After a decade of democratic regression and backlash, there is a refreshing optimism afoot that the Arab world – for so long a stubborn redoubt of authoritarian rule – may at last see the flowering of freedom and the genuine, long-postponed empowerment of its peoples.
The political turbulence across the Arab world has “dramatically recast” expectations of democratic development, a leading practitioner notes. The experience of previous democratizations can be instructive, but not all transitions lead to positive outcomes and may even empower anti-democratic actors.
Haiti provides an example of “transitions to nowhere” despite at least seven transitions and various interventions by the international community over the last 25 years, writes the National Endowment for Democracy’s Georges Fauriol.
“Haiti has been a particularly frustrating experience with several failed or aborted transitions creating the conditions of instability that enable anti-democratic forces to take the upper hand,” he contends.
Activists in Egypt and Tunisia are starting to appreciate the obstacles to converting the energy and idealism of a protest movement into tangible political organizations and durable democratic institutions.
Haiti has been there before.
“The real challenge is not an absence of ideas but an ability to turn ideas into reality,” writes Fauriol.