- Belfer Center Newsletter

Conference Probes Revolution, Reform in the Middle East

May 10, 2011

More than 250 people joined experts from around the world in April for “Revolution & Reform: The Historic Transition in the Middle East,” a conference sponsored by the Belfer Center’s Dubai Initiative (DI). Leading scholars assessed the political, economic, and legal aspects of the turmoil engulfing the region this spring.

In his keynote presentation, Tarek Masoud, assistant professor of public policy at Harvard Kennedy School and Center affiliate, declared his faith in the future of elections and democracy in Egypt despite the splits among the political parties vying for power.

The Dubai Initiative’s Mehrangiz Kar and Djavad Salehi-Isfahani moderated a lively discussion of “Generation in Revolt: What do Middle East Youth Want?” Panelists agreed that a key ingredient to youth disillusion is unemployment, which is tied closely to education, marriage, and social mobility. Young people want the ability to compete for existing jobs, an education system that offers global skills, a youth-friendly economic system, and the ability to be productive and creative. Panelist Eshan Moghaddasi, a Boston University student activist in the Iranian diaspora, noted that the youth movement needs “time and support” to change the current situation. Salehi-Isfahani asked whether the uprisings will bring to power those who can respond to youth demands.

David Mednicoff, professor of public policy at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, moderated a discussion of the rule of law in the Arab world while Diana Buttu, former Palestinian Liberation Organization spokesperson, asked her panel: “What’s next for the Arab world?” Panelist Stephen Walt of the Harvard Kennedy School drew from the revolutions of 1848 for parallels to these unprecedented events and recognized the need for vast economic and infrastructure development in transitional democracies.

Karam Dana, professor of history at Tufts University, discussed political transformation in the Arab world. Panelist Tamim Al-Barghouti of Georgetown University argued that the United States and other world powers must be prepared to reckon with democracy and socialism, and not just the official state structures that used to monopolize political capital in the Arab world.

The emerging field of study of urbanization, within the context of revolution, was discussed by scholars of architecture, urban planning, and political science. Convened by Dubai Initiative fellow Hussam Salama, the panel weighed the role of cities in shaping the future of the Middle East and their capacity to deal with the new regional and global order.

For more information on this publication: Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Pickard, Duncan. Conference Probes Revolution, Reform in the Middle East.” Belfer Center Newsletter (May 10, 2011).