Will NGOs and Think-Tanks Bring Democracy to the Arab World?

As historic uprisings continue across the Middle East, the role of civil society and think-tanks in aiding the democratization process has become a topic of much discussion.


There are some who argue that Western-backed NGOs played a significant role in aiding the revolutions in Egypt and Tunisia. For example, in a recent PolicyMic article former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice wrote that she directed roughly 50% of U.S. assistance to Egyptian civil society, noting, “we tried to give the Egyptian people the tools they needed to speak for their own freedom.”


Moreover, advocates of these organizations contend that they will help usher in a democratic future for the region. A recent International Monetary Fund survey magazine argued that the Middle East needs “more jobs, better governance, and a strong civil society in order for the transformation that began with the Arab Spring movement to thrive in the long term.”

Did civil society and think-tanks help spark the revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt? What role will these groups play in aiding the democratization of the wider Middle East in the future?

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