The year 2020 was probably the strangest year of the 21st century so far. It also concluded one of its most eventful decades. For the Middle East, it began with the Arab Spring, which was the culmination of a long period of worsening political crises and increasing social tensions.
The Arab Spring, which promised to open the way to positive change in the region, turned out to be a major disappointment. People’s hopes were dashed on the harsh reality of great-power interventions, violent regime change, occupation and the plunder of national wealth; rampaging terrorist groups that exploit religion; civil wars and conflicts, migration, human suffering and sanctions. The region plunged into a seemingly endless period of crises.
The decade ended with the COVID-19 pandemic, which worsened humanitarian conditions, hobbled economic growth and strained social ties in the region. The hope that it would trigger a fundamental transformation of societies, states and the entire system of international relations, with greater emphasis on sovereignty, independence, cooperation and mutual assistance, has not materialised. Still, the pandemic did reinforce some existing trends, which, taken together, can be described as promising a new renaissance.