Archive

legitimacy

Al-Monitor published an article – authored by Uri Savir (Aug 30, 2015) – stating, among others, that “waiting for the international community has become synonymous with “waiting for Godot”, mostly because the peace process looks hopeless. It may be the case from a diplomat’s perspective, but researcher find this subject increasingly interested (if measured by the number of publications published in academic journals recently).
Two pieces from the Journal of Peacebuilding and Development (August 2015) – both are concerned with impacts and context of peacebuilding in Palestine:

Joanna Springer: Assessing Donor-driven Reforms in the Palestinian Authority: Building the State or Sustaining Status Quo

[Abstract] “Official development assistance for statebuilding provided to the Palestinian Authority (PA) has increasingly been focused on technocratic governance reforms that fail to address the root causes of conflict between Israel and Palestinians. A prime example is an emphasis on preparing mediumterm development plans despite the fact that the ongoing occupation prevents their effective implementation. The donor community is bound by the Fragile States Principles to strengthen state capacity to help prevent recurrence of conflict. Drawing on publicly available data and government documents, as well as interviews with stakeholders in PA development policy, this article identifies shortfalls in statebuilding strategy benchmarked against the Fragile States Principles. In order to fulfil their peacebuilding mandate, it is crucial for the donor community to address the role of the Government of Israel in governance failures in the occupied Palestinian territory and engage civil society more effectively.”

Ned Lazarus & Michelle I. Gawerc: The Unintended Impacts of ‘Material Support’: Us Anti-terrorism Regulations and Israeli/Palestinian Peacebuilding

“This briefing illustrates the problematic impacts of MSC regulations on peacebuilding through the examples of US-funded NGOs working in the Israeli-
Palestinian context. Drawing on testimonies from dozens of Israeli-Palestinian peacebuilding initiatives, the briefing highlights local NGO experiences with MSC regulations such as the Partner Vetting System (PVS) and the Anti-Terror Certification (ATC). As emphasised herein, the MSC regulatory regime complicates the struggles of peacebuilding organisations to attain legitimacy in their societies, affecting their ability to recruit participants, to build partnerships, and to achieve the impacts envisioned by donors and practitioners alike.”

Source and link: Journal of Peacebuilding & Development 10 (2), http://www.tandfonline.com/toc/rjpd20/current#.VeRNZfmqpVI

 

Advertisements

… this is how Adam Taylor started his article published in The Washington Post in early October. The article is an entertaining attempt to summarize the complexity of relations in the Middle East by collecting all those images, charts and graphs that have been drawn during the past years to explain the relations among various actors. One of the first such attempt was published in the Financial Times last year (22 August 2013):

A Short Guide to the Middle East (from Mr K N Al-Sabah)

 

This and the remaining eight attempts illustrates well why it is senseless to raise questions about the impacts or efficiency of foreign aid. The ‘civil society’, NGOs or the population in general are not part of the game. Not even in the graphic-drawing minds.

Jihadist friends and foes; The Economist, 15 September 2014

Jihadist friends and foes; The Economist, 15 September 2014

Source: Adam Taylor (2014) ‘9 attempts to explain the crazy complexity of the Middle East’, The Washington Post, 1 October, available at http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2014/10/01/9-attempts-to-explain-the-crazy-complexity-of-the-middle-east/

 

“The Palestinian-Israeli conflict remains the prism of pain through which most Arabs view the world” argues Shibley Telhami and concludes that “seen from the Arab side, this Israeli imperative entails exactly the sort of dominance that they reject and are revolting against; the very essence of the prism of pain through which Arabs view the world. In an era of Arab awakening, a half a billion Arabs and Muslims in the Middle East and North Africa find it impossible to accept the strategic domination of a country of 8 million, especially when they don’t accept the Israeli narrative for the absence of Palestinian-Israeli peace to begin with. And they see America, and to some extent other European countries, as providing the support to make this possible. [1] Telhami’s argument is underpinned not only by his own survey data, but  by the Arab Barometer (wave II) survey too. When asked whether the Arab world should accept the existence of Israel as a Jewish state, most respondents opted for the ‘refusal’:

Arab Barometer wave II, q709

Looking at the results, it is very interesting, although not novel, that people living in those countries that signed any sort of peace agreement with Israel (Egypt 1979, Jordan 1994; Palestine/PLO 1993-1994-1995-) do not think significantly differently that people living elsewhere. The only exception perhaps is Egypt which has one of the highest rate of approval (36,8%) and lowest rate of refusal (55,8%). The distinction being made between country, nation and state is of particular interest in the Middle East [2], and polling institutes should formulate a question on the ‘existence of [Egypt, Jordan, Saudi-Arabia] as an Arab State’ in the future.

Sources and further reading [1] S. Telhami (2013). The World Through Arab Eyes, Chapter 5.; [2] B. Lewis (1998) Multiple Identities in the Middle East, Chapter 3, 4, 5. NY: Schocken

People’s views and perceptions are needed to understand the relations between foreign aid and legitimacy. Negative perceptions on their governments’ performance and their ‘illegitimate’ foreign alliances will lead to decreasing feeling of community between the masses and the elites as well as decreasing legitimacy of the regime. Mainstream literature dealing with the demonstrators’ motivations and contemporary history of the Arab Spring analyzes the ‘explaining factors’ from various perspectives, putting emphasis on the middle class and structural transformation, the socio-economic hardships such as increasing food prices and high unemployment and the desire for regime strange or the importance of internet-based technological development.[1] Looking at the opinion polls, however, the Arab uprisings have been widely interpreted as uprisings against political tyranny over freedom and public participation as well as against the prevalence of human rights abuses.

Source: Telhami, The World Through, Chapter 6, Figure 6.1.

Source: Telhami, The World Through, Chapter 6, Figure 6.1.

The demand for human dignity explains much better the demonstrations than any desire to seize power. The main message of the Arab Spring was addressed not simply to their corrupt leaders, but to the world outside too: ‘decades of perceived humiliations at the hands of the West have left many Arabs with a wounded sense of national pride, but also a desire for political systems with elements of Western democracies’.[2] The sense of humiliation is explained by the contradiction hidden in the previous sentence. As long as the West is held responsible for supporting oppressive and authoritarian regimes in the MENA, it seems to be uneasy, even illegitimate, to cooperate with it. It is true even if the Arab Spring itself has been conditional on interactions with the West, global political consciousness, messages conveyed by NGO aid and mobile-, internet-based innovations. Cooperating with the Western countries is even more humiliating, since ‘the [Arab] socialists, the liberals and the pro-feminists are today closer to this West in [their] thinking and in [their] democratic and scholarly attitudes – [they are closer to the] West that plotted against the peoples of the Third World and their interests’ – than to their own leaders, internal opposition and their ideologies.[3] Yet, even if accepting foreign aid is humiliating, this is probably the only source of money for those being interested in building Western-style democracies in the region.

Source and further reading: [1] Brynen Beyond the Arab Spring; Mona Christophersen, ‘Protest and reform in Jordan. Popular demand and government response, 2011 to 2012’ Fafo-report 50 (Oslo: Fafo, 2013); Sobhi Samour, ‘The Promises and Limitations of Economic Protests in the West Bank’ in Kjetil Fossheim (ed), Arab Spring. Uprisings, Powers and Interventions (New York, Berghahn, 2014)[2] Telhami, The World Through Arab Eyes; [3] Sahar Khalifeh, ‘Who is Hidden Beneath the Burqa? An Appeal to the West’ Qantara.de, Goethe Institute, 2011, http://en.qantara.de/content/who-is-hidden-beneath-the-burqa-an-appeal-to-the-west (accessed March 1, 2014).

People living in the region – except for Egypt and Tunisia – were asked about their ‘demonstrating habits’ by Arab Barometer interviewers at the beginning of Arab Spring (the interviews were conducted at various times, between Autumn 2010 and Summer 2011, in the listed countries). Results show that the most rebellious people live in Sudan and Yemen, followed by Lebanon and Palestine. Yet, even in these countries ca. 75% of the adult population has not participated in any protest (between 2007-2010/2011).
arab barometer wave II, q5022

 

Mainstream literature dealing with the Arab Spring demonstrators’ motivations and contemporary history of the Arab Spring analyzes the ‘explaining factors’ from various perspectives, putting emphasis on the middle class and structural transformation, the socio-economic hardships such as increasing food prices and high unemployment and the desire for regime strange or the importance of internet-based technological development. Looking at the opinion polls, however, the Arab uprisings have been widely interpreted as uprisings against political tyranny over freedom and public participation as well as against the prevalence of human rights abuses.

Further reading: Brynen Beyond the Arab Spring; Mona Christophersen, ‘Protest and reform in Jordan. Popular demand and government response, 2011 to 2012’ Fafo-report 50 (Oslo: Fafo, 2013); Sobhi Samour, ‘The Promises and Limitations of Economic Protests in the West Bank’ in Kjetil Fossheim (ed), Arab Spring. Uprisings, Powers and Interventions (New York, Berghahn, 2014).

Neither peaceful demonstrations, not violent actions can be explained without keeping in mind that ‘revolutions cannot do without the word “justice” and the sentiment it arouses. (…) People feel that government is just or unjust, legitimate or illegitimate (…) by what it does. If its actions (…) violate their basic values, they may conclude, (…) that “a government without justice is a great robbery”’. [1] People’s views and perceptions are needed to understand both their relation to power (obedience, legitimacy among others) as well as the relations between foreign aid and legitimacy. Negative perceptions on their governments’ performance and their ‘illegitimate’ foreign alliances will lead to decreasing feeling of community between the masses and the elites as well as decreasing legitimacy of the regime. Even if measuring legitimacy is difficult, the Arab Barometer may help us understand how people think about their own obligations to obey. When (in 2010 or 2011, check Arab Barometer codebook) asked about the necessity of support to be provided to their governments (even if they do not agree with it), ca 40-60% of the respondents in most countries were ready to show (belief in the necessity of) obedience:

arab barometer wave II, q216

 

Michael C. Hudson, investigating the origins of legitimacy in the Arab world, points to the fact that “Islam was a complete social system; membership (…) created a certain brotherhood above the immediate ties of kinship. It also conferred a stability, an equilibrium, on society as a whole, even to the point of supporting the passive acceptance of wrongs committed by the ruler who nonetheless deferred (theoretically) to the sanctity of the Shari’a.” [2]

Sources and further reading: Arab Barometer, wave II (2010-2011, question 216): http://www.arabbarometer.org/instruments-and-data-files; other (see biblio data in earlier posts): [1] Citing Eckstein and Gurr (1975) Razi emphasizes that it is people’s “positive or negative judgment of what is perceived” about the behavior of the regime that must be investigated to know the level of legitimacy. If the majority of the population is more or less satisfied with the government’s performance and actions in areas of “identity, participation, distribution, equality and sovereignty according to the norms they believe in, there is no crisis of legitimacy.”  Razi, ‘Legitimacy, religion’, 70.; [2] Michael C. Hudson (1977): Arab Politics. The search for Legitimacy. New Haven: Yale University Press, p50.

Recalling the descriptive – empirically supported – understanding of legitimacy, even authoritarian regimes can enjoy certain level of collective support. It must be kept in mind, however, that neither performance (providing public goods and services, good governance), nor popularity equals to legitimacy.[1] While legitimacy in general is viewed as a source of stability in social systems, political legitimacy is considered a basic condition for governing, without which a government would suffer collapse. In political systems where this is not the case, unpopular regimes survive because they are considered legitimate by a small, influential elite or by external powers. Indeed, regime stability is a ‘function of the ongoing ability of the actors within the system to mobilize resources to perpetuate a legitimate system.’[2] This ‘ability’ has been supported by foreign aid in the Middle East for decades.

Legitimacy in the Middle East cannot be understood without referring to the region’s historical interaction with external powers on one hand and the internal sources of legitimacy on the other one. Colonialism, the mandate period (League of Nations), independence movements and the gradual process of decolonialism added various layers (nationalism, ideology) to the traditional concept of legitimacy being based mainly on religion and tradition. Even if it has been considered surprising that ‘legitimacy in the nondemocratic Arab world has not been studied in any encompassing manner for more than 30 years’ with the exception of Hudson’s Arab Politics: the search for legitimacy,[3] the role of religion and nationalism were proposed to be studied in order to demonstrate the significance of legitimacy for regime maintenance (stability) at the beginning of the 1990s.[4] Not only modern nationalism, but religion also has clearly influence political attitudes on such matters as identity, concept of justice, the nature of a legitimate political system, obedience, obligation and rights, to mention only a few.

According to Schlumberger, there are four components being the main sources of domestic ‘nondemocratic’ legitimacy in the Arab world: religion, tradition, ideology and the provision of welfare benefits to their populations. Welfare benefits – material or economic legitimacy are –seen as a main source of nondemocratic legitimacy. It cannot be understood without the ‘rentier state’ approach that is based on the conviction that ‘even limited resources from abroad can buy an enormous amount of legitimacy’.[5] Regime legitimacy is maintained either by ‘political petrolism’ (using oil income or financial transfers from oil-rich neighbours to buy legitimacy with subsidies and government jobs) or by Western foreign aid, which effectively prevented destabilization by enabling Arab governments to provide welfare benefits to their populations. Schlumberger concludes that religion plays a less important role than either traditional or material legitimacy, whereas ideology (nationalism, Islamism, globalization and neoliberalism, democracy-promotion and their unique combination alike) has become more and more relevant category. By delegitimizing ruling elites emerging societal actors draw attention to the ‘reciprocal nature’ of legitimacy and its procedural, non-static character too.[6]

 

Sources and further reading: [1] A government can be unpopular, yet, legitimate if the ways of exercising power is considered valid. Wheatheford ,‘Mapping the Ties’, 261.; [2] Blackwell Encyclopedia; [3] Cited by Schlumberger, ‘Opening Old Bottles’, 233.; [4] Religion and nationalism serve as main sources of macroloyalty, whereas the family, clan, various sects, associations, occupations constitute the main sources of microloyalty. These latter, in the absence of strong and shared religious or nationalist values may generate social conflicts. Razi, ‘Legitimacy, religion’. On identity in the Middle East: Bernard Lewis, The Multiple Identities of the Middle East (New York: Schocken, 2001); cited by Schlumberger, ‘Opening Old Bottles,’ 245.; Schlumberger, ‘Opening Old Bottles’.