Recent Events in North Africa and the Near East

The dramatic developments that started in Tunisia, spread to Egypt and are now affecting other countries in the region came as no great surprise to us. Although neither the timing and varying levels of violence nor the spread of popular discontent from one country to the next could be predicted, we at the Institute were well aware of the evolution of demographic and economic indicators that brought about this explosion.

For several years, as part of our documentation of urban conditions in North Africa and the Near East for various UN-Habitat reports, we have been presenting key indicators whose evolution presented a worrisome trend and explain the unprecedented active participation of educated young people in regime change:

  • an increasingly younger population;
  • steadily growing unemployment and underemployment rates among young people, particularly among university graduates; and
  • a steady rise of food prices that have negated income gains.
The following four charts provide the background for the unrest that is sweeping through the region.



(click here for a larger view)

By happenstance, Mona Serageldin arrived in Cairo on January 28, the day security was worst. She was to meet with the sponsors of our project on the preservation and revitalization of Khedivial Cairo. Tahrir Square is located at the edge of this district. Because of the large number of foreigners (estimated at one million), mostly tourists who crowded the airport waiting for outbound flights, as well as the rescheduling of many flights, she was unable to proceed to Tanzania and stayed in Cairo for a week. She experienced the events first hand and has a different perspective from that reported in the media. She stopped in Cairo again on her way back and was able to hold her meetings.

Although the schedule of the project may change, the Institute is starting to develop a pilot project to illustrate the range of public and private interventions necessary to revitalize the historic central district while preserving its distinctive character and the inherent quality of the urban fabric and architecture of its late19th and early 20th Century buildings.



Fran├žois Vigier, President
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