ISJCR: Envisioning Inclusiveness and Governance in the Post-2011 Landscape
In 2011, a short-term wave of euphoria overtook the Arab world. The diffusion of protests across several countries spurred interest in the prospects for Arab democratization. Back then, a core question that animated scholarly and policy debates revolved around the unpredictability of these uprisings, and why social sciences and Middle East studies have not foreseen their onset. Supranational organizations such as the European Union (EU) revamped their partnership with Arab states with a view to establishing more inclusive and participatory venues for dialogue. International donor aid programs started exploring alternative strategies that could support the 2011 political transitions.
Still, as soon as the “Arab Spring” gave way to upheavals and turmoil, the old questions on the region’s resistance to reform resurfaced. Studies highlighted the complex dynamics that have derailed protest dynamics and caused their “fizzling out”. Different strands of literature riveted attention on the ‘”long-lasting” implications of weak institutions, inter-elite rifts and grassroots inequalities, and their implications for these transformations. Within this climate, scholars and practitioners have sought to unpack the various trajectories of the Arabs uprisings and their different outcomes. Studies focused on exploring why Tunisia has made some advances while other polities such as Syria, Libya and Yemen have lapsed, albeit at different intensity levels, in political violence. At the core of such debates is whether some transitions fared worse because of deeply embedded socio-political and economic legacies that have thwarted inclusive government and social justice.
The debate on the Arab uprisings inspired researchers to revive older questions in Middle East politics: How do sectarian conflicts emerge and persist? Why do polities such as Lebanon remain shackled by the politics of sectarianism? What political, economic and ideological factors contribute to the politicization of identities along sectarian lines?
ISJCR’s Research and Outreach Vision
The Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution (ISJCR) situates its research and outreach vision within this set of inconclusive debates about transformations and governance processes at the heart of the Arab region. It takes a dual grassroots and policy-oriented research perspective to understand the complex institutional, economic, legal and societal trajectories that have shaped the debate on social justice, conflict resolution and inclusiveness in the Arab region. Its vision is built on the premises that new conceptual approaches and policy designs as well as better-tailored methodologies, are needed to address the diversity of national and transnational challenges that have emerged in the wake of the Arab uprisings. The effectiveness of this engagement hinges on a richer empirical understanding of the changing characteristics of these societies, and their coping mechanisms with national and global crises from both historical and contemporary perspectives.
Drawing on a research agenda that shies away from a state-centric approach, ISJCR seeks to disaggregate societal, political and economic dynamics that have a bearing on the “making” and “unmaking” of social justice and conflict resolution processes in the region. To that end, it seeks to establish research and outreach programs that are both context-specific, multi-layered and interdisciplinary. Those programs aim to illuminate a sharper understanding into the legacies, processes and actors that have influenced issues ranging from institution building, to the formation of identities and social movements and the making of gender and youth policies.
ISJCR’s Research and Policy Objectives
Against this backdrop, ISJCR strives to triangulate research, policy and social engagement to:
- Develop an understanding, that is concurrently theoretical and empirically-grounded, of the major governance dilemmas at multiple political, economic and societal levels in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA);
- Analyze key transnational, national and local dynamics shaping the national, regional, and international settings of post-2011 MENA countries;
- Engage in multiple ways with policy and grassroots stakeholders influencing policies, leadership, and governance in the MENA region through a variety of ways such as workshops, conferences, roundtable discussions, sharing research findings, and internships;
- Consolidate the academic discussion and knowledge production in the region by embarking on several research and outreach initiatives with a network of Arab and international research partners;
- Initiate and sustain consultative process with national, regional and international practitioners who are involved in designing public policies with a view to guiding their engagement with transformed post-Arab Spring societies;
- Engage into a global debate with scholarly and policy interlocutors to shape the debate on donor aid policies in the region in the wake of protracted governance and displacement crises;
- Become a “scholarly hub” where students, faculty and visiting scholars showcase and debate their research.
The Path Ahead
In the coming two years, ISJCR will spearhead a variety of initiatives around the themes of inclusiveness and governance. In collaboration with regional and international partners, the ISJCR team will compile data on policy and grassroots actors in the post-2011 landscape with a view to bringing stakeholders together to agree on an ‘inclusive policy agenda’ for change in the region. Disaggregating the concept of governance, its various components and ramifications, it will carry out research projects focusing on the governance of forced migration and on policymaking in the sectors of labour, youth, and gender. Consolidating its outreach to international, regional and national audiences, ISJCR will moreover convene a variety of speaker series and roundtable discussions gauging perceptions of inclusiveness and governance in the region.
We invite you to join our conversation on rethinking concepts and tools of social justice in the region.