Since time in memorial, the world has always been divided into several different classifications that showcases the disparity between nations. The most common example is the division of nations based on their wealth and power or the First, Second, Third and Fourth Worlds. Others classify nations through their location in the Hemisphere, while the rest would just generalized based on their region. For centuries, it is often notable that the Western half of the world is portrayed as the dominant nations and news reports would showcase just how advanced these countries have now become. Even if there are instances wherein the West is attacked or slandered, the news reports would always turn the news over to show West’s dominance and counter-attack. The East, on the other hand, is always reported to be in conflict and under a state of despair. However, when the Arab Spring had occurred in 2010, the international community had shifted its attention to the Middle East and the Global South because of the repercussions brought by the conflict to the entire region.
The classification of nations began after the Second World War when Alfred Sauvy, a French demographer, wrote in 1952 the terms “First World”, “Second World” and “Third World” to designate nations from one another based on their political background. The First World were the democratic countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization such as the United States, Canada, Europe, Japan and Australia. These nations were also considered capitalist and industrialized than the rest of the world, The Second World were the communist-socialist countries that are also industrialized such as the Soviet Union, China and Eastern Europe. The Third World and the Fourth World countries were those who are considered less-developed and even the poorest. However, this terminology is no longer used in the current context due to the changing political, economic and social environments of each nation. Eventually, the classification “Global North” and “Global South” were used to emphasize further distinction as the Northern half of the world is the location of the richer nations while the Southern half is where the developing countries are located. However, not all nations can be considered developed in both regions considering that both regions have counties that are either developed or developing. Further classifications were later on used to create distinctions between countries: the MDCs/LDCs classification and the developed and developing classification. The MDCs were notable as the More Developed Country while the LDC are the least developed. This classification utilizes the country’s Gross Domestic Product per capita, political and economic stability, as well as the Human Development Index. While there is a question as to the GDP threshold, this classification is mostly used by economists and geographers. Finally, the most commonly used classification is the developed and developing countries. The classifications determine the country’s rate of development and the living conditions .
Considering these various classifications, there is a lingering perception that conflicts are very common in the least developed or developing territories. In the Middle East for example, the region has been in high conflict even before the dawn of the Arab Spring. Political, economic and religious unrest was reported around the region due to their oppressive governments. Various sects from the public have started small uprisings to showcase to their governments as to how much they are displeased with the services offered to the public. The region continued to stagnate in terms of their political and social improvement, leaving many people without means to gain critical services such as food and health services. Term-limits were also extended for officials, restricting both political reform and other politicians in helping their respective countries change. In some instances, human welfare is completely disregarded by the Arab governments. It is also clear that foreign influence is unwanted in the region despite the fact America and the rest of the globe would be able to entice investments to come in the region .
Although attempts have been done in the past to influence the governments to act against the issues affecting the region, it was only in 2010 when a Tunesian street vendor Muhammad Buazizi had self-immolated himself in protest against a municipal official and her aids who were harassing him. His act had triggered massive demonstrations around the country, calling for the end of the term of Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali who became president in 1989. While the government had ignored the protests at first, the Union Generale des Travailleurs Tunisiens and other professional organizations have revolted in support of the public. The police had tried to stop these protests, but by January 10, 2011, Ben Ali was forced out of the country. Further protests began in the country due to the opposition led by Prime Minister Muhammad Ghannouchi, a known supporter of Ben Ali. However, he was unable to gain momentum when it came to his protests and forced to resign in 2011. The public were given the power to change the government and instigated the transition process, leading to the creation of the Constitutent Assembly in October 23 that same year. The uprisings in Tunisia was not the end of the revolution that occurred in the region as Egypt, Libya and Yemen also had their own versions to overthrow the dictatorships of Hosni Mubarak, Muammar Gadhafi and Ali Saleh respectively. The uprisings were brutal as it resulted to thousands of casualties and prisoners were reported, but they have resulted into the establishment of transitional governments that would support the process of reconstruction .
For the international community, the Arab Spring is a complex issue as many are uncertain as to its implications and consequences it would bring to the region and the world. Their response to the Arab Spring had been supportive mostly given the fact it would remove the authoritarian leaders that hinders democracy. The US sent partial relief through assistance programs while the G8 sent a pledge of $20 billion assistance pack to ensure transition continues to prosper. Financial stability became the target of the international community to ensure that they would be able to integrate back to the global market. Private corporations had also sent interest in the region to help in the reconstruction efforts and expand their operations in the region. In the case of Europe, they are willing in rescinding the debts owned by these Arab nations to help in the recovery efforts. Germany stressed its willingness to rescind the $350 million debt of Egypt as part of their assistance plan .
For the rest of the globe, several questions have been raised when it comes to the reasons why the Arab Spring existed, how it would affect the rest of the world and would it reach its intended goals. Some even question as to whether or not it had made the region and the world a better place or not? For experts, the uprisings in the Arab region has some links with other revolutions done around the globe, but also indicated the uniqueness of the issue that cannot occur in any place in the globe. While the West has protests from the indigados and members of Occupy Wall Street hoping for transparency and equality, in the Arab Spring, the change they want is not just for social equality or good governance, but it is also for a series of political projects that would sustain the unique qualities of each nation. One proposal would not work in another nation considering that it would attack the essence of the developmental state concept the Arab region is known for in the 1950s to the 60s. Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt had used this developmental state concept as general welfare and social security was improved to trigger development and profit maximization. The Arab protesters were also pressured to move against their governments due to the reduced services provided to them by their governments .
Aside from these qualities, it also became clear to others that this is not the first time influential movements such as the Arab Spring had occurred in the region where it is believed that rampant conflict occurs. South Africa, for instance, had been able to fight for its political, economic and social rights that has been affected by rampant racial discrimination as seen in the Apartheid. With the assistance of the European Union and the United Nations, South Africa was able to stop the Apartheid and aided the South Africans to establish their own government. Once the democratic government has been established, the government slowly worked on removing the policies of the Apartheid and other oppressive acts that restricted the people from development. In terms of human rights, the government enacted policies such as the Promotion of National Unity and Reconciliation Act 34 of 1995 and the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to facilitate concerns over the reported violations since the Apartheid. Slowly, South Africa moved towards further improvement of its human rights and development policies which later on was also applied to other African States hoping to eradicate poverty and introducing democracy in the region .
It is also explained by experts that the Arab Spring also reflected that while these protesters are using the same tactics and strategies to instigate solidarity and debates, it is still clear that the Arab Spring is different from other revolutions in the rest of the world. One example is stressed by Egyptian activists on the Egyptian Revolution of 2011 as one of the factions included in the protests, the Egyptian Comrades of Cairo, remarked that:
Our struggle—which we think we share with you—is greater and grander than a neatly functioning parliamentary democracy; we demanded the fall of the regime, we demanded dignity, freedom and social justice, and we are still fighting for these goals. We do not see elections of a puppet parliament as the means to achieve them.
This stance by the protesters is not emphasized in the media and in one end, highlights the differences between the revolutions in the Western world to those in the developing world. In the case of the West, protesters do not offer any form of compromise or goals and they do not have a full understanding of the issue. In the case of the Arab uprisings, occupation not only ensures they can catch the attention of the government but also ensure that the people can meet up in these occupations and discuss the alternatives they wish to gain from the government .
Finally, the uprisings had also revealed just how much these uprisings were instigated without direct Western interference. Yemen and Syria, for instance, were able to set the direct of its own battles and its implications which enabled them to determine the flow of the battles that would redefine the future of the region. The Arab people had also come into terms with the “Western” ideals and interests on democracy as a means to introduce participation of the people in matters of the state. It had also empowered Arab monarchies when it comes to influencing these conflicts considering that they were only observers in past uprisings and conflicts. In Libya, for instance, the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) had been successful in intervention and determination of the results. The GCC has also utilized its influence through the media and logistics in building political stance for the Arab region. The GCC had also ensured that the economies of these nations would not completely collapse due to the uprisings. Turkey had also gained prominence in the Arab Spring as it showed just how much they can intervene even without the US in the picture. Turkey realized the impact of Arab mobility in the Middle East given its historical significance and right. Turkey slowly became aware of the implications of the conflict to the rest of the region and stood in as one of the actors that aided intervention in these conflicts .
In each revolution, several political, economic and social changes have already occurred. In a political standpoint, autocratic governments were removed from the region in favor of transitional and democratic governments. Improved political freedoms and liberties are now respected around the region and groups now have a clear voice in the government. In Egypt, 15 parties are now involved in the political improvements of the country despite the still lingering presence of the Muslim Brotherhood. However, there are some slight concessions when it comes to the impact of these new governments to political freedoms and civil rights. In some areas, the Islamist factions still control a majority of the transition government. The redrafting of the constitutions of these areas were also done hastily, as seen in Egypt in order to keep up with the elections. In an economic front, there is a sharp drop of growth given the paralysis of the government and businesses. The paralysis of major industries has caused bankruptcy and stoppage of production lines around the region. Tourism, which is a key industry in areas like Egypt, Morocco and Jordan, have also stopped due to the security risks raised by the Arab Spring. Unemployment and skills mismatch also remained a problem for the recovering regions. Finally, in a social context, the Arab Spring had also caused repression as the transitional governments try to stop new organizations from instigating revolts or ideological representation. Regardless of these setbacks and restrictions, it is clear that the Arab Spring had opened the minds of the public with regards to their rights and liberties and gave them a means to fight back .
Countries indeed vary in various means: from their political, economic and social structure to their rate of development and living conditions. There are nations who are better than the others, while a few would need assistance given their status. However, in the case of the Arab region and even in the rest of the so-called “developing” nations, it opened the idea that these regions can actually instigate change and affect other nations. Currently, the spirit of the Arab Spring continues to linger on in the Middle East as people are still on high alert to determine whether or not their new governments are up for the challenge of rebuilding their nations. The international community is also at the sidelines to see whether or not these changes would take root or damage the regions’ progress. While the future remains uncertain over these uprisings, it is clear that the world is now turning its attention to the potential of the developing world.
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