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Isobel Coleman

Isobel Coleman is senior fellow and director of the Civil Society, Markets, and Democracy Initiative as well as director of the Women and Foreign Policy Program at the Council on Foreign Relations. On Twitter, she can be followed at Isobel_Coleman.

INSIGHT: Tunisia – What to Expect from Its New Constitution

Tunisia’s National Constituent Assembly (NCA) is voting on a new constitution.  The approval process is expected to be finalized this week. Tunisia has become an oasis of optimism in an otherwise tumultuous region. Egypt recently approved a new constitution, but its drafting was hardly a process of consensus, never mind the fact that this is More »

INSIGHT: Quotas and Women in Egyptian Politics

Last week, Egypt’s Constituent Assembly, charged with amending the country’s constitution, announced that 25 percent of municipal seats will be reserved for women. There is no word yet on when municipal elections will be held, or if a similar quota will be established for parliament, but the move is a positive step toward improving More »

INSIGHT: Youth Unemployment in Middle East, North Africa

As the graph below makes painfully clear, the Middle East and North Africa face significant challenges when it comes to youth unemployment. A World Economic Forum report from 2012 notes, “Unemployment in the MENA region is the highest in the world…and largely a youth phenomenon.” I’ve previously highlighted troubling trends in youth employment, including the More »

INSIGHT: Women and Sports in Saudi Arabia

Last summer, I wrote about two young women from Saudi Arabia, Wojdan Shaherkani and Sarah Attar, who were the first Saudi women ever to compete in the Olympics. They had to endure criticism from conservatives at home and lots of discussion about what they would wear to compete, but they served as a powerful More »

INSIGHT: Youth, Change, and the Future of Saudi Arabia

Saudi watchers have for years debated the stability of the kingdom. In the 1960s, with internecine rivalries dividing the royal family and the kingdom struggling to pay its debts, some American diplomats predicted that the House of Saud wouldn’t last but a few more years. When extremists took control of the Grand Mosque in More »

INSIGHT: Women’s Security in the Middle East and North Africa

“It is time for an uprising of women in the Arab world,” writes Hanin Ghaddar, managing editor of NOW News in Lebanon in the second annual publication to mark International Women’s Day by the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Middle East Program. Last year, Haleh Esfandiari, the program’s director, asked a diverse group of women from business, More »

INSIGHT: The ‘Chicken and Egg’ of Skills, Jobs in the Arab World

A new report from the International Labor Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) – Rethinking Economic Growth: Towards Productive and Inclusive Arab Societies – examines employment issues, the relative lack of dynamic private sectors, broken social contracts, and more in the Arab world. The chapter on education is particularly interesting. The report More »

INSIGHT: Bolstering Education and Science in the Arab World

A decade ago, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) shone a spotlight on the sorry state of education in the Arab world with its inaugural Arab Human Development Report in 2002, and its 2003 follow-on report, “Building a Knowledge Society.” The reports’ statistics still shock: in one year, Spain translates the same number of More »

INSIGHT: Women in Politics in Saudi Arabia

Just days ago, Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah made history when he named thirty women to the kingdom’s Shura Council, an appointed advisory body that cannot enact legislation but is still the closest institution to a parliament in that country. He also amended the Shura Council’s law to ensure that women would make up no less than More »

INSIGHT: Morsi’s Overreach

Well, at least President  Mohamed Morsi knows when to retreat. Last week, basking in the glow of having helped broker a cease-fire in Gaza, Morsi issued a decree that in essence gave Egypt’s president power over the judiciary. But in the face of growing street protests, he now appears to be backpedaling away from More »

INSIGHT: Debate Over Egypt’s Draft Constitution

Egypt is deep into the messy process of drafting its new constitution. In the past few weeks, two different drafts were released within days of each other. Not surprisingly, there are several areas of major contention. At the heart of the matter are profoundly different views between religious conservatives and secular liberals on such More »

INSIGHT: Thoughts on Tunisia’s Transition

I was in Tunisia last week and met with a wide range of people, including business, government, and civil society leaders; educators, journalists, bloggers, university students, and Salafist youth; young people unemployed and looking for jobs, and graduates who have newly entered the workforce. Below are some reflections on what I heard: • Numerous Tunisians More »