The Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) is a consortium of policy analysis institutes, founded in 2005, that mobilizes research capacity to advance democratic change in Arab countries.
ARI generates, facilitates, and disseminates knowledge through a network of Arab scholars and intellectuals. In the quest to build free, just and democratic societies, ARI focuses on the current transition processes in the region, and the new patterns of interaction between political and social actors. It provides a space for diverse voices and brings in the key actors in the transitions at play: intellectuals, activists, women, representatives of civil society, human rights groups, social movements, political parties, the private sector and the media.
ARI produces policy research, supports networks of young scholars, democratises access to new fields of research, convenes policy dialogues and organizes regional platforms on critical issues related to the transition processes.
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Policy and Research Papers
The formation of a Government of National Accord (GNA) between Libya’s warring factions has been delayed once more as representatives of the General National Congress (GNC) withdrew from talks a few weeks after refusing to sign the preliminary agreement initialed by all other participants on 11 July.
While there is still hope that agreement on a GNA can be reached shortly, such a consensus government will not be able to durably carry out their mission unless simultaneous progress is made on interim security arrangements. For a GNA to take office in Tripoli and effectively run the country, it will first and foremost have to be able to use government buildings in the capital city, which will require that pro-agreement armed groups seize and secure them.
This article explores the need to include all stakeholders, including opposing military factions, and the need for more coordination between military actors and politicians for the political dialogue to become a success.
This paper discusses the social conditions in southern Syria - and in particular Deraa, Quneitra, and the region of Hauran - in an attempt to predict the fate of the region in the face of ongoing conflict. Can the region withstand the onslaught, buttressed by social and demographic factors that support the revolution against Bashar al-Assad’s regime and allies, or will the regime succeed in breaching the region’s defences by taking advantage of weaknesses engendered by corruption and urbanisation? While familial and tribal networks in southern Syria have been a source of strength and solidarity, traditional structures are an insufficient political solution for the region. Facing numerous challenges, southern Syria risks the permanent alteration of its social fabric.
For the full report on Social conditions in southern Syria: a source of strength for change follow the link.
One of the main themes and topics of research covered in the ARSP II program is security sector reform (SSR) and the transformation of civil-military relations. For decades, the main mission of security institutions in Arab authoritarian states was to protect those in power. These institutions were used to control society, a feature that helps explain why many observers perceived these regimes as resilient. Some rulers relied on the armed forces, or more precisely on specific units, commanded by trusted family or clan members; others, on the contrary, marginalized the military – seen as untrustworthy - and relied instead on the police and para-military forces. They all, however, made use of a “divide-and-rule” policy to exacerbate the competition between the different institutions, leading to the fragmentation of the security sector.
Research into security sector reform in the Arab world addresses a variety of key issues. First, given that SSR is necessary to build transparent, legitimate and inclusive institutions trusted by citizens, questions are raised concerning how to reform and transform these institutions and how to define priorities. Research explores the manner in which to change the dynamics between institutions and create an environment of collaboration where there had previously been competition. Second, research into SSR considers the different types of actors that must be included in the process to ensure its success: beyond the concerned institutions, civil society organisations, external donors, police unions, and experts, amongst others, may be invited to participate. Third, the issue of civilian control over the military lies at the heart of the civil-military problématique. As Peter Feaver asks, how can we build a military strong enough to do what it is asked to do without posing a threat to civilian authorities? This is a crucial question in the Arab context, as many of the former rulers were officers who arrived to power through the military. Fourth are the cases where uprising led to civil war. Here, SSR has to take into account the rebuilding of security institutions in which all segments of society are represented. This is a major challenge for plural and deeply divided societies where these institutions, especially the armed forces, can play a role in state-building and nation-building. Finally, the broader theme of security sector reform in the Arab world also involves research into the “war on terror,” which puts great pressure on the security sector and can be a pretext for abuses, as was the case under authoritarian rule. Forging security institutions that are able to face such threats while respecting the rule of law is essential.
To read the report follow the link: Border security in Tunisia
For decades, the main mission of security institutions in Arab authoritarian states was to protect those in power. These institutions were used to control society, a feature that helps explain why many observers perceived these regimes as resilient. Some rulers relied on the armed forces, or more precisely on specific units, commanded by trusted family or clan members; others, on the contrary, marginalized the military – seen as untrustworthy - and relied instead on the police and para-military forces. They all, however, made use of a “divide-and-rule” policy to exacerbate the competition between the different institutions, leading to the fragmentation of the security sector. The Arab uprisings showed that security institutions’ loyalty to the regime was not total and, in some cases, their defection led to its collapse. After the uprisings, one of the biggest challenges was the reform of the security sector, by changing its missions and its behaviors and by orienting it towards protecting the citizen rather than the regime. SSR includes the reform of the police and the armed forces but also of the authorities that supervise them, meaning the ministries of interior and defense, the judiciary system, and the relations between these different actors. Research into security sector reform in the Arab world addresses a variety of key issues.
To read more please kindly follow the link: The role of trade unions in the reform of the security system in Tunisia
Please note that the full report is available only in Arabic
Since the end of July 2015 a major popular uprising has erupted in Iraq’s provinces – aside from the territories under the control of the so-called Islamic State (IS) and the Kurdish provinces. This protest movement, deemed to be the largest secular popular movement challenging the post-2003 political order in Iraq, has largely departed from the narrow sectarian paradigm that has so far monopolised the analysis of Iraqi politics. Written by Chérine Chams El-Dine and published by the Arab Reform Initiative, this paper examines the uprising’s actors, its slogans, its internal dynamics/organisational structure, and the Iraqi government’s frenetic response to popular demands.
Access to the full report on Iraq between Popular Momentum and Frozen Reforms, kindly follow the link.
The multilayered negotiations among Iraqi political forces to form a new cabinet, and the paralysis of state institutions, conceal the multifaceted power struggle between the various Iraqi political blocs and in particular within the Shiite bloc. The Arab Reform Initiative identifies three main protagonists: those trying to dominate the political scene, those fearing marginalisation and thus adopting a defensive position, and those strengthening their position as key actors. Only the pressure from external powers (the U.S. and Iran) and the harsh conditions of international monetary institutions can push the warring political blocs to reach an agreement over the cabinet overhaul and overcome the current impasse. However, reducing reforms to a meager cabinet reshuffle is far from satisfying popular demands and could provide only an ad-hoc way out of the ongoing crisis. Moreover, the Iraqi government’s violent reaction toward the second Green Zone breach does not bode well for the coming period. The tone is set: there is no longer room for popular grievances. The liberation of Iraqi territories under the control of the Islamic State seems to be the top priority of the Iraqi prime minister and the foreign/regional powers supporting him.
For full access to Warring Brothers: Power Struggle and the Fate of Reforms in Iraq, kindly follow the link.
Secondary displacement from Syria’s Yarmouk Camp to Lebanon has rendered Palestinian refugees more vulnerable and compounded their lack of protection and assistance. Their dire living conditions in Lebanon's refugee camps push them to seek ways to leave the country but most are reluctant to return to Syria for security and other reasons. Without a genuine political change in Syria, deals of reconciliation and compromise will have no credibility, and talks of refugees’ return will remain hollow.
For full access to For full access to Palestinian Refugees of Syria’s Yarmouk Camp: Challenges and Obstacles to Return, kindly follow the link.
Last year, independent and secular segments of civil society ran against the established traditional political parties in Lebanon’s parliamentary elections. This paper examines the mechanisms deployed by sectarian elites to control voting behaviour as well as shortcomings in the new opposition groups’ campaigns.
For full access to the paper, A Path for Political Change in Lebanon?: Lessons and Narratives from the 2018 Elections, kindly follow the link.
No one yet knows the full impact of the unfolding Covid-19 pandemic, let alone its effects on the MENA region. What is certain is that it will have lasting health, social, economic, and political consequences. The stakes are two-fold: minimising the blow of the crisis in the short term while setting the stage for lessons learnt and better governance policies in the future.
You can access Arab Reform Initiative's complete dossier following this link: https://www.arab-reform.net/dossier/covid-19-impact-on-mena-countries/