Monthly Archives: August 2009

Before getting into the details there were some hilarious aspects to this report. As Long Slumber points out the titles were particularly funny. I particularly liked, “The State and its insecure people,” after all this soul searching I can finally understand why the region likes plastic surgery, layers of make up and fattening food so much!!

The Arab Human Development report makes for some depressing reading. The Human Development Index Trends illustrates the stagnation of the region that has seen little improvement from 1995 to 2005. The fantastic numbers at the back of the report go on to illustrate the depressing state of affairs.

How has the Arab world got into such a rut? Is it all the external interference, with the continual occupations in Palestine, invasions in Iraq and Somalia, threats of war with Israel and Iran, global warming and economic globalization? Or rather is it the internal, the regions unfortunate bunch of dictators squashing the insides of the region from Egypt to the Saudi to name almost every Arab state, the civil wars raging in Sudan and Somalia, the population growth in Egypt, Syria….?  The Arab Human Development Report neatly blames internal and external problems especially focusing on the aspects of war and oppression, despite allegations to the contrary that I cannot understand, in the region by taking the approach of Human Security.

The important aspect of a human security approach is that it shifts the focus from the security of states to the security of individuals. The report defines human security as the liberation of human beings from those intense, extensive, prolonged and comprehensive threats to which their lives and freedom are vulnerable. Oh yes, the Western focus of individualism is creeping in again….So immediately there is a problem with ownership of this whole report as it is obvious from the start that the very concept of human security comes from the outside. Fisk, on my second reading I fully understood what he was getting at, does brilliantly in addressing this issue of the lack of ownership that Arabs feel towards their countries.

Despite, this I agree that Human security seems a perfect perspective to view the region from. It gives a right had swing to the West and a blow with the elbow on the way back to the internal dictator.If the human security situation in the Arab region was addressed there would be no more dictators, no more foreign invasion/direct interference is the argument and state sovereignty would be stronger as people whose human security is respected are likely to have more of a vested interest in the state. Importantly as well for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict if two states were formed then the Israelis could not wipe their hands of the situation if Palestinian sovereignty was ever achieved. From the Human Security approach the Israelis would also have to guarantee that Palestinians human security was granted as well as sovereignty.

The issue of ownership I think though over weighs the benefits of using a human security approach as it articulates the central issue of the death of ideas in the region or not to overgeneralize the death of big ideas. There is really not much ‘new’ in this report, it is really a lay of the land report. Human Security, even as an outside concept, is a great way of looking at the region but gives no real understanding of why things are going so wrong in the region but rather confirmation that things are going wrong.

Rami Khoury though brilliantly tries to assert what he thinks is going wrong and states in the report (Box 9.1) the essential problem in the region of either just accepting without question or rejecting without question in the region that which comes from the outside. “We remain deeply mired in a colonial-era mentality in many respects. The massive attention paid to awaiting the new Middle East policies of the Obama administration in the United States is the most dramatic manifestation of this trend. On the other hand, the single most important change in the Arab world has been the attempt to break away from this “vassals-of-the-west mentality”, and to assert their own idenity and interests.” By this Khoury means the large number of Islamist movements and he adds that these, “Islamists remain primarily defensive and reactionary movements. ”

There was no risk taking in this report in creating new ideas of how to address what is going on.   Interestingly, Khoury in a Daily Star opinion piece while highly praising the report also calls for the next report to be, “an analysis of how change can and does happen in parts of the Arab world, so that we can make the developmental leap forward, transcending the diagnosis of our ailments and constraints to move into a phase of overcoming them.”