On December 17, 2010, a political uprising began in Tunisia that spread with varying force to most Arab countries, in what became known as the ‘Arab Spring’. By the end of February 2012, autocrats in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen, who had collectively held power for 127 years, had been deposed, and Syrian president Bashar al-Assad was fighting a war to remain in power, which he continues to do at the time of writing. The Arab Spring dramatically changed popular perceptions of socioeconomic development in the Arab world. Conventional wisdom had previously been shaped by the Arab Human Development Report 2002, the first in a continuing series produced by the United Nations Development Programme. Written by Arab scholars, it was a no-holds-barred indictment of economic, social, and political backwardness in the Arab world. American and European audiences received the report with tremendous enthusiasm. Time magazine (December 30, 2002) called it ‘the most important volume written in 2002’.
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