Introductory Remarks – Denis Galligan, Professor of Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford
Sir Adam Roberts, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for International Studies, University of Oxford
Elham Fakhro, DPhil Candidate, Centre for Socio-Legal Studies, University of Oxford
Civil resistance, especially in the form of massive peaceful demonstrations, was at the heart of the Arab Spring – the chain of events in the Middle East and North Africa that erupted in December 2010. It won some notable victories: popular movements helped to bring about the fall of authoritarian governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya and Yemen. Yet these apparent triumphs of non-violent action were followed by disasters – wars in Syria, anarchy in Libya and Yemen, reversion to authoritarian rule in Egypt, and counter-revolution backed by external intervention in Bahrain. Why did so much go wrong? Was the problem the methods, leadership and aims of the popular movements, or the conditions of their societies?
The colloquium will examine the ways in which the civil resistance movements related to legal and constitutional systems, both within states and internationally. Did they appeal to higher law and/or morality, and to international as distinct from national law? To what extent did the protesters engaging in civil resistance seek to reform or overturn existing legal and constitutional institutions, or to establish new ones? The discussions will seek to draw both general and context-specific conclusions about the successes and failures of civil resistance movements in the Arab Spring.