Will Democratic Governance Take Hold in the Middle East? Focus of IRI Democratic Governance Speakers Series

Panelists consider a question posed by Wethington.  Sitting left to right: Muasher, Dunne and Huneifat.Will Democratic Governance Take Hold in the Middle East? was the topic of discussion at the third installment of IRI’s Democratic Governance Series.  The series is a public forum designed to bring together policymakers, practitioners and stakeholders to discuss and share experiences in addressing contemporary challenges to governance. 

The event gathered people from the Washington policy and development communities, and featured remarks by Marwan Muasher, Vice President of Studies at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace; Michele Dunne, Director of the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East; and Khaled Huneifat, former mayor of Tafileh, Jordan, where IRI conducts democratic governance programs.  The discussion was moderated by Olin L. Wethington, former Special Envoy to China and current IRI board member.

Wethington began the discussion by framing the concept of democratic governance within the context of the tumultuous events facing the Middle East.  Dunne focused on reform efforts from the grassroots with examples from Egypt, Tunisia and Libya.  Muasher discussed reform efforts in Morocco and Jordan, as well as thematic issues including pluralism in the Middle East and the role of Islam.  Finally, Huneifat concluded the discussion by offering insights and observations from his experience as mayor and IRI partner regarding reform efforts at the local and national level. 

Panelists noted that the full effect of the changes in the region might not be realized for years, if not decades.  However, in contrast to the events that led to the installation of autocratic rulers during the last century, this time pluralism is at the forefront of discussion throughout the region.  Both religious and secular forces are participating in democratic processes, allowing for a greater range of voices in political decision-making.  Panelists also discussed the different experiences of countries that have experienced bottom-up reform through the removal of autocratic rulers and considered whether countries with unelected rulers would be able to reform effectively from the top-down.  

Around the world, IRI conducts democratic governance programs, working alongside political and government actors, citizens and civil society, to bring government closer to citizens, transforming government into a responsive, transparent and effective institution.  IRI has been active in Jordan since 2005, focusing on connecting citizens and government by promoting democratic governance, strong political parties and public opinion research. 

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