Conference Report: The Maghreb in Transition

The Maghreb is in motion. Political changes underway across North Africa have created opportunities for more representative and transparent governance. Debates over the nature of authority and the role of the state that would have been unthinkable just a few years ago now shape political discourse. And yet, doubts remain.

Transitions in Libya and Tunisia remain incomplete, and their ultimate impacts on the region are still uncertain. Popular expectations of reform are straining governments’ abilities to adapt. Dilemmas of political identity and institutional structure challenge both new and existing governments. Meanwhile, the region’s persistent economic tasks—to provide jobs, stability, and growth for the millions of citizens who enter the labor market every year—endure. Economic success will be integral to the success of the region’s political transformation and its future.

To better understand the evolving political, economic, and security dynamics in the Maghreb (defined here as Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya), the CSIS Middle East Program convened a conference in Washington, D.C., on October 12, 2012. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton delivered the keynote address, imparting her optimism as well as her commitment to building on recent gains in freedom and civic participation. The conference gathered a senior group of experts from government, academia, policy research, and the business community to share their insights. While many agreed that there is reason to be cautiously hopeful, there was no denying that the region is at the beginning of a long and uncertain phase of change.