The Tunisian-Mediterranean Association for Historical, Social and Economic Studies is organizing the 26 and 27 April 2012 in Beja (Tunisia), the second international symposium on the theme:
Development policies and experiences
in the Arab-Mediterranean area : challenges, trends and perspectives
Beja (Tunisia), 26 and 27 April 2012
If development is a new concept referring to all trends, plans and experiences to enable the most vulnerable countries (freed from direct colonial rule) to reach the level achieved by industrialized or “advanced” countries, the most general definition of this concept is the ambition of the people (individuals and societies) to improve their physical and moral living conditions, which was dominant in the minds of mankind since the ancient times when nature was absolutely dominant. The purpose of this improvement was a better adaptation to the forces of nature and their challenges.
In the 19th century, this concept came to be an obsession for the reformist pioneers in some Arab and Mediterranean countries and the focus of their discussions and writings, which are summarized in the famous question: why and how did the West advance while the rest of the world and the Arab and Islamic countries in particular have declined?
From various viewpoints, ideas and theoretical questions, the issue of development still persists.
Discussing and clarifying this historical dimension in general and particularly in the Arab-Mediterranean area is needed to rigorously evaluate the plans and development experiences.
Furthermore, based on an impartial assessment of development experiments carried out, a global agreement today should, where possible, include the following: measurement tools for development, conditions for its success, basic components and need for more precautions and obligations given the realities of globalization, increased interactions and multiple implications for relations between states and societies, particularly in light of environmental risks that threaten all humanity.
The elaboration of the concept of development implied at first the overtaking of the “economist” vision that reduced development to economic growth for the benefit of all social classes. Then it appeared necessary to introduce new dimensions implying specific conditions: internal and external political dimension (from real democracy to reduction of dependency), spatial dimension (right of each region to an adequate development), cultural dimension (right of each citizen to education and to an objective information) and environmental dimension (right of the present and future generations to a healthy environment and better living standard).
Consideration of these various elements conducted the implied actors, namely academics and politicians, to open up a wider range of specialists (geographers, historians, environmentalists, philosophers and psychologists) to contribute, in interaction with the economists and decision makers to setting up new approaches tackling the problem of development in a global, realistic and farsighted perspective.
Being viewed in a historical context, when the development was called “renaissance” in parts of Mediterranean Europe or “reformism” in the 19th century in Egypt, Tunisia or Istanbul, or “development plans” as in Turkey and the Arab countries after the end of the colonial era, or viewed in the context of the transition from a socialist to a capitalist model (current case in Albania) as well as some specific cases of regional development (like southern Italy), situations are varied and many. One thing is sure: the Arab and Mediterranean area remains a field of development experiences as diverse as original.
All these historical references and evaluations of experiences and alternative development plans (completed or under implementation) throughout the Arab and Mediterranean area caught the attention of many researchers in their own fields of competence and with their own analysis tools.
However, research and multidisciplinary symposia on this topic remain limited if not scarce, and holistic approaches required by the examination of these complex issues are almost absent. It is in order to reduce this gap that we intend to organize this conference.
By inviting different disciplines involved and through the various inputs feeding the discussions between experts, we aim to contribute to the emergence of one (or more) new visions of the development issue to pave the way for more precise and fruitful approaches and better suited methodological tools.
We suggest the basic themes of the symposium should focus on the following:
1. Historical aspects of the issue of development: “renaissance” and “reformist” movements in the Arab-Mediterranean area.
2. Ideological and political references of development guidelines between national perspectives and western recommendations: development and democracy.
3. Economic considerations in the issue of development.
4. Social, moral and psychological dimensions of development.
5. Environmental dimensions and sustainable development.
6. Specific challenges and obstacles faced by development in the Arab and Mediterranean area.
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