›Mexico has vast untapped reserves in wind, solar, and geothermal and represents a natural power supplier for U.S. markets, especially those located along the country’s northern border. The renewables sector represents a growth industry in Mexico, where oil production has dropped off because of dwindling reserves and prohibitions exist on private investment in hydrocarbons. The Mexican government also appears to be charting a lower-carbon future for the country, setting ambitious renewable portfolio standards and reorienting the public policy focus toward alternative energy development – sometimes in partnership with the private sector, both foreign and domestic.Environment, Development, and Growth: U.S.-Mexico Cooperation in Renewable Energies – The Mexico Institute, Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars
For U.S.-Mexico relations, advances in renewables demonstrate the success of bi-national cooperation – a bright spot that security challenges threaten to overshadow. For example, technical studies by USAID have enabled the charting of wind patterns in southern Oaxaca state, holding the potential to benefit both countries, by enhancing rural electrification in Mexico and providing a new energy source for the North American grid.
This new report from the Wilson Center’s Mexico Institute, Environment, Development, and Growth: U.S.-Mexico Cooperation in Renewable Energies, provides a comprehensive overview of the Mexican sector, placing special emphasis on the business challenges facing enhanced investment along the U.S.-Mexico border.
›The International Reporting Project (IRP) gives “editors – the ‘gatekeepers’ – a chance to get out of the newsrooms and to see for themselves the importance of international affairs,” said John Schidlovsky, director of IRP, at a Wilson Center event about the independent journalism organization’s recent two-week trip to Liberia with 11 U.S. news editors. [Video Below]
Schidlovsky stressed the importance of providing international opportunities for journalists in the face of news industry budget cuts. IRP fills the gap by sending gatekeepers, who help determine what news items will be selected for publication or broadcast, to countries that are often underrepresented and neglected in mainstream media.
Three of the gatekeepers, Sunni Khalid, managing news editor at WYPR Baltimore; Ed Robbins, a video journalist; and Teresa Wiltza, senior editor for The Root, shared their observations from their Liberia trip, as well as their insights into the challenges of international reporting.
Economic Challenges and Opportunities
Liberia is slowly beginning to rebuild its economy after a 14-year civil war with more than 200,000 casualties, but there are still “tremendous challenges,” said Khalid. “How do people survive? What kind of jobs do they have? How do they feed their families?”
According to World Bank figures, 84 percent of Liberians earn less than $1 a day, and more than 94 percent earn less than $2 a day. The government’s annual budget is only $369 million, the official unemployment rate is 85 percent, and corruption and lack of infrastructure remain major concerns.
Despite these problems, “Liberia has a lot of good points going for it,” said Khalid. Investment in the country’s raw materials is growing; most recently, the country signed a $7 billion deal with China and a European consortium to continue iron-ore mining.
Initially expecting to “write an obituary for Liberia,” Khalid said he “came out of this trip fairly optimistic about Liberia’s future.” With its “small population, great location, and mineral wealth,” as well as “competent political leadership,” Liberia can take advantage of its potential, he said.
“Capturing the Flavor” of Liberia
Robbins hopes to paint a multidimensional picture of Liberia and “capture the flavor of the country beyond Monrovia,” with his series of short films, which will be available on the websites of both Time and the International Reporting Project,
Robbins previewed one of these films, a profile of the chair of the Liberian Women’s Initiative, Etweda “Sugars” Cooper, who he says “embodies a certain power of a lot of Liberian women in her dedication and also her love for the country.”
At the local level, “the problems of recovery and development are all there in miniature,” said Robbins. But with dedicated leadership from people like Cooper, communities are slowly beginning to rebuild the schools, roads, hospitals, and other infrastructure that was destroyed in the civil wars.
“When you read books and articles, it tends to be really focused on the war and the devastation,” said Robbins. But there is also a sense of optimism among Liberians: “you can see hope in these people, a sense there is something there,” he said.
Empowering Women and Ending Rape
Wiltz pointed out that, “there is a prevailing sense of hope,” particularly among the older generation of women. After years of violence, these female “peace warriors” led the movement that ended Liberia’s civil war. But seven year later, “for women there, the biggest issue is that of economic empowerment,” said Wiltz. “They’re feeling empowered, but they’re broke.”
Sexual violence has become “part of the national psyche,” Wiltz said. During the civil war in Liberia, it has been estimated that more than 60 percent of the female population was raped. Today, “everyone seems sensitized to the issue, and yet it’s still a huge problem,” she said. Sexual violence is still common despite the prevention efforts of radio campaigns, NGOs, and Liberian President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf.
“You’re in a country where families were destroyed by war,” Wiltz said. In the process of rebuilding Liberia, the new challenge is to engage and empower a new generation of young women and girls. “Underneath the surface there is all this pain and this legacy of extreme cruelty, but they very much want to overcome this.”
Much of the gatekeepers’ coverage is available online: Sunni Khalid produced a week-long series of radio pieces for WYPR, an NPR affiliate; Ed Robbins produced a series of short films for Time; and Teresa Wiltz published several articles on The Root.
Sources: CIA World Factbook, U.S. State Department, World Bank, World Health Organization, WYPR.
Photo Credit: “Liberia Will Rise Again,” courtesy of flickr user Jason Judy.
›January 28, 2011 // By Schuyler Nullunrest continues across several Middle Eastern countries, analysts are scrambling to explain the “arc of revolution.” Richard Cincotta’s recent post on the “Jasmine Revolution” predicts a relatively high chance of Tunisia attaining liberal democracy, based on demographic factors and long-term trends, and it’s drawn some well-thought out and provocative feedback from fellow demographers Elizabeth Leahy Madsen, Jack Goldstone, and Jennifer Sciubba.
Elizabeth Leahy Madsen is a senior research associate at Population Action International and author of The Shape of Things to Come: Why Age Structure Matters to a Safer, More Equitable World:
I have two questions. First, have you shifted to a new definition of age structures (intermediate, etc.) based on median population age? In the past, you and other demographic security researchers have measured age structure as the relative proportion of different age groups within the population, either the total population, total adult population, or working-age population. Why did you select median population age for this analysis? A quick review of the figures available on the UN Population Division’s website shows that the relative size of the 15-24 age group within Tunisia’s total population has been vacillating within the range of 19-21 percent since 1975. In 2005, that “youth bulge” was 21 percent, the highest since 1980, but there has been a rapid decline to 19 percent by 2010.Jack A. Goldstone is the director of the Global Policy Center at George Mason University and author of a number of books on social movements, revolutions, and international politics:
As you say, no matter how age structure is measured, Tunisia is much further through the demographic transition than other countries in the Arab world. I would like to see this highlighted more in media coverage of the revolution, particularly in accounts of similar attempts to provoke uprisings that have taken place in Algeria, Egypt, and Yemen in recent weeks. From a demographic perspective, those attempts are less likely to achieve success (except possibly in Algeria, based on your map).
My second question is for further elaboration on the steps that lead from a dissipating youth bulge to a greater likelihood of attaining democracy (leaving aside the also-difficult question of sustainability). If I understand your description of the mechanisms at work, in an authoritarian regime with a youth bulge, the government is able to keep its hold on power because the presence of a youth bulge either creates volatility or the threat of volatility in the eyes of the commercial elites whose support is critical to the regime. Does this support exist even in situations where volatility is rare, in which case the large youthful population is manipulated or whitewashed by the regime as a threat to stability? Then, as the age structure matures and becomes less youthful, the regime can no longer invoke youth (directly or indirectly) as a danger, and therefore support for the regime from the elites erodes?
You don’t specifically mention economic conditions in Tunisia, apart from Ben Ali’s resource hoarding, but issues such as unemployment rates have been frequently highlighted in media accounts of the revolution. In addition to the unpredictable triggers such as the self-immolation in Tunisia’s case, do deeper-seated structural problems such as high unemployment and/or rampant corruption have to be extant to provoke revolution in an authoritarian context? Or is the dissolution of a youthful age structure combined with an unpredictable trigger sufficient?
Richard’s insights into Tunisia’s prospects for democracy are terrific and I agree with him. However, in regard to the causes of the rebellion, I have to disagree with him in one respect – Tunisia in 2010 is very much a youth bulge country, at least as far as political theory would see it. As Henrik Urdal has shown, youth bulge should not be measured as the size of the youth cohort (15-24) against the entire population, but as the fraction of youth in the adult population (those aged 15 and older). The 0-14 group is politically not relevant, and should not be counted in assessing the impact of youth cohorts on the total population’s political mobilization potential.Jennifer Sciubba is a Mellon Environmental Fellow at Rhodes College and the author of The Future Faces of War: Population and National Security:
For Tunisia, median age may in fact be misleading (as I didn’t realize until I looked at the age pyramids that Richard has posted). Because birth rates fell very rapidly after 1995, median age in 2010 is intermediate, but if you look only at the population aged 15 and up, you still see very large cohorts of youth compared to total adults.
Because Tunisia’s birth rate only started falling sharply after 1995, the large cohorts born in 1986-1995 – now age 15-24 – still make up a very large portion (33 percent) of all adults. While the next cohorts are much smaller, meaning this youth bulge will soon fade, it is still very much present, as Richard’s graphs show.
There is no automatic link between a certain age structure and political rebellion, but the combination of a large youth bulge and economic frustration among youth is a potent force for political instability. That combination is certainly one feature of Tunisia in 2010, although the extreme corruption of the Ben Ali regime and his family was a galling and critical factor in the widespread rejection of his regime.
That points to another bit of misleading data. Many (including me) assumed that because Tunisia’s recent economic growth was strong, at five percent per year, economic grievances could not be so widespread. But that is wrong, because we did not appreciate how much of that growth has been grabbed by Ben Ali’s family (which according to one account had ownership interests in half the businesses in the country) and cronies. Substantial growth from which many have been excluded – especially youth – is in fact a reason for widespread grievances, and that was another key factor behind the mass protests.
Like Jack and Liz note, using median age helps us understand Tunisia’s progress along the demographic transition, but it doesn’t really help us understand the protests in Tunisia or in other countries across the “arc of revolution.” Median age obscures the individual experiences of young adults who are putting their lives at risk to speak out in protest or setting themselves on fire in desperation. As Jack points out, from a theoretical point of view, Tunisia is very much experiencing cohort crowding – whether we call it “youth bulge” or “early worker bulge” the outcome is the same. To say that Tunisia is not a youth bulge country misses the point.Cincotta has promised a reply to the comments is forthcoming, which we can forgive him, frankly, given the length and complexity of these great responses.
Part of the reason we political demographers buy into the link between youth bulge and conflict is the idea of cohort crowding. As Richard Easterlin points out, a cohort’s economic and social prospects tend to have an inverse relationship to the cohort’s size relative to those around it, other things being constant. In Tunisia’s case, those between ages 25-35 are part of a larger cohort than those preceding ones so they are crowded out of the labor market and will tend to have lower relative income compared to preceding generations, which are smaller.
As I note in my book, one study of Tunisians looking for work reported that young adults felt crowded out of benefits in the family, school, and labor markets. In particular, according to a study by M. Bedoui and G. Ridha:
“…family and marital problems were common. They became poorer, lost confidence, and became fatalistic and submissive. Over the long run the majority saw unemployment as a source of disequilibrium, humiliation, and even oppression.” (in Hilary Silver, “Social Exclusion: Comparative Analysis of Europe and Middle East Youth,” Middle East Youth Initiative Working Paper p. 30.)That quotation seems eerily prescient in Tunisia’s case. Mohamed Bouazizi certainly seemed to succumb to fatalism, and the protests started as economic but quickly moved to political. Political, social, and economic marginalization are connected. While there is some diversity in age structure across the Middle East, the populations of those aged 15-24 in Egypt, Lebanon, Tunisia, Jordan, Algeria and Iran, which experienced youth protests in 2009, are all between 27 and 34 percent of all adults ages 15-59, with Lebanon and Tunisia at the lower end of the spectrum and Egypt and Jordan at the higher. As we can see from the population pyramid of each of these states, there is a clear population bulge at these ages.
We also have to think about the cohort effect. The cohort effect describes shared historical experiences of particular age groups. Across the “arc of revolution,” young adults are plugged into Facebook, Twitter, and other internet forums to share experiences of marginalization and revolution. This likely informs their choice of whether or not to speak out.
Sources: Huffington Post, Middle East Youth Initiative, The New York Times, Telegraph.
Photo Credit: “055,” courtesy of flickr user Nasser Nouri.
The much-anticipated Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review(QDDR) demands to be taken seriously. Its hefty 250 pages present a major rethink of both American development policy and American diplomacy. Much of it is to be commended:
›Excerpted from the original article, by Carl Haub, on the Population Reference Bureau’s Behind the Numbers blog:
Taiwan’s government has just announced that the country’s total fertility rate (or TFR, the average number of children a woman would bear in her lifetime if the birth rate of a particular year were to remain unchanged) in 2010 was the lowest in its history at 0.91 children per woman. It’s the lowest rate any country has ever reported in history. The announcement itself is a bit of a projection since births have been officially reported only through November 2010. The country’s TFR had declined to 1.1 in 2005 and had remained there through 2009.
The rather spectacular drop in 2010 was due to an additional reason: 2010 is the Year of the Tiger on the Chinese calendar, beginning on February 14. The Tiger year is particularly inauspicious for births since Tigers, while seen as brave, are also seen as headstrong and possibly difficult to work with. It is quite common for employers to consider the zodiac of job applicants and Tigers may be avoided so that parents have some concrete reasons to avoid having a child in Tiger years. While there has been a lot of concern over the demographic situation for some time, Taiwan’s President Ma Ying-jeou has now called for measures to increase the birth rate to be raised to the “national security level.”
Continue reading on Behind the Numbers.
Sources: Asia Times, USA Today.
Photo Credit: Adapted from “070923 sleeping baby,” courtesy of flickr user Wowo and her families.
›“Sixty-percent of Filipinos live in the coastal areas,” said Joan Castro, executive vice president of PATH Foundation Philippines, Inc., in an interview with ECSP, and dwindling fish stocks are an issue across the archipelago. “With increasing population, the food that goes on the table for a lot of families in these coastal communities was an issue, so food security was the theme of the IPOPCORM project.”
IPOPCORM (standing for “integrated population and coastal resource management”) was started in 2000 and ran for six years. It sought to address population, health, and the environment (PHE) issues together in rural, coastal areas of the Philippines.
“When we started IPOPCORM, there was really nothing about integrating population, health, and environment,” Castro said. IPOPCORM provided some of the first evidenced-based results showing there is value added to implementing coastal resource management and family planning in tandem rather than separately.
The PATH Foundation worked with local governments and NGOs to establish a community-based family planning system while also strengthening local resource management. The results showed a decrease in unmet need for family planning and also improved income among youth in the remote areas they worked in.
Today, Castro also serves as the PHE technical assistance lead of the Building Actors and Leaders for Advancing Community Excellence in Development (BALANCED) project – a USAID initiative transferring PHE know-how to regions of East Africa and Asia.
›If you have a fever in the town of Sukadana in Indonesian Borneo, the locals might suggest you go to the ASRI clinic. It’s in a little house whose front yard is crowded with bicycles and motorbikes. In the waiting room, you examine a whiteboard that explains your payment options. ASRI accepts cash. But it looks like you can also pay with labor in the clinic’s organic garden or its reforestation site. If you own a goat, you can bring in its manure and pay with that. You can even pay with durian tree seeds!
Doctoring both humans and the environment is the raison d’etre of Alam Sehat Lestari (“healthy life everlasting” in Bahasa Indonesia, or ASRI for short), an NGO dedicated to the idea that human health is so intertwined with that of the environment that trying to fix one must include trying to fix the other. Located beside Indonesia’s Gunung Palung National Park, ASRI aims to protect the park’s irreplaceable rainforests by offering health care incentives to local people to stop illegal logging. We’re supported by our sister NGO in the United States, Health in Harmony.
For both people and the forest, the task is urgent. The island of Borneo was once famously covered by rainforest. But now only half of that canopy exists, and less than one-third will remain by 2020. Beginning in the mid-20th century, loggers, palm-oil plantation companies, and farmers logged, burned, and clear-cut their way through the island. Horrifyingly, much of this destruction has taken place in “protected” areas like national parks. The relentless loss of forest has devastated biodiversity in Borneo and severely reduced habitats for many organisms, including one of humanity’s closest relatives, the orangutan – as of 2005, there were about 55,000 left, a tenth of which live in Gunung Palung. Some experts predict the orangutan will be extinct within a few decades. Despite their protected status, Gunung Palung’s forests are continually threatened by illegal logging for valuable hardwood, poor implementation of management practices, and forest fires, many of which are started to clear land for new uses. Over 50,000 hectares of the 90,000-hectare national park’s forest cover are damaged or gone.
extractive industries; there simply aren’t many other job options. An ASRI survey found that in the Gunung Palung area the average cost of an emergency visit to the district or regional hospital was $460 – more than the average annual income. In fact, one-third of interviewees had faced a choice between health care and food. Financial pressures like that are what drive people to illegal logging. A four-meter board can go for R110,000, or about $10 – a little less than the average villager’s monthly income of $13. Working in a rice field, by contrast, pays about a dollar a day.
Sukadana, located so close to Gunung Palung, is a boom town for these industries. It was recently made a seat of the local regency. We watch new buildings go up every week – most of them built using illegal wood chopped straight out of the national park – and workers and money are flowing in.
As forest is converted to plantations, however, pesticides and fertilizers enter the watershed, which damage water and soil quality as well as human health. Watershed destruction from logging and land conversion leads to flooding which makes it harder to raise rice and can increase rates of flood-related diseases. Logging itself is dangerous work, and there are few or no worker protections. As well, seasonal, man-made forest fires, which this ecosystem is not adapted to and which can last for months, devastate both the natural habitat and respiratory health.
Enter ASRI: Our Sukadana clinic offers high-quality, low-cost medical care to all comers, with discounts for people living in villages that do not contribute to illegal logging (which the National Park office determines using air and ground patrols). This incentive system was devised in consultation with local leaders and is intended to take advantage of powerful social ties in this rural area. But given the complexity of the connections between poverty, health, and the environmental degradation here, ASRI also attacks these problems from other angles.
For one, patients and families can pay by eco-friendly, non-cash means – some of which actually end up providing further benefit to the patients. Many choose to do a stint of labor for ASRI in our organic garden. There they learn techniques that they can apply to their own crops. Some farmers have reported making a considerable profit selling their own organic produce with the skills they learned at ASRI, and some have sworn off traditional slash-and-burn agriculture, because as organic farmers they earn more money for less work. Others decide to work at ASRI’s reforestation site, which aims to restore several hectares of burned-over, degraded grassland to its original forested state. Patients can also bring in compost or manure; rainforest seeds and seedlings; or handmade grass mats, which are snapped up by clinic staff and volunteers.
ASRI’s other programs include Goats for Widows, in which impoverished widows receive a goat and give back its organic manure and one kid. Clinic staff teach townspeople and villagers about the links between the environment and health and include information about diseases like tuberculosis during “movie nights,” when they set up a projection screen and show educational videos. Crucially, ASRI also engages in capacity-building through its trained medical volunteers, who serve as consultants for Indonesian staff doctors who are fresh out of medical school.
On the horizon is a new eco-friendly “super-clinic” that will allow us to perform major surgery and house many more inpatients. We hope that as it goes up, people will learn ways to build with less wood, and that by offering even better health care to people living around the national park, we will gain enough leverage to slow or even stop illegal logging. For the community – everyone from the next generation of Sukadanans to the gibbons and durian trees – that would be a healthy change for all.
Jenny Blair, M.D., is a physician, writer, and long-term volunteer at ASRI, along with her husband, Roberto Cipriano, a LEED-accredited professional and architect who is helping to design ASRI’s newest clinic.
Sources: Center for International Forestry Research, Food and Agriculture Organization, Gunung Palung Orangutan Conservation Program, Mongabay.com, Rainforest Action Network, Tropics, World Rainforest Movement, World Wildlife Foundation
Video and Image Credit: “Conservation – Part 1,” courtesy of AlamSehatLestari, and “Ibu Nurdiah,” used with permission, courtesy of Roberto Cipriano.
›January 25, 2011 // By Richard CincottaWhile events in Tunisia, beginning mid-December and leading ultimately to President Ben Ali’s departure within a month, have rocked the Arab world, they leave an open question: Will Tunisia’s “Jasmine Revolution” ultimately lead to the Arab world’s first liberal democracy?
If the relationship between demographic change and democratic liberalization remains as robust as it has over the past 40 years, the odds are in Tunisia’s favor. South Korea, Taiwan, Chile, Indonesia, and Brazil were at a similar stage of age-structural maturity when each ascended to liberal democracy. If this political-demographic rule functions similarly in North Africa (see age-structural predictions for North Africa in a prior ECSP publication), then the likelihood of Tunisia achieving a liberal democracy – that is, a state assessed as “free” in Freedom House’s annual assessment – is high, relative to countries in other parts of the Arab world. [Video Below]
According to Freedom House, a free country is one “where there is open political competition, a climate of respect for civil liberties, significant independent civic life, and independent media.” On a scale of one to seven, seven being the most autocratic, Ben Ali’s regime scored a 6.0 (assessed in 2010).
The Demographic Factor
How long could it take Tunisia to move from Freedom House’s “not free” category (7.0 to 5.5) to “free” (2.5 to 1.0)? South Korea ascended in five years (1983-88). For Indonesia, the same journey took eight years (1997-2005), and for Taiwan, it took over 15 years to inch through the partly free category to free (1980 to 1995). Recent European ascents were somewhat quicker: Poland took four years (1987-91); Romania, six (1990-96); Portugal, three (1973-76); and Spain, four (1973-77). Greece jumped from not free to free in only one year (1973-74), following the collapse of a repressive anti-communist military regime.
To understand how age structure can directly influence a state’s chances of attaining and maintaining liberal democracy requires a discussion of two models of sociopolitical behavior: (1) the Hobbesian bargain and (2) the youth bulge thesis.
Assuming, as the English political philosopher Thomas Hobbes did in the middle of the 17th century, that citizens are willing to relinquish political liberties when faced with threats to their security and property (the Hobbesian bargain), it is not surprising that support for authoritarian regimes – especially among commercial and military elites – appears high when societies are very youthful and prone to political violence (the youth bulge thesis). When fertility declines, the population’s bulge of young adults ultimately dissipates over time. With much of society’s political volatility depleted, authoritarian executives tend to lose the support of the commercial elite, who find the regime’s grip on communication and commerce economically stifling and the privileges granted to family members and cronies of the political elite financially debilitating.
Good News, Bad News
What does this mean for Tunisia? First, the good news: Despite journalists’ focus on youth in the streets, Tunisia is not a youth-bulge country. Its population’s median age is 29 years – exceedingly more mature than the populations of most states in the Arab Middle East, such as Yemen (median age of 18 years), the Palestinian Territories (18 years), Iraq (19), Syria (23), and Jordan (23). Tunisia’s consistent declines in fertility pushed it into the class of intermediate age structures in 2005.
How did Tunisia get ahead? New York Times correspondent David Kirkpatrick said it so well, that I’ll simply quote his statement about Habib Bourguiba, the country’s first president and the father of its broad middle class:
[Bourguiba] pushed a social agenda of secularization, women’s rights, birth control and family planning that, in contrast to most countries in the region, slowed population growth, keeping the job of public education and social welfare manageable.Bourguiba’s reforms reshaped the country’s pyramidal population age structure into the intermediate structure that Tunisians experience today (see figure above).
Now for the bad news: Tunisia’s ascent to liberal democracy is still uncertain. In the annals of history, nearly all of the youth-led revolts aimed at achieving liberal democracy have fallen far short of their mark. Instead, they tend to descend into infighting and typically produce a partial-democratic or autocratic regime capable of quelling violence and limiting the destruction of property. This tendency lays bare the most serious limitation of an age-structural theory of democratization: ultimately, personalities and political action – non-demographic factors – are needed to consolidate elite and popular support for a liberal democratic regime. To eventually attain liberal democracy, Tunisia’s political elite, or what remains of them after years of expulsion and political exclusion under the Ben Ali regime, must seize the democratic initiative from demonstrators and make it their own.
But wait a minute, you might say: Wasn’t the Jasmine Revolution triggered by Mohamed Bouaziz’s martyrdom and a series of Wikileaks highlighting the Ben Ali regime’s nepotism and corruption? In “real time” these were instrumental – and so were the internet and news media that delivered them into households in all corners of Tunisia and throughout the Arab world. But triggers like these are often unique and nearly always unpredictable. As such, they offer little assistance to serious analysts hoping to predict the timing and success of future democratic transitions. Instead, they are the grist for today’s journalism and tomorrow’s history.
While some democracy pundits are gloomy about the country’s prospects, political demography’s age structure model gives Tunisians a good chance – perhaps even within five years – of achieving the Arab world’s first liberal democracy. Right now, the evolution of Tunisia’s political future depends on how its military, political, and commercial elites handle this opportunity. In the United States, some analysts worry that open political debate, free and fair elections, and rule of law might ultimately end up delivering another government into the hands of Islamists, a group that tends to make gains in the wake of corruption, and one that Ben Ali actively suppressed. This may be a moot point: There are many in U.S. foreign policy circles who are convinced that the Arab world needs a liberal democracy much more than Washington needs another friend.
For now, those outside Tunisia can only watch and wait. But if you’re watching, do some political demography of your own: Demonstrations that feature young women, the middle-aged, and perhaps even entire families, are a sign that democracy is on its way. Crowds entirely dominated by young men and boys – the social remnant of Tunisia’s waning youth bulge – tell a different story.
Richard Cincotta is a consulting political demographer for the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Project and demographer-in-residence at the Stimson Center.
Sources: Canadian Press, CIA World Factbook, Freedom House, The New York Times, U.S. Census Bureau, UN Population Division.
Photo Credit: “077,” courtesy of flickr user Nasser Nouri, and maps courtesy of Richard Cincotta and the UN Population Division.
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