Valdai Paper #36: The Legacy of Statehood and its Looming Challenges in the Middle East and North Africa

More specifically, they put forward that dealing with the difficulties facing the region lies in addressing the state capacity gap. The article aims to show the persisting relevance of ‘stateness’ in the region. For the authors, without evaluating the nature of the state in the region, analyses seeking to address the region’s numerous problems and crises would be incomplete.

In that regard, the authors illustrate that the two fundamental characteristics of the state, civic stability, and security are under direct threat, namely, (i) the lacking state capacity to deal with increased social and political mobilisation and the legitimacy underpinned by representation and inclusion and (ii) the monopoly over the use of violence and territorial control. Adding to the complexity of the dynamics at play in the region is the fact that these two aspects are highly intertwined. That is, the authors underline that each problem of governance, which is not resolved through civic mechanisms, renders pseudo-state structures like ISIS a more viable option, thus facilitating the turn of local people to these groups in their quest for basic state services and protection.

Within the context of the dominant theme addressed throughout this article, the authors suggest that the policy-makers of this region should not miss the points that state-making is a social experiment and that a state can survive when it has a broad social base, which can only be achieved through inclusive state-building projects. They emphasize that any prospective state project should attempt to create popular demand by incorporating local elements and adopting a society generated approach. At the same time, this article also calls for international and regional cooperation in endorsing state-building processes and in promoting a sense of a “Middle Eastern Westphalia”.

About the authors:

Osman Bahadır Dinçer, Senior Research Fellow, International Strategic Research Organization (USAK); Director of USAK Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Ankara, Turkey

Mehmet Hecan, Researcher, USAK Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies, Ankara, Turkey

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