Understanding the Egyptian Protests: Headwaters of the Arab Spring

On Tuesday, January 25, 2011, the leaders of the Egyptian protest group, April 6 Youth Movement (A6Y), led hundreds of thousands of protesters chanting, “Bread, Freedom, Human Rights” into Cairo’s Tahrir Square. The events that followed completely surprised the economic elites gathering for the annual World Economic Forum meeting in Davos, Switzerland. Few put much stock in the importance of the actions of young people in Egypt until the protests overturned that country’s entrenched power structure in a matter of weeks.

Why were the leaders of the global economy so surprised by the events that have come to be known as the Arab Spring, and why did they feel so threatened by them? Why did the protester’s demands spread so quickly throughout the Arab world after decades of suppression by autocratic regimes? 

The answer to these questions lies in an understanding of the complex interaction between technological and generational change, fueled by a hunger for a better future, that continues to be the underlying source of the institutional instability and that will reshape the entire region. In a new Kindle Single, Headwaters of the Arab Spring, NDN fellows Morley Winograd and Mike Hais explain how these intertwined forces are destined to undermine institutions and leaders in every corner of the world.