, Friday 31 January 2014

12:00-14:30 at IE School of International Relations

c/Serrano 105

IE School of International Relations and the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax) are pleased to invite you to the discussion An overview of the Political and Social Transformation in the Arab Region, Friday, 31 January 2014, between 12:00 and 14:30 at IE School of International Relations (c/Serrano, 105). This discussion will include the participation of Marwan Muasher, Dr. Amr Hamzawy, Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou and Nassif Hitti. It will take advantage of the recent publication of Marwan Muasher´s new book, The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism, as well as the expertise and knowledge of the other participants, to launch a dialogue on the future of the Arab world and its political and social transformation.

The planned programme is:

12:00 – 12:10 Welcome Remarks: Ambassador Emilio Cassinello, Director General, CITpax and Dr. Arantza de Areilza, Dean, IE School of International Relations

12:10 – 12:40 Session I: Presentation by Mr. Marwan Muasher based on his book “The Second Arab Awakening and the Battle for Pluralism”

12:40 – 13:00 Session II: Dr. Amr Hamzawy on recent developments in Egypt

13:00 – 13:30 Session III: Panel discussion: Mr. Marwan Muasher, Dr. Amr Hamzawy, Mr. Nassif Hitti and Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou

13:30 – 14:30 Session IV: Conclusions and questions

Speakers:

–       Dr. Amr Hamzawy, President of the Egypt Freedom Party and Professor of political science at the American University in Cairo

–       Mr. Nassif Hitti, Senior Arab League Official; former Head of the Arab League Mission in Paris; and permanent observer at UNESCO

–       Mr. Marwan Muasher, Vice President for Studies at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jordan

–       Dr. Mohammad-Mahmoud Ould Mohamedou, Visiting Professor at the Graduate Institute and Head of Program at the Geneva Center for Security Policy

 

Please kindly confirm attendance at International.Relations@ie.edu

21
Jan

Jose-Antonio-Zorrilla (2)In his very interesting lecture on January 20, Ambassador Jose A. Zorrilla addressed the highly relevant theme of self-determination, one of the cardinal principles in modern international relations. It states that nations have the right to freely choose their soverignty  with no external interference. Retracing history, Ambassador explored the struggle for self-determination throughout the ages and focused more specifically on the dissolution of the Ottoman, Russian and Austrian/Habsburg empires. He also discussed the blocs of influence that were created during the Cold War and the USSR’s very special status and circumvention of the self-determination principle as defined in 1941 in the Atlantic Charter signed by Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. Paradoxically, the Atlantic Charter was a direct attack on the British Empire and foresaw the end of colonialism by the European Powers. While central in international relations, the right to self-determination contains an inherent contradiction that challenges the principle of sovereignty.  It implies that a people should be free to choose their own state and its territorial boundaries. However, there are far more self-identified nations than there are existing states and there is no legal process to redraw state boundaries according to the will of these peoples. Hence the ongoing struggle for self-determination in many parts of the world such as Africa, Kurdistan, Chechnya, Cyprus and even Spain.

The Master in International Relations students had many questions for Ambassador Zorrilla, including whether or not regional integration in Asia in a model similar to the European Union would ever be possible. The ambassador responded that it was quite unlikely that China, Japan and Vietnam (to name a few examples) would ever integrate. One of the reasons is that, unlike Western Europe, they had never been part of a single empire (the Roman empire). This lack of unifying polity made possible integration today unlikely. Another student asked about the situation in Afghanistan. On a pessimistic note, Ambassador concluded that he believed the problem in Afghanistan to be unsolvable precisely because of the number of very distinct peoples and tribes in an arbitrarily drawn country.

Ambassador Zorrilla is a career diplomat with postings in Milan (1989) , Toronto (1993), Shanghai (2001), Moscow (2004), Georgia and the Caucasus (2009). He has published a book on the rise of China “China la primavera que llega” and shot two documentary films  (“Los Justos” and “El desierto y las olas”) and one full length film “El Arreglo” that won the Opera Prima Prize at the San Sebastian Film Festival in 1983.  He has just published a novel “El espía en Saratov” (De Librum Tremens) and is a frequent contributor to El Confidencial. His articles focus mostly on current affairs.

 

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