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Session Submission Type: HYBRID ROUNDTABLE
The political upheavals of the past 12 years in the Middle East and North Africa have taken a toll on independent civil society development. Long-term conflict in some places and financial meltdown in others (e.g. Syria, Yemen, Palestine, Libya, Iraq and Lebanon), constrain the growth of a vibrant sector. Autocratic regimes in other countries see a threat to their survival in citizen action and have enacted stricter controls over the sector, thwarting the hopes of those who participated in the uprisings of the Arab spring. Concurrently, emerging trends toward effective social entrepreneurship are providing an alternative pathway for some, especially the young and well-educated, to address persistent social problems. Research to better understand these trends is scarce, as independent research has been another victim of tightening government controls.
The speakers in this roundtable will discuss current trends in MENA civil society research, the challenges it is currently facing and some positive developments that point to a brighter future. David Campbell will provide an overview of findings from a recent project on philanthropy research in selected MENA countries. Catherine Herrold will discuss the ethical and methodological challenges of operationalising definitions of civil society in a regionally appropriate context. Ali Bakir Hamoudi will discuss the potential role of social-science researchers as facilitators who could build bridges between differing perspectives within civil society. Samir Abu-Rumman will provide country-level insights from surveys and in-depth research in Kuwait. The roundtable will provide an opportunity for open discussion with attendees toward strengthening research and its support for civil society in the MENA region.