Taher Kanaan, former Jordanian deputy prime minister, Ezzeddine Al-Asbahi, deputy director of the International Federation for Human Rights in Yemen, and Jihad Azour, former Lebanese minister of finance, discussed key challenges to political reform and economic integration in the Arab world. Carnegie’s Yezid Sayigh moderated the session. 

  • Arab Intelligentsia: There is a marginalization of creativity and intellectual production in the Arab intelligentsia, said Kanaan. This report can act to push Arab ideas forward and start a sort of long-needed intellectual renaissance, he argued. 
  • A Framework to Follow: The past five decades have been characterized by failures in the Arab world, Al-Asbahi stated. The recent Arab uprisings were not accompanied by a clear vision; there was anger on the streets but no true framework to achieve any real objectives. 
  • Failing at Democracy: Arab governmental institutions and political parties have historically failed to promote human rights and democracy, said Al-Asbahi. Alternatives to the aging undemocratic institutions in the Arab world are urgently needed. 
  • Defining Integration: The definition of integration must be clarified, said Azour. An Arab union is quite difficult to achieve without first having reached dialogue and reconciliation. Sayigh noted that integration is necessary to begin political and social reform, arguing that there is a clear causal relationship between democracy and integration. Moreover, Sayigh suggested that the report falls short of understanding the social dynamics of nations’ populations and social classes.