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Introduction: North Africa and Britain

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This special issue of International Affairs seeks to stimulate more debate and interest in Britain on North Africa. This relatively neglected area of British foreign policy has largely been funneled through the European Union (EU), where the focus of policy has been on preventive security, above all policing against illegal migration and the spread of radicalism and terrorism. The main driver for regional change and potential insecurity is now demographic, evident in the high levels of youth unemployment across North Africa. In facing the challenge of leadership successions over the next decade, it is in the interest of the EU, and in turn, Britain, to engage more closely with North Africa's younger generations to ensure the region's longer term security and stability. Britain has few strong bilateral links with North African societies, however, with the exception of private sector investments in the energy sector and security cooperation. New investment opportunities and a demand for English language and other forms of training for employment could put Britain at an advantage in responding to North African demands for diversified international relationships. A greater focus is also needed on local development opportunities to assist new actors to assume their own economic and political roles, as a better means of delivering security and jobs than relying on central states to deliver both. The articles in this special issue offer new insights into developments in the region, as well as analyses of European and American policy responses to the challenges identified. A common theme is that the region has been held back by a combined lack of institutional safeguards and political participation, with negative impacts on the spread of the economic benefits of higher growth rates and investment. Authoritarian leaderships have proved reliable partners for the EU and Britain in the past, but will they continue to do so in future?
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Document Type: Introduction

Affiliations: Head of the Middle East and North Africa Programme at Chatham House.

Publication date: September 1, 2009

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