"2011 has been a truly transformative year," said State Department Deputy Secretary William Burns. "It brought us the first successful popular revolution in the region in over thirty years -- and then the second and the third."
The Arab Spring is a transformation truly driven from within. But that doesn't mean that the changes do not matter to the United States, said Deputy Secretary Burns. The United States will help stabilize and sustain the progress by helping to support the greater political openness and the democratic transitions unfolding across the region, and the economic openness and opportunities which are critical to the success of those transitions.
The events of the Arab Spring once and for all laid to rest Al Qa'ida's false claims that only through violence and extremism can the people of the Middle East affect meaningful change.
But democratic transitions are messy and complicated, uneven and, at times, unsettling, said Deputy Secretary Burns. "We also know from transitions in other regions that there is a danger of authoritarian retrenchment or violent instability, especially if economic stagnation persists and newly-elected leaders don’t produce practical improvements in people’s daily lives."
Quoting President Barack Obama, Deputy Secretary Burns said that "Just as democratic revolutions can be triggered by a lack of individual opportunity, successful democratic transitions depend upon an expansion of growth and broad-based prosperity."
Revitalized, open, and regionally-integrated economies are key to ensuring the success of democratic transitions.
To support the democratic transitions underway in the Middle East and North Africa, Secretary Clinton appointed a Special Coordinator for Middle East Transitions, to make sure U.S. transition support to Egypt, Libya, and Tunisia is as strategic, coordinated, and effective as possible. The Special Coordinator is responsible for organizing all the tools at our disposal to help these countries succeed. For example, we are working with Congress to establish Enterprise Funds to help people in Egypt and Tunisia access funds to grow their own businesses.
The United States is working to empower individuals to make their own economic as well as political choices, and grow a real middle class. Because in the end, said Deputy Secretary Burns, "This is about translating the promise of political change into real, palpable hope for a better economic future, and about giving new leaders the tailwind they need to navigate bumpy transitions amid high expectations."