The Arab Spring – The Seeds of Change

A decade ago, Susan Marks (arguably one of the big names in legal theory) tried to rationalise the relationship between theory and practice in the context of paradigm-shifting events. She did so in a paper reflecting on an unexpected reaction from a conference attendee: “Reflections on a Teach-in Walk-out.” January 2002, Afghanistan is invaded by the international coalition and a group of scholars were discussing the legality of it. A man in the audience leaves the room following an outburst, clearly verbalizing what he thought of ‘theorists’.

Like Marks, who was shocked and intrigued by this rebellion against ‘pure theory’, this small incident has been the catalyst for reflexion on the role of scholars in defining events such as revolutions. Marks’ answer is: more theory will give meaning to theory.

With this conference, ‘Arab Spring – The Seeds of Change Panel Discussion’, we attempt a different approach. The panel boasts a blend of theorists and practitioners from both London and the Middle East. The following question arises: why a panel discussion? It has been one of our goals in organizing this event to allocate more time than usual to accept questions from the audience, and to encourage debate.  Answers will not only stem from a 15-minute presentation by a panellist, but may arise from a combination of presentations, spontaneous reactions, questions and arguments – all oriented towards the need for theory to sustain practice, and the need for practice to fuel theory.

The Arab Spring has shaken North Africa, the Middle East and the Gulf on a massive scale and continues to reshape those regions for better or for worse. Aftershocks have been felt throughout the international community, provoking fierce debate on a myriad of global issues including government foreign policies, the practice of international relations, international law, the recognition of states and government, foreign and humanitarian aid, international asylum policy and the rules regarding the use of force and military intervention. Whilst the Arab Spring arguably gains momentum and builds on its advances, we (the Organising Committee) feel that it is the international community’s responsibility to collectively analyse, critique and offer practical solutions to these important global problems.

What started as a tentative talk about the Arab Spring and international law is now a 1-day event dedicated to assemble different people, different minds, and 150 individuals from the audience in an attempt to understand, define, and answer what has been the most important political change since the fall of the USSR.

The purpose of this symposium is to (i) unite jurists, non-jurists, journalists, academics and practitioners from various fields and backgrounds, in order to discuss the relationship between theory and practice in the context of the Arab Spring, and (ii) assess and evaluate the international community’s response (past, present and future) to the rapidly changing events in the Arab world.


Knut Fournier, for the Organizing Committee.

Note from the Organizing Committee: We are LLM and LLB students at King’s College London seeking to promote knowledge about the Arab Spring and to link scholars, students, and professionals who share our interest.

Arab Spring: the Seeds of Change

Kings College London, Stamford Street Lecture Theatre

Friday, 23 March 2012, 9:15am to 5:30pm

9:15am Presentation of the day

Knut Fournier

Welcoming Address

9:30am Session 1 – Human Rights

Clive Baldwin (Senior Legal Advisor, HRW)

The Challenges of Building Justice After Revolution

Omar Ismail (Chairman, Egyptian Association UK)

A Reflection on Human Rights in the Middle East

Heather Blake (Director, Reporters Without Borders)

Freedom of Press and Information as a Human Right

Dr Essam Ijjawi (Director, Health Work Committees)

Palestine in the Arab Spring

11:30am Lunch

1:00pm Session 2 – Democratization

Dr Corinna Mullin (Professor, SOAS)

The Challenges of the ‘Arab Spring’ to Democracy

Dr Phil Marfleet (Professor, University East London)

Egypt – Democratisation and Revolution

Dr Alex Callinicos (Professor, King’s College)

What Are the Limits of the Arab Revolutions?

Elham Saudi (Director, Lawyers for Justice in Libya)

The Legal Steps Libya has Taken Towards Democratization and Upcoming Challenges

3:00pm Tea and coffee break

3:30pm Session 3 – International Relations

Dr Sarah Wolff (Professor, UCL)

EU-Arab Countries Relations: From Security Cooperation to Political Engagement?

Dr Ashraf Mishrif (Professor, King’s College)

Rethinking Foreign Aid and Development in Post-Arab Spring

Zahed Amanullah (Unitas Communications)

The Arab Spring in the Media

Dr Christian Coates Ulrichsen (Professor, LSE)

The Uprising in Bahrain: Regional and International Implications


5:30pm Closing Remarks

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