Isobel Coleman discusses transitions to democracy and market economies in this academic conference call as part of CFR’s Academic Conference Call series.
This podcast originally appeared on CFR.org, April 10, 2013
This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy, April 9, 2013
The recent BRICS summit in Durban, South Africa concluded with its first tangible outcome since the countries began meeting formally five years ago: The commitment to create a new BRICS development bank. What more do we know about this ambitious project? Not much. So below are ten questions to consider as the bank takes shape.
This podcast originally appeared on CFR.org, April 5, 2013
Isobel Coleman and James M. Lindsay, Senior Vice President and Director of Studies at the Council on Foreign Relations, discuss Secretary of State John Kerry’s trip to East Asia, President Obama’s forthcoming budget proposal, and former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak’s re-trial in Cairo in this CFR.org podcast .
This article originally appeared in Foreign Policy, March 21, 2013
With another meeting earlier this week in Cairo, the Egyptian government continues its tortuous negotiations with the IMF about a $4.8 billion loan. The loan discussions have been ongoing for nearly two years, since soon after the fall of President Mubarak in February 2011. During that time, Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have declined from roughly $36 billion to only $13 billion today, and the country faces an increasingly severe balance of payments crisis. It is literally running out of hard cash — a dire problem since it imports much of its food and fuel. Egypt currently has less than 90 days of supply in its strategic wheat stock, an unnervingly small safety net for the world’s largest wheat importer.
Despite a growing sense of urgency, the Egyptian government has not been able, or willing, to close a deal with the IMF. In fact, in the most recent round of talks, the government back-pedaled away from the set of economic reforms it put on the table last November, and now proposes more gradual steps to combat its fiscal deficit. Among the major sticking points with the IMF is Egypt’s costly and unsustainable regime of subsidies, which currently consumes close to a third of the government’s budget.
While it is widely recognized that food and fuel subsidies are expensive and inefficient, Egyptian leaders do not want to touch the political third rail of subsidy reform. Who can blame them? Seared into the memory of just about every Egyptian politician is the winter of 1977, when bread riots nearly toppled the government of Anwar Sadat. At the behest of the IMF, Sadat tried to roll back state subsidies on food staples and cooking fuel. It took the army — and the re-imposition of the subsidies — to restore order, but not before scores had died and hundreds of buildings had been sacked.
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, March 21, 2013
Although the Internet seems ubiquitous, for many people in the developing world it is barely a reality—and women are left behind at greater rates than men.
An extensive report from Intel and Dalberg Global Development Advisors, “Women and the Web,” quantifies the Internet gender gap, explains some factors contributing to it, and proposes ways to tackle it. The report estimates “that 21 percent of women and girls in developing countries have access to the Internet, while 27 percent of men have access. This represents 600 million women and girls online—200 million fewer than men and boys.” Because of the spread of the Internet, an additional 450 million women and girls will likely become connected in the next few years, but the report’s authors believe that with the right interventions, an additional 150 million women could get connected. (more…)
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, March 19, 2013
Saudi watchers have for years debated the stability of the kingdom. In the 1960s, with internecine rivalries dividing the royal family and the kingdom struggling to pay its debts, some American diplomats predicted that the House of Saud wouldn’t last but a few more years. When extremists took control of the Grand Mosque in Mecca in 1979, pundits warned that Saudi Arabia’s monarchy, like that of the Shah in Iran, would be the next to fall to religious revolution. In recent years, as the Arab revolutions have swept the Middle East, new questions about Saudi stability, especially given the limitations of its ruling gerontocracy, have come to the fore. Karen Elliott House, in her recent book On Saudi Arabia, paints a dire picture of a “disintegrating society, and the deterioration is only accelerating.”
Is time quickly running out on the House of Saud, or will the kingdom somehow manage to muddle through? The answer to that question lies in large part with the next generation. Sixty-four percent of Saudi Arabia’s nearly twenty million people are under the age of thirty; the largest youth cohort includes those who are currently only twelve to sixteen years old. Saudi youth are avid Internet and social media users (YouTube use in Saudi Arabia rose 260 percent in 2012, versus an average of 50 percent growth internationally), and are more connected to the outside world than ever before. Moreover, an unprecedented number of Saudi students – some 145,000—are currently studying abroad in thirty countries around the world, nearly half of them in the United States. How will this younger generation shape the future of their country?
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, March 14, 2013
Cardinal Jorge Mario Bergoglio wasn’t quite the bold choice many were hoping for in a new pope. Personally, I was rooting for a younger, more out-of-the-box possibility like Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana. At 76, Pope Francis is on the older side and faces not only a demanding role as global leader of the world’s 1.2 billion Catholics, but also the myriad challenges of a secretive institution that has not fully confronted the depth of its scandals. At a minimum, he will need the blessing of stamina. (more…)
This article originally appeared on Middle East Voices, March 12, 2013
“It is time for an uprising of women in the Arab world,” writes Hanin Ghaddar, managing editor of NOW News in Lebanon in the second annual publication to mark International Women’s Day by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. (more…)
This article originally appeared on Wilson Center Middle East Program, March 8, 2013
In the chaos of political change in the MENA region today, women face a number of security challenges, from rising lawlessness to backsliding on legal rights. But the rising incidence of politically motivated sexual violence against women is especially worrying, particularly in Egypt where women have been the victims of horrible and systematic mass sexual assaults. (more…)
This article originally appeared on her blog Democracy in Development, March 8, 2013
This week at the Council on Foreign Relations, I hosted two women’s rights leaders visiting New York from Libya and Egypt for the UN’s Commission on the Status of Women (CSW). The two leaders, Zahra Langhi and Fatemah Kafaghy, are participating in the CSW as part of a delegation from Karama, a nonprofit that aims to empower Arab women leaders. (more…)