The democratic uprisings and consequent turmoil in the Arab world during the last 18 months have had significant impact on the geostrategic situation in the Middle East as well as on the policies of major regional and global powers. As the upheavals continue to unfold, especially in strategically important countries such as Syria and Bahrain, they will continue to have a major impact on intraregional politics as well as great-power interests.
A tense relationship has marked decades of interaction between Arab regimes and their civil societies in the areas of human rights, democracy, governance reform, justice and reconciliation. While the role of civil society in development, humanitarian and environmental issues has generally been tolerated more easily by Arab governments, the same cannot be said for the areas just mentioned. In recent years there has been greater awareness of the increasing importance of civil society in assisting governments to push forward the wheel of development. There exists, though, no clear assessment of the role of civil society in reform movements or the degree and seriousness of their involvement to date. This article aims to contribute to closing this gap by exploring crucial civil society functions – strengthening civic engagement and community-empowerment – in the specific context of the Arab world, and by introducing the work of a number of organisations in this region. The next section briefly discusses the role of Arab civil society organisations (CSOs) and NGOs and explains some of their functions. Section three reflects on traditional conflict resolution and reconciliation methods and their relation to the “Western field” of conflict resolution. Section four presents cases from Lebanon and Morocco, looking at concrete projects, objectives and achievements of organisations, while section five discusses common challenges. The final section identifies possible next steps in light of the current political developments in the region.
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.