New inquiry into British foreign policy and the 'Arab Spring'

18 July 2011

The Foreign Affairs Committee will carry out an inquiry into the implications for British foreign policy of the ‘Arab Spring’ and subsequent events in the Middle East and North Africa, looking in particular at the contribution the UK can make to reform and reconstruction in Arab countries. In the first instance the inquiry will focus on Egypt and Tunisia. The Committee will monitor events elsewhere in the region as they continue to unfold, and may in due course extend the inquiry to cover other countries

  • Specific questions to be considered will include:
  • What forces are driving the movement for reform and reconstruction in Egypt and Tunisia, and to what extent are they paralleled elsewhere in the Arab world (for instance in other North African countries such as Morocco)? 
  • Could the FCO realistically have done more to anticipate the ‘Arab Spring’? Did FCO staff in Egypt and Tunisia have the right level and mix of skills, including linguistic skills? Was there too much focus on contact with the previous regime rather than tracking popular, oppositional or youth opinion? Was policy overly dominated by considerations of regional stability and counter-terrorist co-operation? What contingency plans were in place for a change of regime in either country? Are there lessons to be learned in terms of intelligence gathering and strategic planning?
  • How well did the FCO perform in providing consular assistance to British citizens at the time of the political upheavals in Egypt and Tunisia?
  • What specific assistance can the British Government give to help Egypt, Tunisia and other Arab countries build the institutions of democracy and civil society, and revive their economies? Does the FCO have the right resources in place to deliver its objectives in the region? What role can the BBC World Service and the British Council play? How can the British Government best work with allies and through international institutions to support reform in Egypt and Tunisia?
  • What are the prospects for establishing stable multi-party democracy and a human rights culture in Egypt, Tunisia and elsewhere?
  • What will be the future role of Islamist movements in the region and what should be the British Government’s stance towards them?
  • What are the implications of the ‘Arab Spring’ for Egyptian/Israeli relations and regional security?
  • To what extent can Egypt and Tunisia function as role models for the wider Arab world?
  • Do recent events in Egypt and Tunisia, and in the ‘Arab Spring’ generally, necessitate a radical reappraisal of UK policy towards the Middle East and North Africa (bearing in mind the Prime Minister’s comments in Kuwait in February 2011 about potential conflict between British "interests" and "values")?

Call for evidence:

Interested groups or individuals are encouraged to submit written evidence to the inquiry. Written evidence should be received by the Committee no later than Monday 12 September 2011.

Form of written evidence:

Submissions must be no longer than 3,000 words. The main body of any submission should use numbered paragraphs. Each submission should contain: 

  • a short summary, perhaps in bullet point form;
  • a brief introduction about the person or organisation submitting evidence, perhaps explaining their area of expertise or experience;
  • any factual information from which the Committee might be able to draw conclusions, or which could be put to other witnesses; and
  • any recommendations for action by the Government or others which the submitter would like the Committee to consider for inclusion in its report to the House.

Submissions should be in MS Word format with as little use of colour and logos as possible.

View further information on submitting evidence.

Submitting evidence:

Submissions should be sent as an e-mail attachment to and the email entitled ‘Inquiry into Arab Spring’. Paper copies may be sent to Foreign Affairs Committee, Committee Office, House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA.

Inquiry-related questions:

Please contact Dr Robin James, Clerk of the Committee, on 020 7219 3278 or by email to

Media enquiries:

Members of the press with enquiries should contact Alex Paterson, Select Committee Media Officer, on 020 7219 1589, or 07917 488488, or by email to

Image: PA

Share this page