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.