UNESCO Chair of Comparative Research in Cultural Diversity and Social Justice, Professor Fethi Mansouri, was keynote speaker at the Trump and the Middle East conference on October 30 held at Deakin University in Burwood.

In Professor Mansouri’s presentation, titled ‘End of the Spring? The Democratic Challenge in the Middle East Post-Arab Spring’, he began with contextual background on the democratisation of Arab Spring countries before arguing that the Arab Spring was a consequence of two diverging forces–the poor transition to a Euro-centric model of democracy and the inability of these systems of governance to revert back to their former ways.

He deliberated over four key variables that determine democratic transitions: civil society, role of military institutions, religious/political nexus and external influences using Tunisia, Egypt and Libya as examples. Focusing his paper on Tunisia as a case study, he argues the political transition has thus far defied the odds (a progressive new constitution, a consensus approach to politics, and successful general elections at the local, legislative and presidential levels).

Moreover, he noted nascent Tunisian democracy still faces serious challenges relating to ongoing political instability in the region, ideological struggles around transitional justice, economic problems, and difficulties in reforming some of the key institutions– in particular around local governance, constitutional institutions and the sustainability of key social support funds. In conclusion, he reported on a research which examined Tunisian youth leaders and the level of their engagement with civil society.