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Is There a Path to Democracy in the Arab World?

April 26, 2018

Salam Fayyad, Former Prime Minister, Palestinian National Authority
Moderated by Vali Nasr, Dean of Johns Hopkins SAIS

Salam Fayyad visited the school to speak about the underlying issues that led to the Arab Spring movement beginning in 2010. He said the region's economy is largely tied to the oil market, thus the significant decline in oil prices in recent years had a negative impact on the economies of Arab nations. He noted the region has been suffering from major economic weakness for a long time, creating a long-running youth unemployment problem which has contributed to the unrest of the Arab Spring.

On the topic of economic restructuring, Fayyad said the government revenue base is not sufficiently diversified and still dependent on oil. It is crucial for policymakers to think of ways to generate more government revenue because democracy is attainable when governance issues are addressed, Fayyad said.

Answering questions from the audience, Fayyad discussed pluralism as a feature supporting democracy, given that it is difficult for the state to act autocratically if the government is comprised of a multiplicity of factions, introducing a layer of accountability. Fayyad noted that democracy in the US has been a work in progress and the concepts for a dual or multiple-state system for the Palestinians should be given the opportunity to adapt and improve as well.

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