North Africa: Politics, Region, and the Limits of Transformation

North Africa: Politics, Region, and the Limits of Transformation

North Africa: Politics, Region, and the Limits of Transformation

North Africa: Politics, Region, and the Limits of Transformation


This volume provides a comprehensive overview of the contemporary Maghreb. Made up of contributions from leading academics in the field, it highlights specific issues of importance, including international and security affairs.

With profiles of individual countries and regional issues, such as migration, gender, integration, economics, and war in Western Sahara, as well as a section dealing with international relations and the Maghreb, including US and EU foreign policy and security issues, North Africa: Politics, Region, and the Limits of Transformation is a major resource for all students of Middle Eastern Studies and North African Politics.


At a time when Middle East crises—Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and Lebanon— are front-page news every day, many may be surprised to learn, as this volume makes clear, that one significant part of the Arab world, the Maghreb, is engaged in the mundane tasks of development without exceptional turmoil or violence. With a population of around 85 million, this region provides relief from the horrific events of the eastern Arab world, while nonetheless reminding us of how challenging the processes of economic and political reform can be. This is a region where slow strides forward are being made, but there are no dramatic success stories as in Southeast Asia. But then again, no disasters seem to be looming on the horizon either. And, with the holding of democratic elections in Mauritania in spring 2007, one might even say that the least developed of the Maghreb countries is well ahead of many others in the Arab-Islamic world.

A snapshot taken in early 2007 would show that the three key Maghreb states of Morocco, Algeria, and Tunisia are engaged in long-running efforts to deal with a host of political, economic, and social problems. My own take on these three cases—I will not comment very much on Libya or Mauritania, since I know less about them—is that Morocco has probably done the best in recent years to overcome some of its historical deficits. But, according to the UNDP, it is clearly Tunisia that has outdistanced the others in terms of overall human development. According to the 2006 Human Development Report, Tunisia ranked 87th in the world, followed by Algeria at 102 and Morocco at 123. (The index is a composite of measures of per capita income, education, literacy, and longevity. Mauritania ranks near the bottom, at 153; Libya, largely due to oil wealth, is listed at 64).

Under the late King Hassan II, Morocco enjoyed stability, but we now know that the cost in terms of human rights was high. The current monarch, King Mohammed VI, widely considered something of a lightweight at his accession, has won considerable support among Moroccan citizens by opening the doors of prisons, by shining a light on abuses of the past, and by introducing fairly progressive legislation concerning the status of women. In addition, he travels around the country meeting with people and distributing some of the regime’s largesse. On balance, the economy has been . . .

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