| ||The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has today delivered a speech at the British Council on the Arab Spring. In it he addressed the Libyan revolution, Syria, British security interests, forging a new partnership with the Middle East and North Africa region, and the practical help being provided to help states in the MENA region to reform. |
The speech builds on developments since the Government published its Building Stability Overseas Strategy, which set out the basis of British support for the MENA region, and also the Arab Partnership Initiative, which is the Government’s long-term strategic approach to the Arab Spring.
Here are some key excerpts from the speech:
“The momentum for change is breathtaking and, for the cynics who said change wasn’t possible, who had written off the Libyan uprising, written off the Arab Spring, clearly, they were wrong. The movement for freedom hasn’t been stamped out. It’s alive and kicking, and it’s here to stay."
On Syria, the deputy PM said: “The UK welcomes the growing international condemnation of Assad’s regime."
On unemployment and economic injustice as the driving force behind the revolutions, he stated that “The only way to diffuse that sense of injustice is by improving people’s material circumstances - helping these economies reach their potential, ensuring they generate growth for all. But the only way to do that is through economic and political reform. Changes to governances; policies to boost private enterprise; education reform, so there is more vocational training; more focus on the skills needed in the modern jobs market; trade liberalisation, opening up trade within the region, where integration is low, as well as outside of it.
“Why, then, does any of this matter to the UK?
“First and foremost, because we believe in the same things these activists are fighting for: freedom, self-determination, human rights, the chance for people who work hard to succeed. Those are the values of the open society, where power is dispersed, government is representative, opportunity is shared. Values which are sometimes referred to as “Western values”, which is historically inaccurate, for a start.
“…we also care because stability and prosperity over there feed directly into jobs and security over here…We exported around £24.5 billion worth of goods and services to the region last year alone, more than to India and China combined…So this is an extremely important market for us particularly when we are getting our own economy back on track.
“The global economy is still very much governed by the price of oil. These states hold 59% of the world’s reserves, along with 36% of production. Even a small risk of disruption to that supply can spook the markets, pushing up the price of oil and creating a headwind for global economic growth.
“The Arab Spring also matters to us in terms of our security. We know that terrorists thrive on lawlessness and instability...Because of continuing political deadlock, Yemen, already the poorest country in the region is being pushed deeper into state failure, deeper into humanitarian crisis, creating a breeding ground for extremists who pose a threat to our safety. That situation cannot be allowed to continue…
“On security more broadly, North African and Middle Eastern states are also essential to preventing Iran from pursuing nuclear weapons or meddling in its neighbours affairs. And to finding a lasting, two-state solution for the Israel-Palestine conflict, the importance of which has been underlined by events over recent days.
“So the UK has every reason to support the Arab Spring. We’re doing so in three key ways. One, supporting Libya as it moves to a stable, prosperous future. Two, using our influence to create a new international partnership with the region better at encouraging reform. Three, by providing practical help to nations in transition.
“… a new partnership between the international community and the region. Inclusive and effective, built on give and take. Where we offer Arab states a better deal - the support they really need but we expect them to listen to their people in return.
“The G8 launched the Deauville Partnership earlier this year to support reform in the region and ensure international institutions are working together. Important regional players are fully involved…and Europe has to be smarter too. Europe has deep ties to its southern neighbours: a shared history, cultural bonds, trade and aid, but the EU needs to make more of those to encourage political and economic reform.
“The UK has been very active in redesigning the EU’s Neighbourhood policy. The new policy will offer our neighbours substantial additional financial assistance – through aid and European Bank lending. But, more importantly, the EU has committed to actions that will allow for greater economic integration. The access to markets that we know can deliver jobs and opportunities, through trade concessions in the short term and free trade agreements in the long term. But – and this is crucial – this access to markets will depend on the ability to demonstrate clear progress on reform. Where progress cannot be demonstrated, support will be withdrawn.
“Successful revolutions may change the world overnight. But, in many ways, it's the morning after that the real work begins. So the UK is working with organisations like the British Council and Westminster Foundation for Democracy to support these communities with the nuts and bolts of transition in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere. Our Arab Partnership Fund will support a range of political projects.
“On the economic front, we’re looking at schemes that support private sector growth, boost entrepreneurship, tackle youth unemployment, increase trade opportunities, stimulate public-private partnerships. All the areas we can offer the most help, and make the biggest difference. We’ve committed resources to this - £110m over the next four years with £20m now set aside specifically for Libya. And of course the UK, collectively with the EU, has committed an additional 1bn Euros to the region, with the European Investment Bank increasing its lending by a further billion on top of this.”
You can read the full speech here.
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