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The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is currently facing some of the dilemmas that other societies had to deal with during their own processes of political transition. These include the conundrum of how to move from regime breakdown to democratic reform, the division between 'hard-' and 'soft-liners', civil-military relations and a weak and fragmented opposition. Current reform challanges in the post-revolution Arab world are connected to a long trajectory of transitions from authoritarian regimes to democracies in Southern Europe, Latin America, Eastern Europe, Africa and Asia. Drawing lessons from past democratisation experiences could provide a better understanding of current events in the MENA region, and help Arab policymakers to better face the challenges of democratic institution-building.

Drawing on previous transition experiences may also help external actors like the European Union, the United States and international organisations avoid past mistakes. Faced with rapidly changing situations in the Middle East, what can policy makers learn from past efforts to support reform in other countries? Which policies have worked, which challenges were overlooked, and what best practices can be identified?