The International Monetary Fund (IMF), keeps on pressing on all economic and policy issues of the day in every country. Doing so for all these years, it has, in the end, amassed such knowledge and experience that enabled it to have a worldwide view of the latest trends. Tackling corruption in government could save $1 trillion in taxes, but not only that as we were recently told, it could also resolve many of the plethora of all related issues throughout all regions in the developing and developed world alike. A point in case is elaborated on this particular article that is republished here for its obvious importance, especially for those developing countries of the MENA region.
No country is immune to corruption. The abuse of public office for private gain erodes people’s trust in government and institutions, makes public policies less effective and fair, and siphons taxpayers’ money away from schools, roads, and hospitals.
While the wasted money is important, the cost is about much more. Corruption corrodes the government’s ability to help grow the economy in a way that benefits all citizens.
But the political will to build strong and transparent institutions can turn the tide against corruption. In our new Fiscal Monitor, we shine a light on fiscal institutions and policies, like tax administration or procurement practices, and show how they can fight corruption.
Political will can turn the tide against corruption.
Corruption helps evade taxes
We analyze more than 180 countries and find that more corrupt countries collect fewer taxes, as people pay bribes to avoid them, including through tax loopholes designed in exchange for kickbacks. Also, when taxpayers believe their governments are corrupt, they are more likely to evade paying taxes.
We show that overall, the least corrupt governments collect 4 percent of GDP more in tax revenues than countries at the same level of economic development with the highest levels of corruption.
A few countries’ reforms generated even higher revenues. Georgia, for example, reduced corruption significantly and tax revenues more than doubled, rising by 13 percentage points of GDP between 2003 and 2008. Rwanda’s reforms to fight corruption since the mid-1990s bore fruit, and tax revenues increased by 6 percentage points of GDP.
Corruption also prevents people from benefiting fully from the wealth created by their country’s natural resources. Because the exploration of oil or mining generates huge profits, it creates strong incentives for corruption. Our research shows that resource-rich countries, on average, have weaker institutions and higher corruption.
Corruption wastes taxpayers’ money
The Fiscal Monitor shows that countries with lower levels of perceived corruption have significantly less waste in public investment projects. We estimate that the most corrupt emerging market economies waste twice as much money as the least corrupt ones.
Governments waste taxpayers’ money when they spend it on cost overruns due to kickbacks or bid rigging in public procurement. So, when a country is less corrupt, it invests money more efficiently and fairly.
Corruption also distorts government priorities. For example, among low-income countries, the share of the budget dedicated to education and health is one-third lower in more corrupt countries. It also impacts the effectiveness of social spending. In more corrupt countries school-age students have lower test scores.
Corruption is also a problem in state-owned enterprises, such as some countries’ oil companies, and public utilities like electric and water companies. Our analysis suggests that these enterprises are less efficient in countries with high levels of corruption.
Where there is political will, there is a way
Fighting corruption requires political will to create strong fiscal institutions that promote integrity and accountability throughout the public sector.
Based on the research, here are some lessons for countries to help them build effective institutions that curb vulnerabilities to corruption:
Invest in high levels of transparency and independent external scrutiny. This allows audit agencies and the public at large to provide effective oversight. For example, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Paraguay are using an online platform that allows citizens to monitor the physical and financial progress of investment projects. Norway has developed a high standard of transparency to manage its natural resources. Our analysis also shows that a free press enhances the benefits of fiscal transparency. In Brazil, the results of audits impacted the reelection prospects of officials suspected of misuse of public money, but the impact was greater in areas with local radio stations.
Reform institutions. The chances for success are greater when countries design reforms to tackle corruption from all angles. For example, reforms to tax administration will have a greater payoff if tax laws are simpler and they reduce officials’ scope for discretion. To help countries, the IMF has built comprehensive diagnostics on the quality of fiscal institutions, including public investment management, revenue administration, and fiscal transparency.
Build a professional civil service. Transparent, merit-based hiring and pay reduce the opportunities for corruption. The heads of agencies, ministries, and public enterprises must promote ethical behavior by setting a clear tone at the top.
Keep pace with new challenges as technology and opportunities for wrongdoing evolve. Focus on areas of higher risk—such as procurement, revenue administration, and management of natural resources—as well as effective internal controls. In Chile and Korea, for example, electronic procurement systems have been powerful tools to curtail corruption by promoting transparency and improving competition.
More cooperation to fight corruption. Countries can also join efforts to make it harder for corruption to cross borders. For example, more than 40 countries have already made it a crime for their companies to pay bribes to gain business abroad under the OECD anti-corruption convention. Countries can also aggressively pursue anti–money laundering activities and reduce transnational opportunities to hide corrupt money in opaque financial centers.
Curbing corruption is a challenge that requires persevering on many fronts, but one that pays huge dividends. It starts with political will, continuously strengthening institutions to promote integrity and accountability, and global cooperation.
In this long plea where he begins by paying homage to the
Algerian youth, Professor Abderrahmane Mebtoul analyses the handicaps, both
political and economic, which overwhelm Algeria despite its immense potential.
Then projecting himself into the perspective, he evokes the scenarios of the
future and pleads with a lot of arguments and a great conviction, for “an
indispensable global reform” (…) by flattening the differences through
dialogue and consultation.
So, here is this contribution from PR Abderrahmane Mebtoul, Economist, International Expert as posted on AFRICAPRESSE. PARIS on March 5, 2019, in French.
The strong mobilization of 22
February and 1st March implies a good analysis of the aspirations of civil
society. Certainly not the rentier living in the salons, but the one that we
saw on the street, the youth who does not want to be recovered.
The lesson given to the leader of the
Workers’ Party, which was booed, should serve as lessons. At a time when the
world is experiencing political, social and economic upheavals, where Algeria
is being challenged by some 70% of its population claiming genuine democratic
reforms – a condition of harmonious and sustainable development in the face of
the relentless globalization – we must pay a great homage to our youth who have
not experienced the drama of the years 1990-1999, and yet want a change.
Let us salute its political maturity
and peaceful marches without violence, where political parties in all
tendencies have played no role in mobilizing. Let us also salute our security
forces who have managed in a modern way these events which must be meditated
profoundly by the parties of power and their satellites – weakly
representative, not to say non-representative – as well as by any of the
opposition, which was off-track.
A partisan system disconnected from
According to some sources, the number
of political parties is approaching sixty, often with unnatural alliances,
whereas in democratic countries these alliances are made by ideological
affinity and a clear programme.
Also, except for ten of them, the
others show a formal and ostentatious presence in the elections… Furnishing
the emptiness, powerless almost always to act on the course of things and to
articulate clearly the concerns and aspirations of the real society.
Because of the internal crises that
periodically shake them, the discredit that strikes the majority of them, the
defiance of them and the partisan activism, the current political formations
today have a low capacity to carry out a work of mobilization and efficient
management, to contribute significantly to the political socialising, and thus
to make an effective contribution to the work of national recovery.
As proof, the last parliamentary
elections, both 2012 and 2017: considering the null and official data of the
Ministry of the Interior, the 3/4 of the Algerian population are not
represented by the elected officials.
The discredit which strikes political
groups, both from the power and from the opposition, must give way to credible,
non-artificially created formations, subject therefore to the possibility of an
objective assessment of the status and role which must be theirs in a society
that aspires to join the ranks of democratic societies. These formations will
have to be more capable of mobilizing society than in the years to come,
reforms – long deferred to guarantee a fictitious, transient social peace –
will be very painful.
An atomized civil society with an
Civil society in Algeria is
shattered. Contrary to the accepted and illusory ideas of past years, in a
context of social disintegration and “satellite TV” youth, most
official religious brotherhoods have less and less impact.
On the other hand, the confusion that
currently prevails in the national association movement makes it difficult to
devise a strategy to take into account and mobilize it. Its diversity, the
politico-ideological currents that pass through it and its complex relationship
to society and the State add to this confusion and make imperative an urgent
reflection for its restructuring, its current state reflecting the major
fractures have occurred in the national political system. Thus, it will soon be
divided into four fundamentally different civil societies: three at the level
of the real sphere and one dominant in the informal sphere.
The most important segment of this
civil society, the privileged and often unique interlocutor of the public authorities,
is constituted by appendages of power, located on the periphery of the parties
in power and whose officials are sometimes deputies, senators, living in large
part of the transfer of the rentier annuity. In fact, those who pride
themselves on mobilizing millions of voters live in air-conditioned lounges,
disconnected from society.
The second segment is that of a civil
society frankly rooted in the Islamist movement, with there also appendages of
legal Islamic parties.
The third segment is that of a civil
society claiming the democratic movement. Poorly structured, despite the
relatively large number of associations that comprise it, and undermined by
contradictions in relation, among others, with the question of leadership. For
these first three civil societies, their impact on the turnout in the last
local and legislative elections, despite their accession, was relatively low.
We finally have an informal,
unorganized, totally atomized civil society. It is by far the most active and
important, as well as we saw on February 22nd and the 1st March 2019, with
precise codifications forming a dense mesh.
Without the intelligent integration
of this informal sphere – not by authoritarian bureaucratic measures, but by
the involvement of society itself – it will not be necessary to rely on a real
dynamism of civil society. Because when a state wants to impose its own rules
disconnected from social practices, the society has its own rules that allow it
to function with its own organizations.
Three scenarios for Algeria from 2019
The dynamism of the partisan system
and of civil society in order to make it an effective instrument of the framing
of forces and a powerful lever of their mobilization is likely to succeed only
if the movement that composes it, is not in the service of ambitions personal
unmentionable and sometimes dubious.
We can foresee the different
scenarios possible depending on the state of the power relations at the
internal level, considering the evolution of the strategy of the actors at the
The first scenario: failure of the reform process.
The conditions of failure are real
and combined in the legal and economic environment in case of lack of
visibility and coherence in the economic and social approach. Risk accentuated
by the annuitants at the internal level and certain segments of external actors
maintaining informal relations and who are not interested in deepening the
reforms (loss of contracts in case of transparent tender notices).
On the other hand, the ambiguity of
legal texts allows for the legal blockade of reforms, while the multiplicity of
speakers allows for the confusion of prerogatives. Other parameters
contributing to the risk of failure: the fragility of internal private
investment capacity, stabilization plans that have made forced savings to the
detriment of the average layers that have impoverished; the mistrust generated
by internal and external investors through continual changes in legislation,
while the stability must be rigorous; populist speeches on account settlements
on the sensitive subject of taxation, and finally the high pressure of a
fraction of the internal and external actors linked to the interests of the
annuity, that to preserve protectionist postures because the liberalisation
Destroyed a fraction of the annuity.
The second scenario is the status quo.
It would lead to the regression for both social and physical, the world being in perpetual motion. This hypothesis will prepare the conditions of failure by imputing the current social conditions (poverty and unemployment) to reforms, which, except macroeconomic stabilization, are timid in Algeria (microeconomic and institutional reforms, Issues of future years), or to technical bodies while petrol is the absence of political will (neutralization of power relations).
This status quo will participate in a
programmed failure and would be suicidal for the future of the economy and
Algerian society. This is maintained by the confusion of some concepts
assimilating false reforms to the sale of national heritage.
Thus, according to the proponents of
this analysis, the reforms would be dictated by the major global oil companies,
the IMF and the World Bank. A posture reminding us of the Times of the
Inquisition against those who advocated the market economy and the
establishment of democracy.
The third scenario is the success of solidarity-specific political and economic reforms as contained in the legal, economic and political environment of Algeria, thanks to a youth increasingly aware of the country’s future issues.
The rupture of the previous system, in view of historical experiences, only occurred through violent but short-lived revolutions. Successful experiences have shown that the gradualist pathway inserting the Conservatives into a reformist dynamic has involved a profound redevelopment of the structures of power and new people acquired in the reforms with cultural demystification, the devastating rumours in the opinion are only the translation of the weakness of the communication system, especially in Algeria where the oral route is predominant.
There is, therefore, therefore, an
urgent need for close cooperation between the supporters of the reforms, the
political parties, the associations and, in general, all civil society, the
administration, public and private enterprises, the collectives of Workers,
trade unions, flattening differences through dialogue and consultation.
The goal will be to make the
strategic objective emerge through a symbiosis of individual interests and
collective interest, showing that the medium-term winners of the reforms will
be more numerous than the short-term losers.
The support of external actors for
their interests in order to avoid the negative effects of the Destabilisation,
but above all the mobilisation of the favorable internal actors because no
country can make the reforms in our place, the fate of Algeria is in the hands
of Algerian and Algerian.
Algeria, an indispensable actor for
Euro-Mediterranean and African stability, can lead to a process of inseparable
reforms of a profound democratisation of its society. In the business world,
feelings do not exist, only reforms will allow economic growth and the
reduction of the nagging problems of unemployment and poverty. Any obstacle to
these reforms only decreases the rate of growth, increases the country’s
insecurity and, Over there, contributes to social and political
destabilization. Time being money, any delay in the process of reforms could
result in more important social costs that could be supported by the most
A strategic vision to surpass a
It is time to have foresight in the
medium and long term, in order to correct the mistakes of the past, like
navigating on sight by ignoring the aspirations of society.
The strategic question is: shall we
go towards a real salutary change by reorganizing society, due to the global
geostrategic upheavals announced between 2019-2025-2030 or, thanks to the
passive distribution of the annuity, shall we simply replaster, postponing the
inevitable social tensions?
These are important enough reasons to
seriously consider reorganizing the partisan system and civil society so that
they can fulfil the function that is them in any democratic political system
that reconciles modernity with our authenticity, far from administrative
The redesign of the state, including
administration, integration of the informal sphere, reforms of financial,
fiscal, customs and socio-educational systems, new mechanisms of regulation and
social cohesion, optimisation of the effect of public expenditure and the new
management of infrastructures based on the rationalization of budget choices…
and pose the problem of the future of the Algerian economy so as to reconnect
it with growth and, consequently, to alleviate unemployment.
As I have often recalled, in this
month of February 2019 – and this is not today – Algeria is going through a crisis
of governance, which implies having a strategic vision of the future of Algeria
on the 2030 horizon.
Algeria needs for its national and
international credibility, geostrategic tensions at the level of the region and
the inevitable budgetary tensions between 2019-2020-2025 to bring all its
children into their diversity and not to divide us, requiring a minimum of
economic and social consensus that could not mean unanimism, a sign of
decadence of any society in order to stabilise the social body.
The reforms – beyond the natural
resistance of the pensioners – by rehabilitating good governance (the fight
against corruption, in concrete terms and not only by legislation) and human
capital, are the basis for development. The cries of youth in these months of
February and March 2019 for a profound change must be heard so that Algeria can
meet the challenges of the 21st century characterized, in this constantly
interdependent world, by major geostrategic upheavals in the security,
economic, political, social and cultural fields.
Faced with the inevitable budgetary
tensions and the geostrategic stakes of 2019-2025-2030, the success of the
reforms must be based on four axes: gathering, rebasing of the state,
democratisation and economic reforms accommodating economic efficiency and
profound social justice.
Do not panic! This is not about telling you how
your bank accounts and pension funds have been used to finance the production
of nuclear bombs (they call it ‘investment’).
Nor it is about the four dozens of major and minor
wars that the so-called “traditional weapons,” which are being
manufactured and exported by civilised, democratic countries, continue to
It is not about the irrational depletion of natural
resources, the destruction of forests, the massive provision of arms to “rebel
groups’ to burn entire villages, rape girls and women, and recruit child
soldiers in more than one African country, for the sake of ‘cleaning’ the mines
area for big multinationals to continue extracting precious minerals which
serve to produce more (and more expensive) smartphones. Not even it is about
how today’s youth will see more plastic than fish in all seas.
More: this article will not focus on the moral and
intellectual bankruptcy of so many mediocre apprentices of self-called
‘politicians’, who embrace dangerous fanaticisms while, in some ‘very
democratic’ countries, calling their own selves “centre-right” (some
dare saying they are simply “centre”), slipping further into
Nor it is about those so many States which were
once net exporters of emigrants (Italy, Spain, Greece, etc), but which now
stand as die-hard enemies of immigrants… all under the pretext of the
“crisis” they have created and the resulting high unemployment rates,
and “national security,” post-truth arguments.
Let alone big powers such as the United States,
which have been entirely built up by migrants at the easy cost of exterminating
the original, native populations. What to say about Canada? And Australia…?
Now those migrants who are forced to flee created
armed conflicts, impoverishment, climate change (which they did not contribute
to generate), are easy prey to arbitrary measures – walls, fences, and shame
pacts to send them to detention centres and slavery markets in countries like
So, what the hell is this article all about? Well,
it is about a scarce handful of examples on the biggest damages the so-called
globalisation has caused to human species.
Let’s begin with the term globalisation itself, a
process that was somehow formalised in the beginning of the 80’s with the
performance on power stage of British “Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher and US
actor who became President, Ronald Reagan.
The Iron Lady-Premier and the Actor-President
represented the visible face of the also so-called ‘neo-liberalism’, which in
poor, simple words has led to the steady dismantlement of all aspects of
painfully gained social welfare services – from public healthcare, to
retirement pensions, through the suppression of workers rights, labour unions,
public education and a very long etcetera. In short, it was about turning back
to the Victorian era.
Instead, neo-liberalism rapidly paved the way to a
wild wave of privatisation, the supremacy of the uncontrolled marked rules,
record-high youth unemployment rates, abysmal inequalities…
Let alone infinite greed, including the unleashing
of endless wars, for the sake of keeping happy gigantic weapons industry and
the business of ‘reconstruction’ of destroyed countries, all in exchange of
their generous funding for electoral campaigns.
This Anglo-saxon neo-liberal hegemony soon
contagioned European States, which rapidly adapted their ‘values’ to those new
ones coming from Washington and London. Business as usual for Europeans, some
Rather than providing a longish list of documented,
figure-supported examples of what such process has meant at the macro and
micro-economic levels, this quick, chaotic tale modestly pretends to focus on
some of its biggest impacts on human beings. Human beings that are now
considered as mere numbers of ‘voters’ (mind you not any more ‘electors’).
One point is that the term globalisation has
consistently been systematically given positive connotations, while it could be
rightfully interpreted as a process of gradual “monetisation” and even
“dollaristaion” of livelihoods, and soon became an aggressive ‘massification’
of imported habits, blind consumption, hysterical greed, irrational imitation,
the death of what used to be considered ‘truth’ (the post-truth era), the
dominance of disinformation and misinformation (the ‘fake news’).
In the course of this process, the so-called “low
classes” have been provided with easy bank credits to purchase houses, last
model of cars, travel across the world… Psychologically, this led them to
believe that they had become “middle class” and later on “high middle class”,
thus approaching the enviable status of “high class.”
Then came the crisis. With it, the most vulnerable
groups, falsely transformed in privileged groups, lost everything—the loans,
the houses, the cars, travelling, etc.
One of the most dramatic consequences is the loss
of identity—both individual and collective identity. Simply, identity has
Such a dangerous consequence is now being rapidly
aggravated by the arrival of hi-tech products—robots replacing humans.
Sorry for this quick, chaotic tale about some of
the most perilous impacts of the globalisation process that, according to some
interpretations, would be now dismantled. The fact is such massification
appears to have no end.
In exchange, the ‘voters’ hare now being told that
they will receive, sooner or later, a basic income (also called unconditional
basic income, citizen’s income, basic income guarantee, universal basic income
or universal demo-grant), which implies that all citizens or residents of a
country will regularly receive an unconditional sum of money, in addition to
any income received from elsewhere.
According to its defenders, this would be financed
by the profits of publicly owned enterprises. A difficult exercise given that
the private sector has been taking over the roles of the states, which have
been gradually dismantled.
way, the citizens will be kept alive, will complain less about the evident
failure of governments to create job opportunities, while doing what they are
expected to do: that’s to consume all what industries produce and, by the way,
continue playing their role as ‘voters’ (not electors, mind you again!).
Baher Kamall is an Egyptian-born, Spanish national, secular journalist, with over 45 years of professional experience — from reporter to special envoy to chief editor of national dailies and an international news agency. Baher is former Senior Advisor to the Director general of the international news agency IPS (Inter Press Service) and he also contributed to prestigious magazines such as GEO, Muy Interesante, and Natura, Spain. He is also publisher and editor of Human Wrongs Watch.
In North Africa’s political spheres, Algeria’s Bouteflika reaching his mandate end by April, stepping down from rule looks more like a bet placed on his health condition than any constitutional arrangement.
In next door Tunisia, the president has a history of brain strokes that also placed him on a wheelchair.
Youssef Cherifwrote on January 9th, 2019 that Less
than a year before the next general election, scheduled for late 2019, Tunisia
is again in crisis. The Arab world’s most promising democratic experiment can
still avert a political meltdown, but it needs help.
TUNIS – When anti-government protests swept across
the Arab world in 2011, Tunisia seemed poised to emerge better off. Yet, by
2013, the democratic process was almost derailed by unfulfilled economic
promises, political and ideological disagreements, and foreign meddling.
Fortunately, local and international mediation then helped to avert catastrophe and
pave the way for elections.
But less than a year before the next general
election, scheduled for late 2019,
the country is again in crisis. This time, however, mediators are either
disinterested in solutions or part of the problem. In a world focused on the
war in Syria, instability in Libya, Russian assertiveness, European
uncertainty, and the tweets of an isolationist American president, Tunisia has
faded from the headlines. Tunisia’s democratic breakdown would, one assumes,
attract international attention; but by then, it will be too late.
The current stalemate began soon after the December
2014 presidential election. In February 2015, President Beji Caid Essebsi,
founder of the secular political party Nidaa Tounes, struck a deal with Rached
Ghannouchi, president of the moderate Islamist Ennahda Party, to form a coalition government.
But soon after, Nidaa Tounes was beset by infighting and, in January 2016,
dozens of the party’s MPs resigned in protest, giving Ennahda a parliamentary majority.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Youssef Chahed, Essebsi’s
protégé and appointee, has been challenging the 92-year-old president’s inner
circle, throwing Nidaa Tounes further into chaos. By
mid-2018, as the party’s turmoil peaked, Ghannouchi was supporting Chahed
rather than the president’s son and groomed heir, Hafedh Caid Essebsi. The
president, reacting either to a sense of betrayal or out of fear for his
legacy, responded by renewing his criticism of Ennahda and
by launching an investigation into allegations that Ghannouchi’s party is tied to terrorism.
Moreover, Essebsi and his clan embraced populist
rhetoric and restarted courting the anti-Islamist
Saudi-Emirati-Egyptian axis. Essebsi even endorsed a law to give
men and women equal inheritance rights, a measure that is supported by many
secular Tunisians and praised by the international community, but loathed by
Ennahda’s conservative base.
In a well-functioning democracy, an early election
would have been called in September 2018, when the governing coalition felt apart,
and perhaps as early as 2016, when Nidaa Tounes lost its majority in
parliament. But most Tunisian political parties suffer too much dissension or
are too weak to run. And the current ructions are even jeopardizing the work of
High Authority for Elections.
Tunisia’s political crisis is occurring alongside
an economic one. As Tunisia has moved from a controlled economy under
dictatorship to a transitional one marked by austerity measures and structural
reforms dictated by the International
Monetary Fund, corruption has spread and investors have fled. Today,
with public debt, unemployment, and inflation growing, strikes and protests are
increasingly common, and support for democracy – frequently
portrayed as the cause of the current tumult – has dwindled.
Ennahda, an economically liberal party that draws
important support from informal economic circles and outside the public sector,
backed the IMF’s economic reforms; the Tunisian General Labor Union (UGTT),
which represents public-sector workers, did not. Leftists and many remnants of
the former regime were also opposed. Chahed, meanwhile, was aggressive in
implementing the IMF-backed reforms, in part to win support from abroad. But
his approach put the UGTT, alongside old-guard politicians and some key
socioeconomic groups, on the same side as Essebsi. In fact, the UGTT led the
mediations during the crisis of 2013.
Foreign influence is another destabilizing factor.
Today, Tunisia is a geopolitical battlefield
for regional powers like Egypt, Turkey, and the Gulf states, and Tunisian
politicians occasionally take sides to suit their suitors’ goals. Broadly
speaking, Saudi Arabia and the UAE demonize Tunisia’s democracy and Ennahda,
while Qatar and Turkey laud both. Both camps have their clients in the country.
These players amplify coup rumors and delegitimize Tunisia’s political
independence, which adds to the public’s distrust
of the government. Back in 2013, the US, Europe, and Algeria limited the reach
of these countries. Ironically, in 2018, it is the US, the EU, and Algeria that
are rattled by internal divisions and terrified of foreign interference.
History holds many lessons for those navigating
Tunisia’s tumult, with some particularly apt parallels to be found in Russia’s
post-Soviet transition. There, during his final years in power, a weakened
Boris Yeltsin sought to secure his presidential legacy and save his family from prosecution. Hence, the
so-called “father of Russian democracy”
appointed then-Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a former KGB officer, to succeed
him. Russia’s democracy never recovered.
Tunisia’s infighting and nepotistic policies have a
similar feel. The Arab world’s most promising democratic experiment can still
avert a political meltdown, but it needs help. Local and international
mediators guided Tunisia from turmoil once before. They must do so again.
From Brussels to Basra, gilets jaunes have brought visibility to people and their grievances per Jon Henley, The Guardian’s European affairs correspondent published on December 21, 2018, is the story of a movement that is increasingly apparent throughout the world and in particular in the MENA region .
Within days the campaign had
gathered 200,000 backers and spawned hundreds of local spinoffs across the
country; two weeks later, a video urging motorists to display their hi-vis
yellow vests behind their windscreens in solidarity garnered 4m views.
The gilets jaunes, named
after the vest drivers are required to carry in their vehicles, were born, and
since 17 November, the movement’s first nationwide day of action, its
sustained, sometimes violent protests have rocked France.
But not only France.
Mostly leaderless, unstructured and organised on social media, “yellow vest”
demonstrations have multiplied internationally, from Belgium to Bulgaria,
Serbia to Sweden and Israel to Iraq.
The popular anti-establishment
insurrection by France’s squeezed middle, living mostly in rural or
deindustrialised areas and small or medium-sized towns far from the globalised
cities where the wealth of the 21st century is increasingly concentrated, has
found a global echo.
As in France, where it has
overwhelming public support, these diverse national movements have brought together
people with disparate demands and political views but one overriding and common
complaint: they cannot make ends meet.
“If the hike in the price of
fuel triggered the yellow vest movement, it was not the root cause,” said the geographer Christophe Guilluy. “The
anger runs deeper, the result of an economic and cultural relegation that began
in the 80s … Western elites have gradually forgotten a people they no longer
Cheap, readily available,
easily identifiable and above all representing an obligation imposed by the
state, the the yellow hi-vis vest itself has proved an inspired choice of
symbol and has plainly played a big part in the movement’s rapid spread.
“The point, remember, of the
yellow vest is to ensure its wearer is visible on the road,” Guilluy said. “And
whatever the outcome of this conflict, the gilets jaunes have won in terms of
what really counts: the war of cultural representation. Working-class and lower
middle-class people are visible again.”
The revolt spread first to French-speaking Belgium, where
400 people have been arrested over the past few weeks as police used teargas
and water cannon to disperse crowds pelting them with flares, cobblestones and
billiard balls, and setting cars and trucks alight in Brussels, Charleroi, and
Dismissive, like their
counterparts in France, of all their country’s established parties, Belgium’s
gilets jaunes, who have demanded the resignation of the prime minister,
Charles Michel,aim to launch a Mouvement citoyen belge (Belgian
citizens’ movement)to compete innext year’s European and
Belgian federal elections.
There have been largely peaceful
yellow vest protests in half a dozen Dutch cities including Rotterdam, where marcher Ieneke
Lambermont said her children had to “pay taxes everywhere, and can’t get
housing anymore”. Things were “not going well in Dutch society”, she said. “The
social welfare net we grew up with is gone.”
In Italy an anti-austerity,
anti-EU protest group inspired by the gilets jaunes has garnered thousands of supporters online and
plans a large rally in January, while in Spain Facebook groups of chalecos
amarillos plan to begin demonstrating in Madrid in the new year because
“it’s worse here than in France”.
Protesters wearing yellow vests in Bulgaria, the
EU’s poorest member, have blocked major roads including the border crossings
with Turkey and Greece, demanding not just cheaper fuel and higher living
standards but the departure of a government they likened to “the mafia”.
A civil rights organisation and far-right
politicians have adopted yellow vests – for different reasons – in Serbia,
while beyond Europe gilets jaunes protests have also occurred in Canada (over the UN migration pact), Israel and Jordan (over corruption and the high
cost of living).
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Here are the wise words of the guru-to-be named Idriss Jazairy, Executive Director of the Geneva Centre for the Advancement of Human Rights and Global Dialogue. These words are more likely to be of some use in the MENA region where there are presently numerous “Challenges ahead for the fourth estate.”
Media has the power to transform societies through enhancing enlightenment and active citizenry. Observers occasionally refer tothe media as the fourth estate owing to its influential role to furtherenhancing the plurality of opinions and ideas. A free press is indispensablefor facilitating good governance and transparency. It strengthens theaccountability of governments as citizens can critically assess the activitiesof incumbents through information provided by the media. It is indispensablefor facilitating good governance and transparent societies.
Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights defends
freedom of expression and the right to information. It enables press freedom to
become a reality: “Everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and
expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference
and to seek, receive and impart information and ideas through any media and
regardless of frontiers.”
Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) has been quoted as saying
that “the ink of the scholar is holier than the blood of the martyr.”
However, significant challenges lie ahead limiting freedom of the press.
Firstly, journalists have had at times to pay a high toll for the expression of
truth as they see it. Thus according to the Committee to Protect Journalists, more than
1,300 journalists have been killed since 1992. Among these victims,
approximately 65% were murdered, 22% perished owing to crossfire and combat,
whereas 12% lost their lives owing to dangerous assignments. Many of those
deaths remain unresolved and perpetrators are rarely brought to justice as “complete
impunity” prevails in more than 80% of the cases.
The 2017 World Press Freedom report issued by
Reporters Without Borders likewise suggests that violent extremism has put
significant constraints on the ability of the press to operate freely and carry
out their duties. The conflicts in Yemen, Libya, Iraq and Syria, the report
underlines, have enabled insurgents to create black holes for reporting.
Journalists have the right to work free from the
threat of violence and free from the threat of fear in their capacity as
transmitters of information to the public. Their lives should not be put at
stake for merely putting Article 19 of the 1948 Universal Declaration into
Secondly, the accountability of media needs to be
strengthened so that it represents the public’s interests. After the so-called
“War on Terror”, hate speech and online bigotry have rapidly been on the
rise targeting specifically religious minorities. This has been followed by a
misconceived conflation between terrorism, Islam and the Arab identity, which
has given rise to marginalization, bigotry and discrimination.
In the context where social media contributes to
the dissemination of fake news without accountability, traditional media have
an important role to play to promote awareness of false and inaccurate
information. They may enlighten world public opinion by offering alternative
narratives on contentious issues contributing to plurality of views and
offering a voice to the voiceless.
At the 25 June 2018 World Conference on “Religions,
Creeds and Value Systems: Joining Forces to Enhance Equal Citizenship Rights”
held at the United Nations Office in Geneva (UNOG) under the Patronage of HRH
Prince El Hassan bin Talal of the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan, it was suggested
by the panellists to better harness the power of media by promoting positive
stories about religion and culture.
It was also proposed that we, as global citizens,
should never fear the stranger as differences enrich our societies. Media can
play a more influential role in addressing prevailing misconceptions and
misunderstandings that exist between people. The use of contemporary phobic
language triggering social exclusion and religious intolerance is a threat to
democracy and to diversity. Incitements to hatred, violence and bigotry should
be condemned as it exacerbates religious divisions within communities. It also
gives rise to a populistic tidal wave that is taking root in several countries.
Media has a “moral and social responsibility”
in “combating discrimination and in promoting intercultural understanding
(…)” as stipulated in Principle 9 of the Camden Principles on Freedom
of Expression and Equality. By reversing the trend of offering simplistic and
misconceived generalizations not grounded in reality, media can become a
catalyst for social inclusion by promoting a culture of peace, harmony and
tolerance. This would be in line with the objectives laid out in the 2002 “Rabat Plan of Action on the prohibition of
advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to
discrimination, hostility or violence” and in UN HRC Resolution 16/18 entitled “Combating
intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination,
incitement to violence, and violence against persons based on religion or
belief” that condemns “any advocacy of religious hatred that constitutes
incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, whether it involves the
use of print, audio-visual or electronic media or any other mean.”
Societies that demonstrate respect for press freedom and the safety and
freedom of journalists will make a valuable contribution to the fulfilment of
the provisions set forth in SDG 16 on Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions of
the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.