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A New Approach to Stalled State Transformations in Iraq and Yemen

A New Approach to Stalled State Transformations in Iraq and Yemen

Chatham House in this research paper titled Between Order and Chaos: A New Approach to Stalled State Transformations in Iraq and Yemen, Dr Renad Mansour, Research Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House (@renadmansour) and Peter Salisbury, Senior Consulting Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme (@peterjsalisbury) say that International policymakers have failed to stabilize states such as Iraq and Yemen, partially because of the assumed binary distinction between state failure and success. This paper advocates for a ‘middle–out’ approach that aims to strengthen the connectivity between the bureaucracy and de facto authorities.

The Summary of this paper dated 9 September 2019 is reproduced for all intents and purposes below and the paper can be read online or as a Download PDF (opens in new window)

  • In the Middle East and North Africa, a growing number of internationally recognized (de jure) states with formal borders and governments lack de facto statehood. Often, governance vacuums are filled by alternative actors that perform state-like functions in place of, or alongside, weakened official institutions. This results in hybrid orders where the distinction between formal and informal actors in the state is blurred, as too are the lines between the formal, informal and illicit economies.
  • International policymakers have struggled to establish political settlements in these contexts. Would-be state-builders have mistakenly assumed a binary distinction between state failure and success. They have sought to recreate an idealized archetype of the ‘orderly’ state, critically failing to recognize the more complex networks of de facto actors on the ground. At times, international policymakers pick or support leaders who lack local legitimacy, capability and power. This stalls and fragments ongoing organic state transformations, and produces hybrid orders as de facto actors adapt by both capturing state institutions and creating parallel ones.
  • We propose a new model for understanding the fragmentary transformations of the state underway in Iraq and Yemen. It involves the concept of a multi-layered state, consisting of the executive, the formal bureaucracy, the de facto authorities and society at large. The gap in legitimacy, capability and power between the middle two layers in this model – the formal bureaucracy and the de facto authorities – is a critical source of instability and an impediment to reform. Bridging that gap is thus the key to effective peacebuilding and/or state-building.
  •  This paper argues that all states lie along a chaos–order spectrum. No state is entirely chaotic or orderly. Even those that display many features of chaos – as in Iraq and Yemen – contain pockets of order that are all too often overlooked. The larger the gap between the formal bureaucracy and the de facto authorities, the more a state slides towards the chaos end of the spectrum. Effective state-building must find a way of institutionalizing improvised governance arrangements.
  •  To achieve this, we advocate a ‘middle–out’ approach that aims to strengthen the connective tissues between the bureaucracy and de facto authorities. Simplified, this more inclusive approach entails reframing international involvement as playing the role of a ‘referee’ to monitor the transformations of the state while enforcing accountability, as opposed to the practice of picking ‘winners’ and integrating unfavoured actors into unpopular political settlements.
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Why Syrian refugees have no negative effects on Jordan’s labour market

Why Syrian refugees have no negative effects on Jordan’s labour market

Jackline Wahba, Professor of Economics at the University of Southampton looks at the civil unrest in Syria direct implications on the country’s populations movements on one of the neighbouring countries, i.e. Jordan. Why Syrian refugees have no negative effects on Jordan’s labour market is a question in everybody’s mind since the start of the ensuing multilateral conflicts.

Why Syrian refugees have no negative effects on Jordan's labour market
MikeDotta / Shutterstock.com

Forced displacement is a global challenge. The number of displaced people rose from 43m to 69m between 2007 and 2017, with the highest growth primarily due to the Syrian conflict, which started in 2011. Since then, more than 6.3m Syrians have fled to neighbouring countries and beyond. This humanitarian crisis has generated public sympathy as well as concern about the implications of such a massive flow of people.

Jordan, which shares a border with Syria, has experienced a substantial influx of refugees. Around 1.3m Syrians live in Jordan, which has a total population of just 6.6m. The impact of so many people on members of the host community is a subject of great importance and debate.

One area of particular concern tends to be the job market. Jordan gives a unique insight into this as it signed an agreement with the EU in 2016, agreeing to allow Syrian refugees to enter legal employment in return for humanitarian aid, financial assistance and trade concessions from the EU. Known as the Jordan Compact, I studied its effect on the Jordanian labour market with colleagues Belal Fallah and Caroline Krafft. We found that the compact did not have a negative effect on Jordanian jobs or wages.

Using data that represented the whole country, combined with information on where most refugees live (which is fairly concentrated in certain areas of the country), we were able to identify the effects that Syrians had on Jordanians’ job prospects by comparing Jordanians’ labour market outcomes before and after the Syrian influx.

We found that Jordanians living in areas with high concentrations of refugees had no worse labour market outcomes than Jordanians with less exposure to the refugee influx. This result held across all labour market outcomes, including unemployment levels, hours, wages and characteristics of employment (such as sector, occupation and whether the work was formal or informal).

Our findings contrast with most of the very recent literature on the impact of the Syrian refugee influx, which to date had been limited to evidence from Turkey. Here, research found that natives who were employed informally were affected by Syrian refugees. But the global literature generally finds a similar mix to our findings of refugees having no or small specific negative effects on native job markets. This could be due to the demographics of refugees in Turkey and the fact that refugees aren’t legally allowed to work there, among other reasons.

Little competition

There are several reasons why the massive influx of Syrian refugees has had a minimal impact on the job situation in Jordan. The demographics of the Syrians in Jordan may have played an important role. Almost half are under the age of 15 and only 23% of Syrian refugees in Jordan are in the labour force (45% of men and 4% of women).

The aim of the Jordan Compact was to provide 200,000 Syrian refugees access to work permits and formal work. But the take up of work permits by Syrians has been very low. According to Jordan’s Ministry of Labour, by the end of 2017 only 87,141 work permits to Syrians were issued. This means there are few Syrians competing in Jordan’s (formal) labour market, making their effect on the labour supply relatively small.

Despite the massive inflow of Syrian refugees, the number of non-Syrian immigrants has not decreased in Jordan over the same period of time. According to Jordan’s 2015 population census, Jordan hosted an additional 1.6m non-Syrian foreigners. Other research has shown that Syrians mainly compete with economic immigrants in the informal sector where they don’t get given contracts, such as construction and some sales jobs. Here there is limited competition between refugees and Jordanians.

Demand and supply

The inflow of foreign aid has also been a potential mechanism for creating jobs for Jordanians. To help address the needs of the Syrian refugees, Jordan has received foreign aid from multiple sources. This aid has been channelled to help offset the budget deficit, finance public projects and support public services such as schools, hospitals and transport nationwide. Both direct assistance to refugees and aid to the government can create jobs, the latter disproportionately in the government and public sectors.

Finally, the increase in demand for public services by refugees, in particular education and health, has resulted in the Jordanian government increasing the provision of those services, which in turn increased the demand for workers (almost exclusively Jordanians) in these sectors.

Overall our results suggest that providing legal work opportunities to refugees is not detrimental to the native job market. The inflow of foreign aid to Jordan to assist with some of the needs of refugees, as well as the conditions of the Jordan Compact, which included aid and trade concessions and employment support for Jordanians, may have played an important role in creating labour demand for Jordanians. So it is vital to ensure sufficient resources and public services are in place to support refugees and the host economy.

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Why media performance has declined in the MENA?

Why media performance has declined in the MENA?

Shehab Al Makahleh, a consultant, senior political, media adviser and the executive director of Geostrategic Media Centre-USA, wondered Why media performance has declined in the MENA? He contributed this article dated August 31, 2019, to The Jordan Times.

There are many challenges facing Arab media, starting with national newspapers, news sources, magazines to television stations due to digital incursion, which trespasses geographical boundaries, putting an end to monopoly in the fields of communication that were once the task of giant institutions operating on a global scale. Thus, it is highly recommended to help users and the audience identify false news that has become a phenomenon.

In the past decade, advertising resources for print media fell by two-thirds. The distribution of national newspapers dropped as well, either because of digital copies due to easy access to the Internet by the audience or because many advertisers prefer posting their ads online. Newspapers’ revenues as a result have dropped remarkably. Publishers rely on ads that have now been fully automated and based on traffic volume on news sites.

The question that arises is: Who is responsible for this decline of regional media and lack of professional craftsmanship? The dilemma lies in the collective responsibility of individuals and the media. For example, many people follow social media celebrities, who have millions of followers without providing any useful content. Thus, fame at present does not require people to appear on television and satellite channels, as some Youtubers and Instagrammers have millions of followers; more than TV channels and newspapers due to flip-flopped interests.

A major segment of the deterioration of Arab media lies on recipients or the audience. In other words, some media outlets which respond to audience requests and demands achieve tangible successes. Social media celebrities go by the whims of their followers to secure stardom.

In some countries, there is fear from the media, and this has created a psychological barrier that prevents journalists from dealing with vital issues. Extremist parties and other actors have also contributed to this decline in media and journalism. Lack of journalistic professionalism is a direct outcome of failure of media institutions to provide necessary training for journalists.

Over the past 25 years, the number of media channels, newspapers and websites have mushroomed. In other words, the quantity has not matched the quality due to lack of professional journalists who are well-trained to manage media institutions independently. If we look at the state of journalism now, there are more media outlets, but media independence and freedom of coverage had become less than before. Technological advances on social media have also led people to follow media that are consistent with their views.

Traditional Arab media has lost its role in the industry of opinion and has a marginal contribution to the formation of awareness of the Arab world, while social media has become more powerful and influential. Some media have moved away from traditional means and turned to social media as a better platform to address the public directly. Newspapers have become weak in many Arab countries, even those which are funded, and supported by governments, as the main issue is not related to funding but rather professionalism. Many newspapers do not have remarkable content to grab readers to purchase such newspapers due to citizens’ weak purchase power and absence of real professional journalism.

What these newspapers currently offer depends on news agencies and other sources of content. Very few still have strong journalistic topics that are presented to the reader. Unfortunately, the way such topics are covered and addressed have less freedom of expression and opinion in terms of analysis and prognosis. Since the basis in successful media work relies on science and information, absence of these two elements is one of the major loopholes of media coverage in the whole Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

Technological transformation in the world of media industry have raised concerns among the media industry, as this has adversely affected the media spectrum in the MENA.

Thus, we need to improve the horizons of high-level journalism and encourage new media models not only in terms of available technologies, but also in terms of innovation and creativity by hiring national press, digital media and advertising industry figures in order to restore a balance between news publishers and digital platforms that publish what they produce. This comes at a time when many changes in technology and consumer attitudes pose challenges for quality journalism in the region.

Government oversight should be effective from time to time in order for Internet news platforms to adhere to media standards and to enhance confidence in the news such platforms broadcast. The government should also consider direct support for local news sources and provide tax exemptions for media. Information authorities should provide more support to local publishers so that their coverage complements local news. Furthermore, governments concerned should set up independent institutes to provide news of public interest in the future.

Therefore, we should adhere to new standards to restore balance between publishers and online platforms. In addition, Internet platforms must exert an effort to improve their users’ access to news in a good manner.

Europe’s Future will be decided in North Africa

Europe’s Future will be decided in North Africa

Foreign Policy‘s VOICE on Europe’s Future will be decided in North Africa elaborates on mainly the potential impact of Algeria’s current political instability on not only the region but also on the European Union.

Meanwhile, today July 19, 2019, is the twenty-second Friday of street demonstrations, were it not coincidentally for the Africa Cup of football happening the same day in the evening. Street demonstrations in all towns and villages of Algeria have become by now a sort of run of the mill. They are chasing a fundamental change of regime and not some epidermic exercise.

Europe’s Future Will Be Decided in North Africa

By Steven A. Cook

The United States should stop treating the region as secondary to the rest of the Middle East.

Handwritten notes are stuck on a boat used by migrants on Los Caños de Meca beach near Barbate, Spain, on Nov. 26, 2018. JORGE GUERRERO/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

When I first came to Washington in the 1990s, people who worked on North Africa were few and far between. It was considered a backwater; no one ever came to Washington to solve the Western Sahara problem.

Instead, U.S. foreign-policy strivers made their way to the Beltway to ensure the security of the Persian Gulf’s shipping lanes, to write cheesy lines about the appropriateness of Wahhabism’s austere creed arising from such a harsh landscape, and to chase the whitest of white whales—peace between Israelis and Palestinians. It is a narrow view of the region that continues today, which is unfortunate because North Africa is far more important to U.S. interests than the Middle East obsessions—old and new—of the policy community.

A long look at the map will tell you almost everything one needs to know about North Africa and its importance to a core American interest—the stability and security of Europe. Of course, the region is important to the millions of people who call it home, but their neighbors across the Mediterranean Sea have long been and will continue to be a focus of U.S. foreign policy. There are only 146 miles separating the Tunisian coast and the Italian coast and 286 miles from Libya to Greece. Algeria’s beaches are 469 miles from those of France—about the distance from Washington to Charleston, South Carolina. Morocco and Spain are separated by a mere 9 miles. Proximity and colonial legacies have shaped the region in such a way that at least the northern rim of the Maghreb seems to share more culturally with Southern Europe than it does with sub-Saharan Africa. Add to this Europe’s economic pull, a steady flow of migrants from African countries, a bevy of extremist groups, and copious energy resources.

It would be an exaggeration to suggest that as goes North Africa so goes Europe but not by much. The United States still has a compelling interest in a Europe that, in the words of the late George H.W. Bush, is “whole and free.” And among policymakers in Washington, there is increasing concern about Europe’s vulnerability because so much of its natural gas comes from Russia. But 11 percent comes from Algeria. That might not sound like a lot, but some individual European countries are more vulnerable than others. Spain, for example, gets 52 percent of its natural gas from Algeria. The North African giant is also Italy’s second-largest gas supplier. If Algeria descended into violence—not out of the realm of possibility—and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would have a significant problem.

If Algeria descended into violence—not out of the realm of possibility—and its gas supplies were somehow disrupted, Europe would have a significant problem.

 Could the continent make up the difference from other sources? Libya has a lot of gas, but it is in the midst of a civil war. Egypt also has tremendous amounts of gas, but it doesn’t have the capacity yet to make up any shortfalls that Europe might experience. The Israelis would love to sell gas to Europe, but the pipeline to Europe they envision may not be economically feasible.

Then there is migration, an issue that has vexed Europe’s leaders, caught as they are between the European Union’s liberal cosmopolitanism and a virulent nationalism that a united, democratic, and prosperous continent was supposed to make irrelevant. Of course, migrants arriving on European shores via North Africa did not create Europe’s right-wing nationalist and neo-fascist parties, but they did give them a boost—and the effect on Europe has been devastating. Setting aside developments in Austria, Hungary, and Poland, the leaders of the Brexit campaign and the Alternative for Germany (a far-right party) fed off Europe’s migration crisis in 2015 to advance their ruinous and dangerous agendas. The destabilization of the United Kingdom and the prospect of German political polarization are deeply troubling and a strategic setback for the United States. If Washington has a true partner in this world, it has been London. Meanwhile, a successful, democratic Germany is a bedrock of European stability and prosperity.

For almost two decades, Washington’s focus has been on combating al Qaeda and then the Islamic State in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Extremism in North Africa seems to be an afterthought. It should not be. Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia all have terrorism problems that have affected Europe in frightening ways.

Algeria, Libya, and Tunisia all have terrorism problems that have affected Europe in frightening ways.

 In the 1990s, Algerian extremists bombed the Paris metro and hijacked an Air France flight in an attempt to force the crew to fly the plane into the Eiffel Tower. More recent terrorist attacks in Europe have been homegrown affairs, but that does not mean that Europe is safe from North African extremism. In Tunisia in 2015, extremists killed European tourists on a beach and in a museum. That is why the French have thrown their lot in with would-be Libyan strongman Gen. Khalifa Haftar—he promises to kill a lot of bad guys. President Emmanuel Macron may be wrong in his assessment of Haftar’s capabilities, and French policy may be making things worse, but his sense of where the threat comes from is clear. Algeria and Libya are huge countries that border Chad, Mali, and Niger, which are themselves confronting extremist violence. The prospect of groups linking up or merging in this region is a significant security challenge for Europeans.

Finally, it is not just North Africa’s old colonial powers—France and Italy—that are active there. Russia has a long-standing defense relationship with Algeria, but it has also become more active in Libya. It should be clear by now that President Vladimir Putin wants to weaken and divide Europe. He has already forged an arc of Russian influence around the Mediterranean, stretching from Ankara in the north, through Damascus and Cairo, and then heading west from there into Benghazi. The latter is in Haftar’s territory and the part of Libya where the bulk of the country’s oil reserves are located. Putin doesn’t need to collect allies at the expense of the United States per se—he just needs to give Russia a base from which he can continue to sow discord and confusion in Europe.

Given how energy, migration, extremism, and Russia’s ambition coincide in North Africa to threaten European stability, it does not seem wise for U.S. policymakers to continue to treat the region as an afterthought. Peace between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as democracy in the Middle East, would be nice, but given the limits of American power, it makes more sense to devote Washington’s resources to places that matter more to U.S. interests. And North Africa matters. If you don’t believe me, look at a map.

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Regional Powers’ Attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes

Regional Powers’ Attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes

The regional powers’s attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes will only deepen the war-torn country’s divisions by creating rivalries between them sustains Haian Dukhan of University of Leicester per the following article.

Syria: attempts by Saudi Arabia, Iran and Turkey to co-opt Arab tribes in Syria will deepen the country’s divisions

Saudi Arabia is putting renewed pressure on its ties with tribal groups in Syria as it continues to support those trying to topple the regime of Bashar al-Assad.

In a visit in late June to Syrian territories controlled by the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), an alliance fighting against the Assad regime, the Saudi minister for Gulf affairs, Thamer Al-Sabhan, met with representatives of Arab tribes in Deir Ezzor, one of Syria’s most heavily tribal areas. He asked them to help the SDF maintain stability and security in their territories.

Arab tribes represent 20% of Syrian society and are particularly focused in the east of the country. But this area is currently divided: territory east of the Euphrates river is controlled by the SDF, which includes the Kurdish People’s Protection Units, or YPG, while much of the territory west of the river is governed by the Syrian regime.

Saudi Arabia’s rivals in the region are also trying to use their ties with Syrian tribes for their own ends. Although Iran and Turkey don’t have the same kinship ties that Saudi tribes do with the Syrian tribes, both countries have been working since the beginning of the Syrian conflict to create new ties with them. Their aim is to use the tribes to further their interests in Syria – toppling the Assad regime in the case of Turkey and propping it up in the case of Iran.

But these attempts to co-opt the Syrian tribes will only deepen the war-torn country’s divisions by creating rivalries between them.

Shifting allegiances

In the Syrian context, tribes refer to local groups of people that live geographically close to each other. They are distinct from other segments of Syrian society by having extended kinship ties, tribal customs and tribal leaders, or sheikhs. Some of Syria’s most prominent tribes are Aqaydate, Baggara and Busha’ban.

During the rule of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar’s father, between 1970 and 2000, tribes were part of the rural coalition that enabled the regime to preserve power. But Bashar al-Assad’s neo-liberal policies, such as lifting subsidies on livestock fodder and other agricultural products, accompanied by severe drought in 2003 changed the power dynamic and the tribes revolted against the regime in 2011.

The 2011 uprising in Syria was a golden opportunity for Saudi Arabia to use its links with the Syrian tribes to destroy the Assad regime and so eliminate growing Iranian influence in the country, which it considers its sphere of influence.

The Euphrates river in Deir Ezzor, Syria. Marcel Holyoak via Flickr, CC BY-NC-ND

Since the uprising, Saudi Arabia has used tribal networks to provide financial and military support to the armed opposition against Assad. It also encouraged tribal sheikhs to defect from the Syrian regime, promising to provide them with refuge and financial aid. This led to the defection of more than 20 Syrian tribal leaders, who took refuge in Saudi Arabia.

Iran tried its own tactics to woo Syria’s Arab tribes. Iranian officials continue to invite Syrian tribal leaders to visit Tehran for talks in an effort to persuade them to remain loyal to Assad. These visits are covered by Iranian and Syrian state media, which portray the visiting sheikhs as important national figures.

Iran has spent large amounts of money and expertise on training militias of the Tay and the Sheitat tribes to fight alongside the Syrian regime forces. Iranian missionary groups have also been working to convert people from the Baggara tribe in Deir Ezzor from the Sunni to the Shia branch of Islam, in order to counterbalance the power of the Sunni Aqaydate tribe that has strong kinship ties to Saudi Arabia.

A counter balance to Turkey and Qatar

The rift between Saudi Arabia and Turkey took place after the Arab Spring and intensified after Turkey decided to back Qatar, offering it economic and military aid to help overcome a blockade by Saudi Arabia and the UAE. Since around 2013, the competition between these two regional hegemons moved to Syria.

Turkey aims to use the Arab tribes in Turkey to legitimise its intervention against the SDF, and in particular its Kurdish forces, in the area to east of the Euphrates. Ultimately, it wants to have Arab fighters alongside its own army on Syrian soil. In a February 2018 visit to Urfa, a town close to the Turkish-Syrian border, the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, met with Syrian tribal leaders who praised Turkey’s Operation Olive Branch against SDF forces in the Afrin district.

But Saudi Arabia considers the area to the east of the Euphrates river in Syria to be within its sphere of influence and will do whatever is possible to prevent it from falling under Turkish control. The Saudis are using financial aid to stabilise the SDF’s rule and decrease some of the tension between the SDF and Arab tribes.

But these attempts to co-opt the tribes by regional powers will only deepen Syria’s divisions. Many tribes have been split into competing clans that are fighting each other just because they find themselves to the east or west of the Euphrates.

Instead of trying to look for tribes who can serve their interests in Syria, Saudia Arabia, Iran and Turkey should support initiatives that foster a shared national identity for all Syrians.

Haian Dukhan, Teaching Fellow in International Relations, University of Leicester

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Gaza’s crafts industries fast disappearing

Israel’s 12-year blockade of the territory has accelerated this trend of Gaza’s crafts industries fast disappearing at a time when normal life seemed ever more difficult to bring back onto its streets. Decades in the besieged enclave, have somehow allowed stores to be reopened, students to head back to schools, and people generally resuming work. This article of Gulf News dated July 10, illustrates fairly well the particular situation of the strip today.


Gaza City, Gaza Strip: When Gazans think of better economic times, images of clay pottery, colorful glassware, bamboo furniture and ancient frame looms weaving bright rugs and mats all come to mind. For decades, these traditional crafts defined the economy of the coastal Palestinian enclave, employing thousands of people and exporting across the region. Today, the industries are almost non-existent.

While such professions have shrunk worldwide in the face of globalisation and Chinese mass production, Gazan business owners say Israel’s 12-year blockade has accelerated the trend. “We have been economically damaged. We are staying, but things are really difficult,” said Abed Abu Sido, one of Gaza’s last glassmakers, as he flipped through a glossy catalogue of his products.

At his quiet workshop, layers of dust covered the few remaining glass artifacts, requiring him to scrub them to reveal their colours. Cardboard boxes of unfinished products and materials were stacked floor-to-ceiling.

Abu Sido opened his business in the 1980s, selling many of his items to vendors in the popular marketplace of Jerusalem’s Old City. In his heyday, he said he took part in exhibitions in Europe. That changed after 2007, when the Hamas militant group overran Gaza, and Israel and Egypt responded by sealing Gaza’s borders. Abu Sido laid off his 15 workers and ceased operations the following year.

Israel says the blockade is needed to contain Hamas and prevent it from arming. But the closure, repeated rounds of fighting with Israel and a power struggle with the rival Palestinian Authority in the West Bank have hit Gaza hard.