The former Minister for Culture of Lebanon, Ghassan Salamé, has said that the Arab Spring was partly due to the growing inequalities found in expanding cities in the region.
Mr Salamé, who was also the Political Advisor to the UN Mission in Iraq (2003) and Senior Advisor to the United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan (2003–2006) made the comments during his lecture at the recent award ceremony of the Rafik Hariri UN-Habitat Memorial Award at the New York public Library.
The winner of the second cycle 2012, Dr. Mahathir Mohamad was bestowed the award in recognition of the outstanding achievements as the prime minister of Malaysia promoting economic development and human welfare.
In his lecture, Mr. Salamé discussed the upheavals in the Arab world, commonly known as "the Arab Spring". He argues that, although politics undoubtedly are a major contributing factor to the emerging events, it would be too simplistic to reduce the insurgencies to a struggle for power and a revolt against authoritarianism. The present upheavals are also a rebellion against the unequal distribution wealth, inequitable access to resources and economic measures that allocated the profits of economic growth exclusively to a restricted government-affiliated elite.
Recently, he says, most Arab governments have abandoned their traditional rural support system and allied with the urban classes. Cities like Alexandria, Aleppo, and Baghdad are today four to five times the size they were 30 to 35 years ago. Urban outskirts expanded with huge numbers of "rurbans" – people migrating from the countryside into the cities peripheries to live in illegal shantytowns and desperately looking for jobs.
Participants on both sides of the political divide are frustrated by this new urban order that is simultaneously appealing as well as exclusive. To a large extent, the upheavals are also a rebellion of the periphery against the urban centers, an aspect which is particularly relevant to UN-Habitat.
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