The 2nd Plenary Session of the 11th Al Jazeera Forum, held on 15 April 2017, discussed the Arab Spring as a prospect for reform domestically and regionally as well as its successes and failures six years after its emergence. Session participants confirmed that these revolutions brought about profound transformations, the results of which are still present, and highlighted several topics related to the achievements made in the years that followed the Arab Spring. They also forecasted the future of these revolutions in light of the complex international context. Furthermore, the session touched on the possibility of the revival of the Arab Spring in the form of more popular revolutions.

The central issue highlighted was the extent to which the Arab Spring is able to hold its ground and rejuvenate so as to constitute a new horizon for change and reform on the national and regional levels.

The first speaker, Abou Yaareb Marzouki, a professor of philosophy and former adviser to the Prime Minister of Tunisia, said that, thanks to the Arab Spring, the hidden agendas of regional and international conflicts have been exposed, noting that the crisis is not limited to the Arab states but has now extended to the “old” European region.

The second speaker, Sadaqa Fadel, member of the Saudi Shura Council and former Head of the Department of Political Science at King Abdulaziz University, discussed the role played by foreign powers in faltering the path of positive change in the Arab world, indicating that there is a “European-Zionist alliance” that aims to curb any opportunity for constructive change in the Arab world. He added that the multiplicity of Islamic currents in the Arab region constitutes a real challenge for the Arab countries, and that the Arab Spring was “an endeavor to liberate the peoples of the chains of tyranny”, noting that the success of some aspects of the Arab Spring represents a “precedent that can be repeated as long as the situation remains the same in the Arab region”.

J. J. Messner, Executive Director of the Fund of Peace and Co-Director of the Fragile States Index (FSI), said that the FSI indicates the high probability of another Arab spring, and that previous events and revolutions were just the beginning.

Adel Al Shargabi, Professor of Sociology at Sanaa University, addressed the Arab Spring in general and the situation in Yemen in particular, mentioning that change is a law of nature and is inevitable. He noted that “change can be through either evolutionary or non-evolutionary methods”, where the evolutionary method is slow and inexpensive and the non-evolutionary is abrupt and usually comes at a cost.

On the success or failure of the Arab Spring revolutions, Al Shargabi stated that the Arab Spring has managed to dismantle the alliance between the ruling regime, the capitalists, and the army, and abolished hereditary rule in the Arab republics. 

He maintained that a revolution cannot be stopped, because it is a “continuous social phenomenon, a movement made by and for the masses, not just one particular group or social class”. For example, the middle class was described as the “critical mass” during the revolutions in Egypt and Yemen as it led the masses in the revolution. But these revolutions would not have been rendered successful had it not been for the participation of all the people. “A revolution undergoes three stages, the most important of which is the first stage, that is, overthrowing the regime”, he maintained.

The last speaker was Mohamed El Koukhi, a researcher specialised in developmental economics, who presented an economic theory of the Arab reality and how this reality has led to the outbreak of the Arab Spring revolutions. He explained how high unemployment rates, especially among the youth, has exacerbated the crisis and generated increased anger, eventually resulting in revolutions in the Arab countries.

He confirmed through statistics that several demographic phenomena significantly contributed to the outbreak of the revolutions. Due to the youth constituting 70% of the Arab population, education increasing by 46%, urbanisation and the advance of technology that resulted in raising awareness and breaking the state’s monopoly of media and communication channels, revolutions have become a practical possibility.