American and European Responses to the Arab Spring: What’s the Big Idea?

The Arab countries straddle the lifelines of world trade. They link Europe to Asia and, with Iran, surround the Persian Gulf home to some 54 percent of global oil reserves. The region’s many international and domestic disputes, as well as restraints on political expression and human rights, have spawned extremism. In turn, the region’s endemic instability or perceived risk of instability has provided cover for some of the world’s most authoritarian and corrupt regimes. Until the turn of this year, the Arab countries had almost uniformly resisted the process of democratization that swept up other regions in recent decades. The series of popular revolts known as the Arab Spring, which began in Tunisia in the last weeks of 2010, has already wrought more change in six months than the region had seen in almost 60 years and there is more to come. Whether or not the Arab peoples’ aspirations for dignity and voice are fulfilled, and how smoothly transitions to democracy proceed, are not just great moral questions they will also determine the region’s stability and its economic prospects for decades to come. At the same time, getting on a path of sound economic growth will greatly enhance the chances that transitions to democracy succeed.

Western Sahara: Anatomy of a Stalemate

The long-running conflict over the sovereignty of Western Sahara has involved all the states of northwest Africa and many beyond since Spain ceded the territory to Morocco and Mauritania in 1976. Erik Jensen traces the evolution of the conflict-from its colonial roots to its present manifestation as a political stalemate. Jensen reviews the history of the dispute, describes the quest by the UN and interested states to facilitate a process of self-determination through a referendum on independence versus integration with Morocco, and explores the impasse over how to determine who should be allowed to vote in such a referendum. He then turns to the more recent efforts of UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan’s personal envoy for Western Sahara, James Baker, to resolve the conflict. Despite Baker’s 2003 peace plan, the government of Morocco and the Polisario Front remain at odds, and the stalemate continues.

Unspeakable Truths: Transitional Justice and the Challenge of Truth Commissions

In a sweeping review of forty truth commissions, Priscilla Hayner delivers a definitive exploration of the global experience in official truth-seeking after widespread atrocities. When Unspeakable Truths was first published in 2001, it quickly became a classic, helping to define the field of truth commissions and the broader arena of transitional justice. This second edition is fully updated and expanded, covering twenty new commissions formed in the last ten years, analyzing new trends, and offering detailed charts that assess the impact of truth commissions and provide comparative information not previously available. Placing the increasing number of truth commissions within the broader expansion in transitional justice, Unspeakable Truths surveys key developments and new thinking in reparations, international justice, healing from trauma, and other areas. The book challenges many widely-held assumptions, based on hundreds of interviews and a sweeping review of the literature. This book will help to define how these issues are addressed in the future.