• Predicting MENA’s future, On: Sun, 15 Jan 2017

  • Welcoming 2017 , On: Sun, 08 Jan 2017

  • Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year, On: Sun, 25 Dec 2016

  • The Cairo bombing , On: Sun, 18 Dec 2016

  • The wages of war , On: Sun, 11 Dec 2016

  • The continuing flow of migrants across the Mediterranean, On: Sun, 04 Dec 2016

  • Risks of social media abuse in MENA region , On: Sun, 27 Nov 2016

  • Arab youth should be a source of hope, not concern, On: Sun, 20 Nov 2016

  • After the election of Donald Trump , On: Sun, 13 Nov 2016

  • Many hopes are pinned on Marrakech climate conference , On: Sun, 06 Nov 2016

  • Stability in the Maghreb, On: Sun, 30 Oct 2016

  • Syria’s bloody story , On: Sun, 23 Oct 2016

  • Stopping the tragedy of child brides, On: Sun, 16 Oct 2016

  • Welcoming the new UN chief , On: Sun, 09 Oct 2016

  • The refugee crisis is not going away , On: Sun, 02 Oct 2016

  • The UN still serves a purpose , On: Sun, 25 Sep 2016

  • The Arab world’s water crisis is not going away , On: Sun, 18 Sep 2016

  • New reports underline the cost of Israeli occupation , On: Sun, 11 Sep 2016

  • Saving children from war and terror, On: Sun, 04 Sep 2016

  • The humanitarian tragedy in Libya , On: Sun, 28 Aug 2016

  • The Arab world at the Rio Olympics, On: Sun, 14 Aug 2016

  • Progress in interfaith relations in Europe is a sign of hope, On: Sun, 07 Aug 2016

  • The role of the private sector in MENA , On: Sun, 31 Jul 2016

  • Tourism is resilient and Arab countries should prepare for its recovery , On: Sun, 24 Jul 2016

  • Attack in Nice is a crime against humanity but should not fuel intolerance , On: Sun, 17 Jul 2016

  • Concerns after Brexit, On: Sun, 03 Jul 2016

  • Moving Arab educational systems beyond diplomas , On: Sun, 26 Jun 2016

  • The threat of lone wolves , On: Sun, 19 Jun 2016

  • The heavy toll of war in MENA, On: Sun, 12 Jun 2016

  • The media and internet wars against ISIS , On: Sun, 05 Jun 2016

  • The need for tolerance in the Arab world , On: Sun, 29 May 2016

  • On the dangerous implications of illegal migration , On: Sun, 22 May 2016

  • The Sykes-Picot agreement, 100 years later , On: Sun, 15 May 2016

  • The gap between the Muslim minority and European societies needs to be bridged , On: Sun, 08 May 2016

  • Fighting despair is key to peace and stability in the Arab world , On: Sun, 01 May 2016

  • Protecting minorities is an urgent task of OIC, Arab League , On: Sun, 24 Apr 2016

  • Youth concerns should determine Arab and Muslim priorities , On: Sun, 17 Apr 2016

  • Internet looms large in the Arab world’s future , On: Fri, 08 Apr 2016

  • Arab world and Europe need more cooperation after Brussels, On: Fri, 01 Apr 2016

  • Predicting MENA’s future

    Foreign reports are obviously not a substitute for region’s own vision of its future as articulated by indigenous strategic thinking.

    2017/01/15 Issue: 89 Page: 6

    Welcome to 2022. The world, according to US intelligence analysts, will be a great deal scarier. The rules-based international order will be in decline. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region will have plunged deeper into disarray.

    That dispiriting snapshot of tomorrow’s world comes from the US National Intelligence Council, which is tasked with helping shape the United States’ medium- and long-term strategic thinking. The council issues a quadrennial Global Trends Report before a new or re-elected American president is sworn into office.

    It has not always been accurate predicting things but it has offered interesting insights into the US intelligence community’s view of the MENA region and foreseeable trends there. Foreign reports are obviously not a substitute for the region’s own vision of its future as articulated by indigenous strategic thinking.

    Whatever the caveats, the US report is worrying. For one thing, it does not seem to place high value on the efforts aimed at enshrining peace or pursuing reconstruction objectives. Instead, the report sees continuing conflict and expanding extremism. Islamist groups, it says, will ceaselessly reduce tolerance of minority groups and create more refugees.

    It also warns that arrested political and economic reform can threaten poverty reduction, disappointing the aspirational young to the point they lose hope and become socially disruptive. The lack of constructive narratives will leave the region more fragmented than ever by 2022.

    Sadly, this is not the only report predicting hard times for the region. As the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Develop­ment recently said in its annual States of Fragility Report, persistent vulnerabilities exist in fragile states because of weak institutions, political violence, extremism and poverty. To that extent, the MENA region is especially vulnerable. Its population is overwhelmingly young — some 60% is under 25 — and woefully despairing of its prospects — nearly 30% is unemployed and the brain drain to the West is roughly at the same level.

    The only good news is that many Arab countries have had a decent track record in poverty reduction over the course of decades. The challenge is to ensure those gains are not reversed by conflict and the ceaseless refugee flow but enhanced to meet citizens’ security, education and employment needs.

    The Global Trends Report sees the emergence of local politics as good news. Decentralised governance should not, however, mean the chaotic fraying of the state, which could spell further problems.

    It is a given that MENA must take responsibility for its problems and for the imaginative formulation of viable solutions to its woes. In many regards, the region’s leaders know the predictable conse­quences of inadequate policies and should take a step away from the brink.

    But to face the current massive humanitarian crisis, especially in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon, which host the largest numbers of refugees on their soil, the MENA region needs the wider world’s goodwill. And it needs it now. Humanity does not have to wait any longer to see the scope of the tragedy.

    Benign foreign attention, however, is different from base meddling. Short-sighted tinkering with an already-fragile regional situation can make matters worse well before 2022.

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