Friday, May 18, 2012

Energy & Politics: Clash of the Titans!

Energy’s main issue thus far is its intricate interference with politics and its dependency on the political will more than on the constructive determination to build a brighter future. The main aspect of geopolitics lately is the prevalence of oil produced energy rather than a shift towards renewable energy which market is mainly monopolized by Asian players. The reluctance of the US and its key partners in allowing the emerging economies to benefit from the promising energy market is politically driven, in sense that the willingness to preserve the lead for the major superpowers financially and in the field of technology is a key component of the economic and foreign policy of any nation provided the critical impact of these domains on the national interests of the state.

One should not pursue the delusional dream of idealistic change, nor should one believe in the purity of human kindness as there is only one factor which shape world decisions as we witness them today: economic determinism. No matter how concerned we are about nature or alarmed are states about natural resources depletion, the only currency which will buy a certain change environmentally is economic interest. Thus it is a time of political hypocrisy and world despotism we have to deal with, abiding by its laws and pursuing its working mechanisms. What ought to be done then? Playing with the devil in his playground is the way to defeat him. What the environmentalists and grass root activists need to realize is the necessity to engage in the financial and political arena in order to gain influence and power necessary to facilitate the emergence of noticeable changes.

My greatest ambition is to build an extensive network of organizations driven by a spirit of social entrepreneurship, with heavy investments in the business world and with consequent influence in the political field. We need to become efficient instead of remaining stuck in the unfruitful culture of protests and public noise. No one will ever listen to kids, and kids we are as of now in most of the world, shouting for the adoption of renewable energy while we are plainly ignorant of the financial and political constraints of such an energetic adventure.

Letting China exploit the market of alternative energies while the US is still pulled back by its oil dependency is an unforeseeable suicide the US as well as the world won’t allow due to political and economic weight of the western power. Since governments, according to this simple logic, cannot grant the environmentalists their long dreamed-of energetic vision, there is no choice but to change governments’ policies and politicians by either substituting them with the bright young activists who can secure a considerable portion of voting bases, or by extensively lobbying the decision makers and pressuring them through the conventional tools every activist ought to be trained upon.

 Mohamed Amine Belarbi

Sunday, May 13, 2012

How can individual rights be secured in the Mideast’s new reality?

 How can individual rights be secured in the Mideast’s new reality?

The Arab World has gone through a tempestuous period where regimes have been toppled and new social orders were established. What some observers advanced is the idea of the emergence of a new Arab World Order built upon ideals and values of democracy, liberalism and social solidarity. This new Arab World order, which rightly has been pinpointed as the catalyst of several world uprisings taking place in settings as different as the US, Spain, Kuwait and Greece, has shown to be a philosophy expanding beyond physical borders and cultural boundaries. It is indeed a mindset for people to adopt In order to make their voices heard, and bring about a change they see as necessary not only for social prosperity and political survival, but most importantly for justice and equity in rights and duties attribution. This essay attempts to draw and define the typical political, social, economic and religious features of this new Arab World Order, features which are critical for the development of an entrenched and efficient understanding and protection for individual rights of the citizen in the Arab World.

1.     Political

Politics is undeniably one of the main factors without which an Arab Spring couldn’t have seen light. Political dictatorship and totalitarianism has made it possible for a small elite of privileged politicians and businessmen to form an oligarchy of hidden actors who enjoyed pulling the strings of the political scene in the Arab world.  Making it a personal fantasy or an enjoyable chess game, these oligarchs not only drowned in their pleasure for power and control, but also forgot to dress an efficient strategy to sustain their grip on power when dark clouds pop from above. Decades of rule can be seen as a triumph for the political elite, but the servile subjects of yesterday are no more among the masses, instead giving place for a new social power to emerge with unconventional thoughts and defying opinions. The Youth has indeed been the unexpected factor in the equation of the Arab spring, a youth who managed to turn political consciousness and intellectual assiduity into an organized movement. The precedent generations, crumbling under illiteracy and poverty, have been unable to discern the blessings of an alternative system of power with just and fair attitude towards its people, yet the fully knowledgeable generation Y of today, geared up with liberalistic, democratic and socialist thoughts, made the unprecedented step of thinking outside what is available. “If it ain’t break, don’t fix it” was not good enough for High school and college graduates who wanted to construct a society striving for the best and asking nothing but social justice and advance. Now that it is clear for the Arab citizen and the world that the new rising power is the generation Y, it is big time to invest in it as the prominent agent of change. Youth have the potential to get involved in the political management of their respective nations now that the barriers of the deceased regimes are gone. Youth involvement or influence in politics can be a paradigm shift in our understanding of the role of the young generation in the socio-political spectrum. This can be achieve through various means ranging from political affiliation and activism among pre-constructed organisms such as parties, or through a more efficient engagement in the civil society which is a key player in sculpting the public opinion and the political arena of the country. Think tanks, though still not flourishing in the Arab World, can be the conciliatory bridge the youth have been looking forward to during the time of repression and autocracy. Being in the heart of decision making doesn’t necessarily require being part of the political game; it can instead be feasible through influence and through the power of suggestions and recommendations. Think tanks not only offer a platform for the young generation from where to have an impact on how the country is run, but also a template to stand on as the forefront of a social defense mechanism preventing the citizens’ rights to be coerced or alienated.

Youth have been side lined in favor of a closed and elitist branch of the Arab society, thus having no say in how the country operates or what the government priorities should be in the different social, economic and political domains. It is time for youth, however young and inexperienced they are, to expose their ideas and ideals on an open forum, and make from these opinion and recommendations a raw material able to be processed by the authorities in such a way that it becomes politically, socially and financially applicable. This way, the political individual rights of the youth are duly considered and the civil liberties of the citizen in the field of cooperative management of the nations’ affairs is taken care of.

2.     Socio-Economic

No one can disregard the power of the socio-economic conditions of a certain nation in influencing the observance of individual rights of the citizen. Not to fall in the trap of the economic determinism of the thinker Karl Marx, the socio-economic state of the Arab world have had a partial role in reversing the course of history in this part of the world. How can individual liberties be respected when people cannot provide for their keen and for themselves the resources to survive and live with dignity. A life without dignity is a life whose owner has nothing to lose, thus being prone in acting immorally toward society as a whole. Governments can turn the people servile through degrading socio-political conditions, yet it has always proven to be a short term policy as demonstrated by world regimes throughout history. Turning tough socio-economic conditions into a governance tool for decades is foolish strategy for regimes which aspire to eternal existence. A win-win situation imposes itself under the realm of the famous kingdom of Realpolitik: Let the government enrich itself, yet making sure that the people gain enough to not question the authority of the state. As bad as it may seem, it is unthinkable under the premises of the system of politics to imagine a government ideal enough to sacrifice its privileges for the sake of its people, especially that in the Arab political scene, as it is for the world political scene, most government officials are graduates of the economic university of life rather than matured products of strong political currents.
As Henry A. Wallace wisely stated: “Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.”
This is in conventional politics, yet, what we are seeing in the Arab world may turn out to be a redefinition of the principle of governance, and a way to sustain a vision of a government concerned with social welfare must be a process which involves the social spectrum side by side with the state. Here comes the economic and social vision for the Arab world: Social Entrepreneurship.
Social Entrepreneurship is the fuel for social advance and individual as well as social flourishing of the citizen. Allowing your subjects to locate and identify the problem, cure it and monetize it while benefiting the society alleviates the hardship the state has to face in order to solve the nations’ issues. Startups and businesses owned and operated by creative and brilliant youth in the Arab world can not only provide employment for society, but as well secures the individual rights of the citizen in owning properties, making money and generating revenue well spent and well invested for the sake of the individual and its social circle.  This strategy prevents the catastrophic emergence and creation of monopolies managed by the state or state empowered agents, thus preventing the economic welfare of the citizen from being targeted and sold for parties concerned by profit more than by the citizen satisfaction and well-being.

3.     Religion

What the Arab spring has shown to the entire world audience is that religion can indeed be the cement to consolidate society’s ranks rather than the fire which burns the social order down. Religion can be a tool for individual rights advance if approached strategically as it ought to. Structuring a political and social system which secures the religious rights of all its components can add credibility and trust to the usually strained relations between the state and its citizen. Youth come in the frame again as the torch bearers for religious understanding and interfaith respect. The Arab world, though mostly Muslim in essence, has been through the Arab uprising due to the engagement of all its religious constituents in one single vision: A future Arab world where rights protection prevail. There is nothing that can install cohesion and mutual respect in a society better than common difficulties which align everyone for a shared goal and conviction. The safety of the society, of the nation and of the individual far outweighs the religious differences that might arise, and thanks to the enlightened youth engagement in constructive cooperation regardless of religion affiliation, a new mindset has been conceived, a mindset that the new Arab reality ought to consolidate through the prioritization of individual rights protection mechanisms set and operated by progressive youth who believe in the appreciation of differences and the celebration of variances without which a dynamic society is doomed to collapse.

Mohamed Amine Belarbi
Cofounder: Arab Institute for Youth Policy Making                                                                               Founder: Moroccan Institute for Youth Policy Making