Dialogue in North Africa Offers Opportunity to Discuss a Way Forward for Social Change

The workshop was intended to discuss in detail the context under which the Arab Spring took place

Leading scholars and members of civil society gathered in Tunisia to debate critical issues related to the recent social and political unrest in various parts of North Africa during a workshop entitled “Major Drivers of Social Change in Africa—Overview and a Way Forward.” The workshop, organized by TrustAfrica (http://www.trustafrica.org), a Pan-African foundation dedicated to supporting equitable development and democratic governance on the continent, brought together researchers, university professors, activists and civil society practitioners both to discuss and challenge existing practices related to social change.

 

Africa continues to face daunting challenges in terms of governance issues. While the events during the recent “Arab Spring” opened the door for popular movements promoting democracy and citizen-focused efforts to challenge existing government norms, the growth in citizen confidence and agency is not universally welcomed. Some governments feel the expanding civic space poses a threat to their previously unfettered control and hegemony. In several countries, governments have adopted autocratic and authoritarian responses to citizens’ demands for more transparency and accountability while others stealthily seek to lengthen their terms in office. A number of governments have also introduced legislation designed to constrain, weaken, or even close down civil society organizations. Without doubt, this democratic recession poses a major threat to Africa’s future stability and development.

The workshop was intended to discuss in detail the context under which the Arab Spring took place, and provide a platform for a dialogue between countries in North Africa and sub-Saharan Africa. Participants were drawn from Algeria, Egypt, Libya, Mauritania, Morocco, Tunisia, Mozambique, and Senegal. During the workshop there was a clear demand for more platforms like these, as well as the need to network the youth across the various countries of Africa. The youth are a critical factor to pay attention to during this time in Africa’s history.

There were deep discussions also on religion and how it has been politicized. Another theme that came through strongly was that of the “post-modern coup.” This new form of coup involves tactics by dictators on regulating the social media and using that space to target social activists.

In addition to the workshop, the meeting offered an opportunity for a preview of a new book edited by TrustAfrica. The book, entitled (Dis)Enabling the Public Sphere: Civil Society Regulation in Africa (Volume 2) is part of a three-volume series focused on the regulatory environment for civil society. Volume 2 focuses on North Africa and includes thematic discussions on the main drivers of change in the region, in particular, youth, women, religion and social media, based on the events that took place around the Arab Spring. The book builds on Volume 1, released in 2011, that focused on Southern Africa and some countries in Central and East Africa. A final volume covering West Africa is due out in 2013.

Distributed by the African Press Organization on behalf of Trustafrica.

For more information, please contact Sue Telingator, Communications Officer (in Senegal) at (221) 33 869 60 61 or by email at Telingator@trustafrica.org.

 

Source: TrustAfrica – Press Release – 28 June 2012