While there has been much research on the effect of valuable natural resource extraction on a state’s domestic development (e.g., the “resource curse”), Wilson Center Fellow Jeff Colgan focuses on how natural resource extraction affects foreign policy. In Petro-Aggression: When Oil Causes War, Colgan finds that “petrostates” – countries where revenue from oil exports exceeds 10 percent of GDP – are twice as likely to engage in inter-state conflict than non-petrostates.
Much ink has been spilled on the growing trend of global land grabs – land purchased en masse in developing countries like Ethiopia by foreigners mainly for agricultural export. But along with land, investors often also gain the right to use local water, and sometimes with little consideration for local livelihoods. Fred Pearce recently looked into these “water grabs” in a series for National Geographic.
‘Dialogue’ Interviews Caryle Murphy & John Sullivan: Saudi Arabia’s Demography & 2013’s Big Environment Stories›
Dialogue at the Wilson Center tackled demography and the environment last week, interviewing Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and former Wilson Center public policy scholar Caryle Murphy about her new book, A Kingdom’s Future: Saudi Arabia Through the Eyes of Its Twentysomethings, followed by John Sullivan, director of the Environment and Health and Safety News Division for Bloomberg BNA, on the most important energy and environmental issues of 2013.
One year ago, the United States government froze all property of the Central Bank of Iran and other Iranian financial institutions within the United States. The move was part of a broader effort to compel the Islamic Republic to give up its alleged nuclear weapons program. How is it working out?
In a new book from the Wilson Center, Caryle Murphy asks how, while its neighbors face revolutions, Saudi Arabia has been able to “weather the storm of Arab youth discontent seemingly unscathed.”
To find out, Murphy went to the source, interviewing 83 young Saudis between the ages of 19 and 29 in the spring of 2012. She found that “they are by no means a revolutionary lot, preferring gradual, step-by-step change. They want change, but not at the cost of safety and security. Most favor more tolerance for diversity, including in the realm of religion.”
›“I’m a big proponent of girl’s education. I believe that it’s a very important and a very valuable human rights obligation that all countries should be meeting,” said Kavita Ramdas, executive director for programs on social entrepreneurship at Stanford University, at the Wilson Center. However, “in the past seven to eight years we have found ourselves in a situation where there’s kind of an enchantment with girl’s education, as though it were the new microenterprise magic bullet to solve everything from poverty, to malnourishment, to inequality.”
“The outcomes that we ascribe to girl’s education…are not anything that I would argue with,” she said, yet, this enchantment “has happened simultaneously with a significant drop in both funding and support for strategies that give girls and women access to reproductive health and choices, particularly family planning.”
This is a problem, said Ramdas, because we cannot rely on education alone to do all the heavy lifting required to empower women.
“I think it’s important for us to recognize that there are societies where girls and women have achieved significantly high levels of education in which gender inequality remains,” she said, “for example, places like Japan and Saudi Arabia, where you have high per capita income, high levels of education, and yet…where women and girls are still marginalized and on the edges in terms of decision making.”
“I don’t think we have to wait for one to be able to do the other,” she said. “As we support programs for girls’ education, we also need to demand that those programs be buttressed by strong programs in adolescent health, strong programs in sex education, strong programs that actually provide girls and women with access to family planning and contraception.”
›Excerpts below are from “Saudi Arabia’s Youth and the Kingdom’s Future,” by Caryle Murphy, available for download from the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program.
Saudi Arabia is passing through a unique demographic period. …Approximately 37 percent of the Saudi population is below the age of 14. Those under age 25 account for around 51 percent of the population, and when those under 29 are included, young people amount to two-thirds of the kingdom’s population. (In the United States, those 14 years and younger are 20 percent of the population; those 29 and below make up 41 percent.)
The country’s unprecedented “youth bulge” has not yet crested, which means increasing numbers of job-seekers in coming years. This demographic profile is typical of the Gulf region where around 60 percent of the people are under the age of 30, making it one of the most youthful regions in the world.
If there is one segment of Saudi society pushing aggressively for reforms, it is young women. Their demands for greater personal freedoms and more say in Saudi public life will be the biggest driver of social and economic change in the next few years. This is because the restrictions under which Saudi women live, which collectively come under the rubric of the “guardianship” system, are increasingly running into two obstacles.
One obstacle is resistance from young, educated women who are aware that Muslim women in other countries have more personal freedoms than Saudi females, who are not even allowed to drive.
In addition, the guardianship system, as well as society’s strict gender segregation, will be difficult to maintain given the government’s often-stated intentions to bring women into the workforce and to create a more diversified, knowledge-based economy less dependent on oil. It is very difficult to have a creative, dynamic, and productive economic system if half the population is segregated and treated like children.
Download the full article from the Wilson Center.
Caryle Murphy is a public policy scholar with the Wilson Center’s Middle East Program and a freelance journalist.
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