President Obama will deliver a major speech on the Middle East and North Africa at the State Department today, during which he is expected to address the political upheaval that has been taking place across the region and announce economic aid to nations that embrace economic reforms.
The president “will be laying out a vision tomorrow for the region of what it can be long-term and its role in the world, and as part of that, we'll be announcing a series of initiatives to support that long-term vision,” a senior administration official said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday. The initiatives include efforts to support better economic management, economic stability, modernization and reform and a framework for trade integration and investment.
The Arab Spring can largely be attributed to the frustrations of young people across the region who are unemployed and extremely pessimistic about their future prospects. In Egypt, for example, unemployment is reported to be as high as 30 percent.
“You have very large populations of young people, too many of whom cannot find a job. You have a history not just of political rights being restricted but of economic corruption that has also frustrated opportunity,” said an administration official. “So we think it’s important to note that some of the protests in the region are deeply rooted in a lack of individual opportunity and economic growth, as well as a suppression of political rights. We also know from our study of the past that a successful transition to democracy depends, in part, on strong foundations for prosperity, and that reinforcing economic growth is an important way of reinforcing a democratic transition.”
According to a survey released by the Pew Global Attitudes Project, the United States’ image in the Muslim world remains negative. With the exception of Indonesia, Obama is unpopular in the region and in Jordan, Turkey and Pakistan he is viewed even more negatively now than he was a year ago.
(Photo: AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)