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Post-revolution Ethics

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Post-revolution Ethics
27/05/15 17:04 Newsletter  2015, No 5
Post-revolution Ethics: Tunisia after the Arab Spring

The self-burning of a student in Tunisia in North Africa was the origin of the Arab spring, the term for revolutions in a number of Arab countries. The revolution in Tunisia wiped away the dictatorship of Ben Ali. Four years later, the country is in the post-revolutionary period with great chances - and also challenges: Old norms and authorities are broken – what are the new values and benchmarks of orientation? How to build institutions and mechanisms for these new values and the cohesion of society? Are the young plants of the spring growing to strong trees or dying in hot “summer” and ongoing struggles? Let me select three challenges I observed during the conference in Tunis on 21-22 May on “Tunisian Companies and the Challenge of Transparency and Integrity” where I was invited to contribute on “How to (re-)build trust?”:
1. Patience: populations in post-revolution situations want to see fast improvements, especially in economically difficult times. Transition ethics needs a high speed of reform. It also needs transparent honest information about progress and obstacles. It needs a government, political parties and societal organisations with a ten years perspective and a common understanding that a new society is a generation programme and not a four year project.
2. Corruption: corruption in post-revolutionary periods often increases, first, instead of decreasing because transition means instability. In Tunisia, corruption was widespread among the elite under Ben Ali, but – as a Tunisian business woman explained to me – corruption is now “democratised”: In a liberalised but not yet stabilised situation manifold opportunities for petty corruption are open. Under economic pressure of high rates of unemployment bribes are practised even by persons who abstained from bribes in the past. The same could be observed in transition societies in Eastern Europe in the 1990ies, in Asia in post-dictatorship countries like Indonesia and the Philippines and many others. Transition ethics therefore needs special efforts for transparency, law enforcement, new legal and institutional stability and anti-corruption programmes as Tunisia is now doing. It then can lead to a sustainable decrease of corruption.
3. Trust through Integrity: Due to revolutionary turmoil, trust in persons and institutions is relatively low in transition societies. Personal struggles for power, young institutions without long track record, new political parties with little political experience increase mistrust. Transition societies need personalities with high integrity who stand for the common good and not for personal interests and who are rigorous and courageous in building standards and reliable mechanisms in their institutions. Such personalities are needed especially in leadership positions, but also in the broad population (the integrity of parents is key for the integrity of future generations).
I am impressed by the many personalities I met in Tunis last week from the public, private and civil society sectors who work hard, energetic and together for this “transition ethics” in post-revolutionary Tunisia. And Tunisia can and will contribute to it. And you also can: Post your experiences, analyses and reflections on Transition Ethics (ethics in transition societies) in this new discussion forum here.
Prof. Dr. Christoph Stückelberger
Executive Director and Founder,