In this piece, my colleagues and I discuss the rule of law challenges and opportunities facing the Middle East and North Africa in the wake of the upheaval and changes in Egypt, Tunisia and region:
Here is the summary (see the link above for the complete report):
- Popular uprisings throughout the Middle East and North Africa are demanding justice, security, and accountability— defining features of the rule of law.
- Constitutional reform is a priority, but it must be done by legitimate representatives of the people, not hangovers from the past. Principles of inclusivity, transparency, and participation must be at the heart of the process.
- Transitional justice must deliver justice for the victims of the former regimes but not impose victor’s justice. It must also mesh with Islamic justice where relevant.
- The legal debris of the past must be removed through a process of law reform, and steps must be taken to ensure that old ills, such as endemic corruption, do not reappear.
- Rising crime and retribution against security forces make it difficult to maintain security. But providing security as well as justice is vital if the new political orders are to maintain popular support.
So many things going on. Reading about Japan in the aftermath of the earthquake and tsunami, then the continuing concerns about nuclear contamination. It has helped to have relatives in the nuclear safety field who are sharing stats and scientific snippets that help put, however scary, the reality into perspective regarding the scope of the impact and long term widespread effects. As with every tragedy, there comes the opportunity to reflect and learn. The events in Japan can spark a discussion on how we use energy, ways of getting it, conserving it, alternative ways not yet tapped into and safety and environmental issues related to all forms of energy. The events in Japan can prompt introspection into our own capabilities to handle widespread disaster. I think about just two months ago when a snow storm basically threw our local power company into a tailspin. We were without power for four days and they were ill-equipped to handle it, whereas neighboring power companies were much better prepared. The events in Japan can also help us to look at our own fears and our reactions to fear. I read an interesting article about how the post traumatic stress and anxiety-related illnesses from a past nuclear accident were directly detrimental to the long term health of the affected community and, in some cases, more widespread than the harm directly caused from the radiation.
On top of this, we have changes sweeping the Middle East and North Africa. Just two days ago, we had the UN security council resolution related to Libya and the air and missile strikes that started yesterday. We are not sure where all that will lead. It would be easy to find ourselves spiraling into a cycle of anxiety and fear and withdrawing into our own insecurities. However, ideally, it would be seen as an opportunity to reconnect to our core, our families, friends and communities. Connect to what is most important to each of us. At the same time, an opportunity to connect to those in Japan and Libya and elsewhere, even if only by thought and reflection, to open up our hearts to them and sharing compassion.
On a front closer to home, the peace institute where I work, continues to be up in the air as to whether it will survive the current budget battles playing out in Congress. Today I was perusing Twitter and following the posts of a military guy in Afghanistan who tweeted that the peace institute’s budget is less than two of the Tomahawk missiles that hit Libya yesterday. It has been very interesting to me that some of the biggest and earliest supporters of the peace institute have been active military officers. No sooner had the amendment to zero out the budget been passed in the House, had very senior officers come out in support of the peace institute. It seems the military gets the critical importance of “soft power.” We need to have Tomahawk missiles. But for just about every solider I know, the hope is that we don’t have to use them. The hope is that soft power will help prevent conflicts before military intervention is required. Or if military intervention is required, that civilians and soft power can step in and help build peace. I have spent over a decade of my life actively working for peace. I have worked proudly with all groups: our military, other countries militaries, rebel groups, human rights advocates, police, judiciary, war widows, and civil society groups. They all see the possibilities of peace when a neutral institution, such as the peace institute, can quietly and effectively bridge the divides and find common ground. I just hope that in a moment of political gaming, the bridges that have been built are not left in ruin.