The Arab Spring
Tunisia planted a seed of revolution across the Middle East and North Africa and it grew into a sequoia.
The Internet and social media took center stage as protests spread to Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, Syria and Yemen. "Egypt" was the second-most used term on Twitter in 2011, behind "occupy."
Egypt and Libya headlined the Arab spring as former Egyptian leader Hosni Mubarak and former Libyan dictator Moammar Gaddafi fell at the hands of their own people, but overthrow didn't translate into economic stability throughout the region.
"Arab revolutions had a clear economic underpinning: they were fuelled by poverty, unemployment, and lack of economic opportunity," academics Adeel Malik and Bassem Awadallah wrote in an article for Middle East Institute.
It goes on to say that the region's continued dependence on natural resources has prevented the emergence of a viable private sector, which has stymied economic diversity.
Egypt and Libya, specifically, continue to transition to new governments.
Egyptian Islamists reignited protests in November when military rulers attempted to seize de facto leadership of Egypt.
"The army has no role in ruling people. Its only job is to protect the country," said Hani Hegazi, a 28-year old Muslim Brotherhood member, according to the
. "We want civilian rule chosen through democracy."
The Muslim Brotherhood said that it won in December some 70% of the available parliamentary seats in Egypt, as it has been the most organized party in the country.
The United Nations lifted sanctions on Libya's central bank as confidence in the new government swelled among developed nations.
"This will be a long and difficult transition, but I am confident that you will succeed," Leon Panetta, U.S. defense secretary, told Libya Prime Minister Abdurrahim al-Keib in a news conference.
But confidence in a government won't drive the economic concerns of the region.
"With the public sector as the main engine of job creation, the region suffers from a precarious employment strategy," Malik and Awadallah wrote. "The issues of job creation and social justice are ultimately tied with the very model of development that governments in the region have long pursued."
Oil prices swung wildly during the summer as many analysts feared that uprisings would spur disruption in delivery.
At one point, Libyan rebels shut down oil production in the country, which was a move that didn't affect the larger oil market (Libya produces a small fraction of worldwide oil) and was seen more as a symbol of the shifting power in the nation.
The Arab spring cultural watershed ousted long-despised leaders who were poor drivers of economic transformation. The revolution was the step in 2011, but economic transition could prove the challenge in 2012.
-- Joe Deaux