Middle East Turmoil Shows Risks of Ignoring Civil Society

   •    February 18, 2011

This article was originally published by Thomson Reuters Foundation.

For too long, the vast majority of foreign policy analyses have focused myopically on the positions and actions of government leaders. But as the popular call for change continues in the Middle East, the international community must recognise how centrally important non-governmental actors can be in shaping world affairs. Until that happens, the United Nations and countries around the world will continue to be caught flat-footed when civil society flexes it muscles.

It is not actually news that civil society can have enormous influence and impact. Today we’re reading about the Middle East where civil society has, thus far, pushed the longtime leaders of Tunisia and Egypt from power, forced a hasty cabinet reshuffling in Jordan, extracted a promise from the President of Yemen not to run again, received commitments to political reform from several states, and ushered in a Palestinian agreement to hold local elections.

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