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International Experiences of Democratic Transition Provide Insight but No Model for the Arab world

A three day conference examining past experiences in democratic transitions and their relation with the ongoing processes in the Arab world has concluded in Barcelona following three days of deliberations on November 17-19.  Arab Transitions in Comparative Perspective: Building Democracies in Light of International Experiences, jointly organized by the European Institute of the Mediterranean (IEMed) and the Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), sought to elucidate the shared challenges inherent in democratic transition without reducing them to a clear paradigm or model.
 
The conference was organized around six key features of democratic transitions: the making of new constitutions; electoral processes and political parties; transitional justice and human rights; socio-economic equality; political rivalries and the politics of identity; and the external factors influencing democratic transitions.
 
Recent events and experiences from across the Arab world particularly those in  Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Morocco were discussed. Specific features of the democratic transitions in Spain, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Indonesia, Poland, Turkey, and South Africa were also presented with a focus on how the trajectory of those cases would later influence current social and political realities.
 
Of particular relevance to the Arab world were analyses regarding the reform of the Spanish military during the period of democratic transition and consolidation; how the transitional justice process in former Yugoslavia entrenched ethno-national divides; and how external factors have played in democratic transition in Eastern Europe and the Arab world, namely that the former was supported by incentives from the international community (particularly the EU), whereas the latter has witnessed no such encouragement and has even been met with ambivalence.
 
Participants included: Caryn Abrahams (Gauteng City-Region Observatory, South Africa), Ahmet Evin (Sabanci University, Turkey), Driss Lagrini (Cadi Ayyad university, Morocco), Mehdi Mabrouk (Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies, Tunisia), Marina Ottoway (Woodrow Wilson Center, USA), Charles Powell (Elcano Royal Institute, Spain), Narcís Serra (Barcelona Institute of International Affairs, Spain) and Adel Sharjabii (Sana’a University, Yemen).

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