Posts Tagged revolution
To the Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus, the Arab Spring was an expression of frustration by young people in the region of how little change was happening in their societies. He tells Arabic Knowledge@Wharton his advice to young demonstrators in the Arab world, and elsewhere, is to take responsibility for seeing that change happen.
“Young people see solutions are possible, they see a new life is possible. The old generation is still looking at the traditional way of handling everything. And that is the mismatch that will cause more problems. In 20 years from now the world will be completely different, because of that wave of technology, because of that wave of regeneration coming in.
“Just go ahead, take responsibility and make it happen. They will appreciate you for it. They’re not your enemies. Simply they don’t feel you are mature enough to handle that. Show them you are. It’s like any parent and their kids; they’ll treat them that way even if they are grown up. Not only have you grown up, you have much more experience and ideas than they do, in this short time, because your speed is much faster than theirs.”
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An entire generation of Egyptians grew up under strongman Hosni Mubarak, and few could ever see an alternative to his rule, often quietly joking he was the ‘pharaoh for life.’ Journalist Randa Fouad says she was among the skeptics when protestors first gathered at Tahrir Square.
But the swift end to Mubarak’s military regime, she says, emboldened her countrymen to rethink Egypt’s future. Despite the country’s ongoing political and social turmoil, Fouad is optimistic, telling Arabic Knowledge@Wharton that whatever develops, “Egypt belongs to the Egyptians now. It does not belong to any regime.”
Read the full interview here: http://t.co/kusukHKz
Arab-American technology entrepreneurs have a special role to play in helping Arab Spring nations find their way back to stability and development, according to David Hamod, CEO of the National U.S.-Arab Chamber of Commerce.
Addressing an audience at the Plug-and-Play Tech Center, a well-known Silicon Valley incubator run by Iranian-born Saeed Amidi, Hamod said such members of the Arab Diaspora could provide the experience and skills needed to jump start innovation in Arab economies.
“For the Arab world to make the transition from hydrocarbon-based economies to knowledge-based economies, the next big thing in a sense is innovation,” Hamod said. “Innovation, hand-in-hand with entrepreneurship, will create those productive jobs that are so vital to growth in the Arab world.”
“There is a special role to be played in this process by Diaspora Arabs, who have made it in Silicon Valley, who have learned the lessons of Silicon Valley and who are uniquely situated to share those lessons with the Arab world,” he added.
Hamod spoke at a global forum examining ways to harness the economic potential of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region in the aftermath of the Arab Spring revolution. At a time of uncertainty as well as promise, Arab-Americans are looking inward to discover their role in helping usher in democracy and economic stability in their traditional homelands.
He told the forum attendees that technology alone is only part of the equation. “If the Arab Spring at its heart is about dignity, respect, having a voice, reducing economic disparities and being able to put bread on the table for one’s family, then there’s no time to lose in promoting innovation through entrepreneurial ecosystems,” he said.
Throughout the day some of Silicon Valley’s leading Arab-American technologists reiterated Hamod’s applause-inducing speech by creating an atmosphere that resembled a high school pep rally. There were discussions about cultivating the start-up ecosystem in MENA and perhaps most important, getting access to venture capital.
It is that final hurdle that deserves a watchful eye in the coming months as the grassroots revolutions turn to the formation of new governance. Political resolution might encourage the citizenry to return its attention to the daily duty of work. Hamod said there will be no return to the status quo, but where that leads the region to is anyone’s guess.
The forum was held on Martin Luther King Jr. Day, honoring the great civil rights leader. Hamod found a parallel between King’s fight for freedom in the 1960s and the protests in the Arab world that have broken the stranglehold of entrenched regimes.
He quoted from a portion of King’s famous 1957 speech delivered at the Prayer Pilgrimage for Freedom in Washington D.C.:
“Sometimes it gets hard, but it always difficult to get out of Egypt. The Red Sea always stands before you in discouraging dimensions. And even after you cross the Red Sea you have to move through a wilderness with prodigious hilltops of evil, gigantic mountains of opposition. But I say to you, keep moving. Let nothing slow you up. Move on with dignity and honor and respectability.”
King’s speech was meant for an African-American constituency. But it sounds less ethereal to modern Arabs, especially those who risked their lives in Tahrir Square protests one year ago, and for those who continue to grapple with how to move forward after creating unprecedented change.
When protestors first took to the streets across the Middle East early this year, the world watched as thousands of Arabs demanded an end to governments that were corrupt and self-serving. Dubbed the Arab Spring, it was a movement propelled by technology, imbued with optimism for change, and aiming to create a more equitable economy.
After the initial blush with relatively peaceful demonstrations in Tunisia and Egypt, the social revolution has led to strife rather than reform, as Yemen, Bahrain and Egypt have all witnessed bloody protests, while Syria and Libya have been plunged into all-out civil war. Much of this violent turn of events, says Wharton’s Stuart Diamond, is because of dashed expectations.
“Entrepreneurs know that the idea is just the start; without building out an enterprise, no value is created,” says Diamond, who teaches negotiation courses at Wharton, and is a Pulitzer Prize winner and best-selling author of Getting More: How To Negotiate to Achieve Your Goals in the Real World. “This is the problem with the Arab Spring. Now that many have more power, they actually have to do the hard work to build out a different sort of economy.”
Another failing of the movement is the emphasis on past grievances — putting Egypt’s former president Hosni Mubarak on trial, Diamond says, is the wrong way to start rebuilding Egypt. “Negotiate with him on what he and others in his circle will provide,” he suggests. “Leave them with something to get them to agree. Now that would better help in building a new Egypt than a trial of a sick old man.”
For those challenging leadership, such as protestors in Syria, the best thing would be to avoid confrontation, he adds. “If Syrian protestors stop the violence, all the negative focus will be on the existing government, which will not be able to withstand the continuing criticism. The goal of the protestors now should be to document everything and keep telling the world.”
Diamond adds that the situation in Libya, “is perhaps the best example today of the stupidity of not negotiating … Libya will never be able to provide a better life for its citizens until the war stops. And the quickest way to do that is negotiate with Qaddafi.”
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It is a mistake to view the mass economic protests in the Arab world as a trend limited to the Middle East, says Erwann Michel-Kerjan, managing director ofWharton’s Risk Management and Decision Processes Center. Given the protests’ speed and unclear leadership, the civil unrest that rocked North Africa and spread to the rest of the Middle East can apply to any country, and their occurrence signaled a change in the world, not unlike the events of 9/11, he adds, noting that governments can no longer afford to ignore citizen concerns surrounding economic disparity and globalization.
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