International Conference on Political Transitions in the Arab World

On the 2nd and 3rd of December, the Graduate Institute of International Studies at Birzeit University held a conference around the theme "Political Transitions in the Arab World". The conference was attended by local and international academics as well as researchers and friends of the university from abroad. Graduate Studies students in the university also attended the conference.

University President, Dr. Hanna Nasir, opened the conference and expressed pleasure in hosting a distinguished group of local and international researchers. He stressed the importance of the conference in three aspects; firstly, dealing with the balance between political theory and what actually occurs in the Arab World during the transition stage. Secondly, the conference was being convened during a significant stage of political transition in the Arab World and in the stage of the Palestinian self-rule. Thirdly, it would help us examine the Palestinian situation from a global perspective and benefit from both similar and different experiences.

Dr. Nasir also mentioned the effect of the transition stage in Palestine on higher education. Palestinian universities were given the opportunity to move from thinking about issues related to surviving under the occupation to issues related to education and the developing needs of the society in order to build democratic institutions and systems.

The Conference was organized by a committee composed of Dr. Roger Heacock, Dr. Ibrahim Abu Lughod, Dr. Ali Jarbawi, Dr. Muhsin Yusuf and Dr. Hisham Ahmad-Fararjeh and discussed topics including the effect of culture and policy on the transition in the Arab World, the possibility of moving towards democracy in the Middle East from a "transitology" point of view, the transfer of authority in the Ayyubid period, the work of Ibn Khaldoun, the Eastern Crisis of 1877 and Palestinian citizenship during the transitional phase. Patrick Seale discussed the situation in Syria, the transition of the rule and the current negotiations with Israel. Seale stressed that Syria was serious about conducting negotiations with Israel. Other international speakers included Henry Laurence, Philippe Schmitter, Ronald Suny, Guido Moltedo, Kenneth Brown, Alan Gresh, Volker Perthes.