Governments in the Middle East and in North Africa (MENA) are tackling the pandemic in different ways, many challenged by weak social systems and growing societal frustrations. In relatively prosperous (middle-income) countries – such as Lebanon, Egypt and Iraq – leaders have used the pandemic as an excuse to suppress justified protests at their lack of accountability and failure to provide basic services. For international cooperation, which supports the functioning of legitimate, accountable governments and resilient societies, this poses a critical challenge – as the case of Lebanon currently illuminates.
In seeming perpetual crisis, Yemen, Syria and Libya cycles of violent conflict have left profoundly fragile, rudimentary health care and social protection systems overwhelmed by the pandemic, and compounded by vast, growing inequalities and political fragility. As always, the most vulnerable are the hardest hit – the civilian population, and especially women, children, displaced persons and refugees.
By contrast, Tunisia, economically weak and by no means politically stable, appears to stand out in the region for addressing the virus head on. Tunisia took early and drastic measures initially to protect its population, and thus its economy over the longer term.
Despite the grave challenges in the region profoundly exacerbated by the pandemic, UN-Secretary General António Guterres recently reminded Arab leaders that that the pandemic also offers opportunities for resolving conflict and “building back better”, notably by addressing structural weaknesses and strengthening social contracts.
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This blog first appeared on the DIE site.
Author: Erin McCandless, Bernhard Trautner, DIE.
Image courtesy of Koshu Kunii via Unsplash.
The views are those of the author and not necessarily those of ETTG.