The Arab Spring and its truncated aftermath raise many important questions about political reform. Citizenship and rights, in particular, form an important area of concern in light of the obstacles to wholesale democratization and to the reform of formal institutional structures in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). As most regimes have pushed back strongly against societal pressure for political opening, many reformers hope that active citizenship can compensate for the lack of progress in other areas. One of the few enduring legacies of the flowering of democratic activism in 2011 is citizens’ search for more active involvement in decisions that affect their day-to-day lives — even as the prospect of democratization has receded in most states. This has engendered much debate over how citizens across the region understand rights — and whether they seek a concept of citizenship that is distinct to the region.
Emiliano Alessandri, Non-Resident Fellow, German Marshall Fund; Rosa Balfour, European Program,German Marshall Fund; Nicolas Bouchet, European Programme, German Marshall Fund