The 'Arab Spring': A G8 Recipe For Democracy

The 'Arab Spring' will be the focus of discussions between G8 and Arab League leaders this afternoon in a special working session, in which the prime ministers of Egypt and Tunisia will also participate.

Egypt and Tunisia

Short on employment opportunities, tourists and and foreign investors, Egypt and Tunisia—the “poster nations” for uprisings in the Arab world—are looking for direct financial aid from G8 leaders, the World Bank, the IMF and possibly the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development to match their political support. According to the Deauville Summit website, France will aim "to support civil society and economic and social reforms, particularly aimed at young people, whose thirst for freedom sparked off the liberation movements of the Arab peoples". US officials have noted that they do not expect an exact dollar amount to be reached this week. The G8 will commit money as individual nations and not as a group.


At a press conference earlier in the week in London, US President Obama and UK Prime Minister Cameron vowed to “turn up the heat” in Libya and to look at “all the options” while continuing to apply pressure to Gadhafi (CNN). In Deauville, G8 leaders together will discuss ways to end the military conflict in Libya.

This conflict was the main focus of the pre-Summit foreign ministers’ meeting in Paris mid-March. There, G8 foreign ministers resisted French pressure and failed to reach an agreement on a no-fly zone over Libya. British Foreign Secretary William Hague told reporters then that there was common ground in the G8 and a common appetite to increase pressure on Gaddafi but there was no agreement on further measures to take.  Thus, the “no-fly zone” was not mentioned in the final communiqué. The decision was sent to the UN Security Council which supported the NATO-led aerial intervention.


Syria will also appear on today’s agenda. A numbers of G8 governments and the EU have already imposed sanctions, including most recently the Canadian Conservative government. In a statement released by his office, Prime Minister Harper announced that Canada would impose targeted sanctions against members of the current Syrian regime. “Canada is gravely concerned at the excessive use of force by the Syrian regime against its own people, which has reportedly resulted in the deaths of hundreds of civilians and the detention of thousands more,” said Prime Minister Harper. “The best way to ensure peace and stability in Syria is through democratic reform and respect for human rights, not violent repression,” Prime Minister Harper added.

The Good Governance Challenge

The Summit will test the G8’s refocused peace and security mandate.  Like the foreign ministers’ meeting that preceded it, the leaders’ meeting is not expected to take a strong and united stand in their final communiqué on the Arab Spring; Russia is opposed to sanctions against Syria and neither Russia or Germany support the direction of the NATO campaign in Libya. 

Christopher Sands, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, wrote in a recent piece for the G20 Research Group, that:

Absent a broader consensus, G8 and G20 leaders should agree to support the governments that emerge in ways that promote stability, respect for basic rights and a return to economic health. Several concrete steps would contribute to these goals as the Arab spring moves into midsummer.

 Sands’ key steps for G8 leaders are:

  • Establish personal contacts with new leaders
  • Be attentive to the opposition
  • Emphasize governing skills (fiscal and monetary policy) and capacity building through exchanges and peer-to-peer mentoring

While governance support is certainly an important element in the medium-to-long term, G8 actions (collectively or separately) beyond communiqués and verbal pledges are necessary in the short term. Will leaders deliver the goods or fall short of expectations?

Deanne Leifso is a project officer with the G20 Working Group at The Centre for International Governance Innovation. She has her MA in political science from the University of Waterloo, Ontario.

The opinions expressed in this article/multimedia are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of CIGI or its Board of Directors.