Chapter 2: Middle East Arab States and Society: Fragmentation and Change
There is a substantial lag between Arab countries and other regions in terms of participatory governance. The wave of democracy that transformed governance in most of Latin America and East Asia in the 1980s and Eastern Europe and much of Central Asia in the late 1980s and early 1990s has barely reached the Arab States. This freedom deficit undermines human development and is one of the most painful manifestations of lagging political development. While de jure acceptance of democracy and human rights is enshrined in constitutions, legal codes and government pronouncements, de facto implementation is often neglected and, in some cases, deliberately disregarded. In most cases, the governance pattern is characterized by a powerful executive branch that exerts significant control over all other branches of the state, being in some cases free from institutional checks and balances. Representative democracy is not always genuine and sometimes absent. Freedoms of expression and association are frequently curtailed. Obsolete norms of legitimacy prevail. Arab Human Development Report 2002 This chapter will examine the character of contemporary Arab Middle East society, its dynamics, and the impact of the divisions within Arab society on its responses to a globalizing world. It will also examine how different segments of Arab society have demonstrated varying levels of capacity to adapt to challenges, in a culture which is in many respects highly resistant to change. That applies particularly, but not only, to change which is seen as externally-imposed. FORMAL STRUCTURES: ARAB LEADERS AND GOVERNMENTS Arab states have played key...
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