Briefing Paper

Claire Spencer
  • North Africa may not be as stable as it looks: socio-economic and political pressures are fracturing the consensus between governments and governed and may overtake terrorism and criminality as the region's main destabilizing forces.
  • With political leadership in the region effectively a lifelong position, the growth of authoritarianism is undermining the prospects for achieving political and economic liberalization.
  • Despite the worsening global economic climate, a window of opportunity exists to accelerate socially sensitive and productive domestic investment and open space for greater autonomous political and economic development.
  • Success depends on renegotiating the social contracts on which North Africa's states are based. A broadening of participation, above all through the extension of legal employment, targeted investment on education, health and skills, and the establishment of independent legal and regulatory frameworks, will go some way towards addressing socio-economic stresses.
  • A change in the political environment, however, requires a re-evaluation of how the region's security climate is seen from outside, with adjustments in the kind of support given to regional governments by its key international partners, the European Union and the United States.