“Where the future is uncertain, there are greater opportunities and many reasons to influence” writes Gunnar Hökmark on the developments following the Arab spring. He is convinced that when “the United States turns inward, because the country has its own domestic problems and that there is an aversion to involvement in other countries, it is important that the EU steps up and takes responsibility.” (more…)

Freedom House recently released the annual report Freedom in the World – a global survey of political and civil rights. In 2011, the Arab Spring triggered progress in some countries in the Middle East. On the other hand, the uprisings provoked leaders in surrounding countries to suppress real or potential threats to their rule.

In total 12 countries showed overall improvement, while 26 countries registered net decline.

Read a summary of the Top 10 Trends in Global Freedom

Read the report

In mid-November a delegation from the Jarl Hjalmarson Foundation visited Cairo and Alexandria. The purpose of the visit was to research possibilities for future cooperations in the region. Thomas Gür, who was part of the delegation, describes the complex political landscape that reveals itself when the Arab Spring turns into fall and winter.

When we visited Egypt the country faced its first round of elections to the parliament’s lower house – an election which was held in approximately a third of the constituencies on 28 November. The second round of elections took place in mid-December and the third will be held early January. Another three rounds of elections will later be held to the parliament’s upper house in March of 2012.

The complexity of the electoral process is a result of an Egyptian election law which states that there must be a judge present at every polling station to ensure that the process is conducted in a right manner. And since there are three times as many polling stations as there are judges in the country, elections to parliament’s two chambers are held in three rounds each.  After the elections a committee of 100 people will be appointed to write Egypt’s new constitution.

This process is tainted with serious weaknesses – not least as the results of each election are made public which influences the following elections. The complexity of it however reflects that these are the first free elections since before the military coup in 1952. (more…)

The theme for JHS’ activities at the Book Fair in Gothenburg is how new media can be a part of the changing of a society.

At the first day of the fair, a seminar was held on the stage of the International Square. Javeria Rizvi Kabani, project manager at the Swedish Institute and Erik Benngtzboe, chairman of the Young Conservatives, discussed the current situation in the Middle East. (more…)

The Swedish Government has decided to to support the victims in Libya. Sweden will contribute SEK 33 million and flights for humanitarian evacuation.

The Government has decided that Swedish Hercules aircrafts, already in place in Malta as part of a consular evacuation operation, can be used by the UN Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and International Organization for Migration (IOM) to assist with the evacuation of individuals in difficulty at the Tunisian border.

The Foreign Ministry has announced that the development aid agency Sida will contribute a total of SEK 33 million in response to appeals from humanitarian agencies working in the region.

 

With democratic governments on the Southern coast of the Mediterranean, from Egypt to Morocco, this area constitutes a market of some 200 million people. Thus, the EU has everything to gain from supporting a peaceful, stable and democratic transition in these countries. The strategy of helping dictators in order to uphold stability has been proven wrong yet again, writes Susanna Haby.

Sometimes, the deeds of a single person can get groundbreaking consequences. The citizens of Tunisia received yet another proof of this in mid December last year. From one day to another, daily life changed.
Over the years, I have had the privilege to experience Tunisia through friends and family, from old to young, who have spent their entire lives in Tunisia. While most Tunisians have been able to put food on the table, poverty has been widespread in rural areas. In the Freedom House reports, Tunisia has been classified as un-free.

The Tunisian society is based on strong social ties between family and friends who take care of each other. In 1992, the fund 26/26 was created. Financed both with government money and voluntary contributions, the fund aims at relieving poverty among the poorest. It finances different projects in infrastructure and in the social sector. Recently, the citizens of Tunisia have found out that the expelled President and his family has found several ways to lay their hands on this money! (more…)