European aid to the MENA region after the Arab uprisings: a window of opportunity missed

Bodenstein, Thilo / Mark Furness
External Publications (2023)

in: UNU-WIDER Working Papers

DOI: https://doi.org/10.35188/UNU-WIDER/2023/356-7
Open access

European official development assistance to Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) countries increased sharply after 2011, ostensibly in support of the social, economic, and above all political changes demanded by the Arab uprisings. The subsequent turn to development policies driven by security and anti-migration agendas, especially following the Syria refugee crisis of 2015, raises the question whether initial expressions of support for democratic transformation were ever backed by concrete measures. Our analysis reveals that, while all donors promised to support democracy in MENA countries, none had a clear strategy for doing so via their development cooperation. At the practice level, while programmes and projects were aimed at supporting change in specific contexts, increases in aid were mostly unrelated to political change. The social, economic, and political tensions behind the Arab uprisings remain unresolved more than a decade on, meaning that there is likely a need to learn lessons from the period following 2011.

About the author

Furness, Mark

Political Science

Furness

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