Hivos International

Since the outbreak of the revolutions in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in 2011, the region is undergoing tectonic shifts. The pace, quality and quantity of political and social changes are unprecedented. In short, the MENA region is the scene of historic revolutions and counter-revolutions. In such a rapidly changing context, conventional wisdom about static societies and states in the MENA do not make sense and are out of context. There is no shortage of knowledge produced in the West about MENA. But there is however a chronic lack of knowledge products from researchers and activists in the region itself.

This knowledge deficit inspired Hivos to invest in knowledge co-creation on the MENA region. In 2009, Hivos and the University of Amsterdam established the Knowledge Programme on Civil Society in West Asia, an academic-practitioner collaboration between researchers in Europe and the region. The purpose of the programme was to generate and integrate knowledge on the roles and opportunities for civil society actors in democratization processes in authoritarian environments. During this period, our focus was mainly on Iran and Syria. A widening of topics and countries have informed our research efforts since the popular uprisings of 2011, when we saw the region transitioning from great hopes for democratisation towards a spiral of violence, fragmentation and fragility.

In this dossier, you can find case-studies across two continents: from North Africa towards West Asia and the Gulf. Our (mostly local) researchers have offered insights on a wide range of topics, from processes of ‘authoritarian upgrading’, to terrorism, foreign funding dilemmas, refugees and local women’s movements. To ensure accessibility of these insights, we provide a selection of our papers in both English and Arabic.


Other Knowledge Dossiers

Citizen Action

Citizens are central actors in public and political arenas. Their ability to hold governments to account and to participate fully in democratic processes is contingent upon the opportunities to freely assemble, associate and express opinions. Around the globe citizens are claiming their rights, rising up to injustices occurring and proposing alternatives. They use “old” methods of social movements and “new” instruments such as social media. Increasingly citizens are also reaching out to a global constituency; think of Occupy, the protests against Monsanto and TTIP.

Gender and Sexual Rights

In the field of Gender and Sexual Rights, Hivos has a long and remarkable history.  We were one of the first organisations that campaigned for sexual rights, including lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders (LGBTs), but also men who have sex with men (MSM) without considering themselves to be homosexual. In the field of women’s rights, we have been supporting women all over the world to organise themselves and become a countervailing power in their societies. In both domains, we seek new ways to bring about change in people’s mindsets.

Green and Inclusive Energy

Climate change and sustainable energy production are high on the political agenda. However, public debate generally focuses on how the use of fossil fuels can be reduced. Much less attention is given to the lack of energy access for people living in developing countries. Remarkably, the solution to both issues is the same: renewable energy. In its projects, Hivos aims to demonstrate that green and inclusive energy is not a pipe dream or an alternative, but simply the best choice. Our research informs our stance in the debate and reflects on our projects in the field.

Methods of Change

Understanding how change happens is crucial to increase the effectiveness of development interventions. Our thematic Knowledge Dossiers show how Hivos thinks change can happen in specific areas. This dossier showcases the methodologies that can help us become more effective change agents.


Pluralism and diversity are essential ingredients of a dynamic society. Yet, ingrained values, acquired privileges and established power structures often limit the acceptance people have for different values, identities and religions. In too many places around the world, people are faced with intolerance. Where belief or value systems become absolute - leaving no room for alternative interpretations - and are imposed on others, we speak of 'fundamentalism'. Fundamentalism threatens the peaceful co-existence of people belonging to different ethnic, social, religious or cultural groups.

Sustainable Food and Biodiversity

Hivos has a long history of working on food, agriculture and biodiversity. Our approach pays attention to soil fertility, agricultural biodiversity, climate mitigation and adaptation, green knowledge development, a decent living for farmers, and gender inclusiveness. Research has and continues to underpin many of our projects in the field.