Words of the Betancourt Family

The Arab Spring Is Not Lost. What Do the People Need?

Antonio Betancourt
February 29, 2012
UPF Office of Peace and Security Affairs

Statement by Dr. Antonio Betancourt
Forum on the Arab Spring
UPF Office of Peace and Security Affairs
Washington, DC, February 29, 2012

The Arab Spring is a collective movement of peoples, and in its broader and more inclusive form, it is a collective movement for peoples. In order for this same Arab Spring to maintain identity and stay true to its course, it will require features that are constant and ones for which we will have to be asking. Both can be addressed in: "What do the people need?"

Fundamentally, the questions asked only begin to find power in meaningful responses û ones that begin, on a social level, to answer the very needs people hold true to themselves. Herein, lies the divergence that comes out of the Spring, for each party takes to themselves their own means of focus. Once watered and fed, points of focus may spring up, in time, everywhere: as calls for actions; efforts for change; and, points identified for agendas of all kinds.

In some nations people have bonded together easily, already fully aware of their strong likes and dislikes, grievances or points of preference. In any case, if there had been a poignant, if not latent reality, as well, which accompanied this process of identification (of likes, dislikes, and preferences), then people found themselves easily launched in one direction.

The method of commencement, in protest, bearing similarities across nations, could not at the same time speak to automatic similarities in outcomes across the same Arab community of nations. Rather, they took their own course, some with terrible bloodshed, others with a mere moving of power from A to B. What spelled the difference? Resistance to existent authority and counter resistance from those seeking reform, if not outright change.

Those nations which met social reform movements with resistance have oft times been those to see the most instances of imprisonment, bloodshed, and tragedy. So not only is resistance a factor for outcomes, but style of resistance became an even more telltale example of how blood and death followed for innocent people caught up in the wave for change and better quality of life, in governance, political and social reform. Economic reform met with limited success, but governments fell, adjusted policy, or are, to this day, still fighting protest, dissension, and civil conflict.

Uniquely, in the case of Bahrain, the movement from particular peoples grouped in similar realities was met with international intervention from within the Gulf; while Libya was riven from within and without.

In order to go forward, each nation must be treated uniquely, and if there are patterns of similarity, in analysis, that learned men and women can draw, then we may yet see similar actions that speak to future movement in relation to nations grouped together.

With conflict still playing in the background of the world's view, little to date has been done to identify the swift and sweeping sands of change. The Arab Spring is an event. It is yet to be seen if it will remain an event. Nonetheless, in our current environment we at UPF encourage those who would seek peace to think about outcomes desired for this community of nations, so that we might stay true to the spirit of those who gathered and are still gathering all over the Arab world, seeking change, political platform, empowerment, and more. What safeguards do we have or will put in place to ensure that one man's or woman's rights do not trample another's? When does social conscience yield to rule of law and decisions made from the judicial bench? What money will be well spent, and where?

Do we have enough information to build something now, without later having to tear, or try to tear it down? Is constitutional law going to address inequity or perceived inequity? For all of these things, we have to review purpose, planning and future direction, whether that be a direction of mass forces or a direction of choice. Here at UPF, we hope that with this meeting, a core group of individuals can "sign up" in like spirit to tackle, network for, and manage these questions, if not for ourselves then for the world, and in particular for future Arab citizenry. This is what the Arab Spring is about, not only for the hopes and aspirations of those in the present, but for those yet to be conceived.

Planning has never been a higher imperative. But, without conscientious review û a review of understanding and an evaluation of reality û any planning may falter. But together with even the most meager attempts at review, with an environment of cooperation and bold attempts for future planning, we may see future directions which we all might appreciate. Present planners within and without the Arab world should try to be a generation to leave a legacy of peace.

If this is not the responsibility of established democracies to fight for continuing change and to work for broad and specific points of change, then whose is it? Is it for those Arab citizens who in measures of success have found new freedoms alone? And, even if so, then what of those nations where blood still flows from day to day? No. No nation lives in isolation in today's world, and this global planet requires a cooperative approach from the world community.

Here we sit today, to find out how to do it the Arab way, and how to incorporate Arab change meaningfully for all the citizens of the world, a united effort. Let the patterns and the waves of change take root in new Arab democracies but in a manner well-suited, where the fundamental question of the Arab Spring is not lost: "What do the people need?" With consensus, support, and even opposition, will they find meaningful futures? I believe they will.

Before we put out our hand for assistance, do we know where we are going û specifically? Social structures await to be drawn up. Resources need to be found. But the fundamental purpose of the Arab Spring was to give people voice, and in democracies that voice is in the vote, and safeguarded in the nation's constitution. If any meaningful group is marginalized in the process, then the Arab Spring and, in truth, Arab awakening, will only find yet another dawn to be awakened. So, what can we realistically achieve?

We can draw up a concise understanding of the Arab Spring, and we can plan, starting with mutually agreed upon goals û ones easily adoptable by the networks of world citizenry, and too, fundamentally usable by world governments and agencies of governance. When we reach that level, we will be ready to leave the planning stage and build, with a knowledge of a broad-based international community consensus. We will pick up on the focal points of the Arab Spring, and derive from the various means of presentations of issues, solutions to them. Joint ventures of governance, change management, and political and social enfranchisement can follow û if not in our generation, then in the next. Let us contribute to the framework now, with this golden opportunity of love that the Almighty has given us, in awakening our world Arab citizenry. We've seen the Spring. Now the ball is in our court û where to go from here? 

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