ROME – The term “spring” may suggest a gentle awakening, but what is happening in North Africa and the Middle East is a true revolution, fomented by a new, digitally-savvy generation. The Arab upheavals are a by-product of the inexorable process of globalization in the twenty-first century, with almost instantaneous communications and increasing contact with the West transforming social and economic expectations.
Only by fully understanding the demands and grievances of these Arab revolutionaries will the West be able to give the region appropriate support – and this support is critical. The Arab revolts have not been directed against the West – on the contrary, they have been fed by Western democratic principles and values – but they could yet produce a reactionary backlash.
There are three preconditions that Europe and the United States must meet to ensure the prevention of such a scenario. First, Western countries’ support must be unambiguous. The Arab peoples must see clearly that the EU and the US genuinely intend to sustain Arabs’ demands for democracy, freedom of speech, and economic opportunity. In short, the region’s people must have evidence of the West’s interest in establishing their right to human dignity and higher standards of living.
This means developing consistent policies and putting in place concrete measures aimed at favoring a peaceful transition to democracy. It also means isolating dictatorships across the region – even those governments traditionally considered to be Western allies and reliable economic and political partners.