MENA » Overview

Following the so-called "Arab Spring" in 2011, Salzburg Global Seminar developed a series of meetings and program activities focused on Reform and Transformation in the Middle East and North Africa. The series provided a forum in which to explore systematically the key elements needed for building more open democratic societies in the region, notably by examining models that have been tried in other regions and countries where major political and social transformations have occurred within the last few decades, including central and eastern Europe, Indonesia, Latin America, South Africa, and Turkey.

Working in partnership with a number of institutions in the region, Salzburg Global facilitated an examination and comparative analysis of various reform models to help expand knowledge and understanding, among those seeking to bring about change in the MENA region; of how these models were implemented and what were the results - positive and negative, intended and unintended. What questions do those who worked for change in these other countries wish they had asked, what information do they wish they had drawn on, what might they caution reformers in the MENA region against doing or encourage them to consider doing? What was, or might have been, the role of a surrounding regional community, and of the international community? What technical support might policy-makers, civil society activists, philanthropists or academics receive from their counterparts in other countries?


Finding Legitimacy and Funding
Finding Legitimacy and Funding
Louise Hallman 
Since their revolutions, the four focus countries have seen a boom in civil society groups – but how can so many groups find sources of funding to sustain the changes they want to bring about? This was the key question for the Fellows in the last panel-led discussion of the session, 'Getting Transition Right: A Rights-Based Approach Towards Diversity and Inclusivity'. Despite the ill-feeling directed towards the state that led to the revolutions in the first place, civil society groups are still not widely viewed by ordinary citizens in the region as more reliable than government or public institutions. Key to changing this is sustainable funding that enables civil society groups to actually deliver on their promises. That funding might come from international or local donors, but both options have thir positives and negatives. Too often, international funding comes with its own agenda and favors short-term projects that can show quick results, rather than investing in the long-term, generational change that is needed to build diverse and inclusive societies. But many civil society NGOs in the region are self- or privately funded; with their limited funds they are unable to hire the expertise they need to deliver. There is also a prevailing sense that there are bigger problems to deal with than diversity management, such as security. Civil society actors focused on diversity and inclusion need to convince donors of the-chicken-and-the-egg relation between diversity management and security; more inclusive societies are more stable and thus more safe and secure. Stability and awareness raising must happen at the same time. Civil society organizations not only need to present clear and focused plans, they also need to garner grassroots support in order to gain a greater sense of credibility and legitimacy for their cause. Evidence-based research can also help convince donors to invest in NGOs’ programs. Such research should be participatory and inclusive to ensure that it truly reflects the complexity on the ground. Other potential partners and donors such as government and the media shouldn’t be dismissed. Civil society groups should consider building alliances with the “good guys” in these sectors. As with the policy building session on Saturday, one key observation to come out of this discussion was the capacity building that needs to be done so that civil society groups can adequately request funding. In addition to greater funding, new laws, especially in countries such as Libya where civil society was virtually non-existent prior to the revolution but where now there exist over 1000 such organizations, need to be enacted, protecting NGOs, especially as they start to grow in to the role of lobbying politicians for policy changes, rather than just focusing on delivering their own programs.
READ MORE...
Jeanne Elone: "The discussions have been very helpful"
Jeanne Elone: "The discussions have been very helpful"
Oscar Tollast 
The international criminal justice program officer at TrustAfrica hopes to start including more programs in North African countries after attending a session at Salzburg Global. Jeanne Elone attended the session, 'Getting Transition Right: A Rights-based Approach towards Diversity & Inclusivity’ to focus on four key countries in the midst of transition in the Middle East and North Africa region. Ms Elone, who has coordinated research on North Africa, examining the role of civil society in the political transformations that shook the region in 2011, attended and participated at the session held in co-operation with the Arab Human Rights Fund. Discussions centered on Egypt, Tunisia, Libya, and Yemen, as participants looked at ways to improve diversity and inclusion in the region. Ms Elone has lived in Senegal, Cameroon, Burkina Faso, France, and the United States, working on a range of issues from political parties and democratization to human rights and development finance. In an extended Q&A with Salzburg Global, she reviews what she's been able to take away from the session, the parallels she's been able to draw with events in sub-Saharan Africa, and the extent of TrustAfrica's work in the continent. What interested you about the topic of diversity and inclusivity in the MENA region? I think that diversity and inclusion are also a big issue in our societies, not only in Africa though, but across the world. I think when you have societies where political institutions may not be very stable, diversity and inclusion issues can threaten to topple governments and then people suffer even more. So I think that although diversity and inclusivity are issues across the board, they are particularly an issue in the MENA region, but also in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in post-conflict countries which is where I work now. I came to the conference because the topic interested me and also because TrustAfrica wants to work more with the North African region, but a lot of the cultural and historical differences make it hard to bridge those divides between sub-Saharan Africa and North Africa. I wanted to learn more about what’s going on there, try to find parallels, which I tried to do in my presentation and I hope that continuing the work that I do I can start to include programs in those North African countries. What have you made of the discussions that have taken place? I think the discussions have been very helpful. I think it also shows that in many ways, post-conflict settings are universal. Everyone’s dealing with the same issues. How do you reconcile groups that have committed crimes against one another? How do you bring people to the table when the wounds are still fresh? How do you deal with a government that is guilty but it’s the only government that has the experience of governing in this country, so you can’t really get rid of them all at once, so you have to work with them, and how do you negotiate that compromise, especially when you’re talking about human rights principles. I think that the North African and Middle East region has that in a particular sense, but so does sub-Saharan countries. I think that we can learn a lot from one another. What do you feel you can take away from this session and will it be able to influence your work at all? I think that listening to people talk about the issues in their countries makes me feel in one way that I know so little about the region, but makes me feel, ‘Oh, that sounds familiar’. It makes me feel like it won’t be so hard to create those linkages and I think that listening to civil society groups at different levels of engagement, different levels of capacity, is also really interesting because it shows me that sub-Saharan Africa is not the only place you have civil society groups that are super fragmented versus super together and they know what they want. I see the same thing in the MENA region and they have this Arab identity that is supposed to unify them but the diversity among them is something to recognize and it makes me think that these divisions within regions, although they reflect some type of history, they may not be absolute. For those uninitiated with TrustAfrica, could you explain what it is? TrustAfrica is an African foundation in Dakar, Senegal. It started in 2006. Originally we were the Special Initiative for Africa. We became independent in 2006 and headquartered in Dakar. We work on three main issues: governance, equitable development and African philanthropy. The governance work has country programmes in Zimbabwe and Liberia. It also works on elicit financial flows and my own programme, which is on International Criminal Justice. Our equitable development arm works on research into the investment climate in Africa. We also do research and advocacy work around higher education, trying to make higher education institutions respond better to the market, and train people better for employment, and we work on early education. In the African philanthropy sector, I think you’re going to ask me questions later! Could you further elaborate on your roles and responsibilities within the foundation? Our programme on International Criminal Justice was born from a meeting of several foundations already funding around international criminal justice in Africa who faced challenges related to the politicised discourse around Africa and the International Criminal Court. This seems amazing since the discourse has only gotten worse since 2011. But in 2011 they held this conference because everybody was concerned that African countries were threatening to withdraw from the Rome Statute, and at this conference, the MacArthur Foundation and TrustAfrica got together and decided that they needed to create a program that would be aimed at improving the discourse around international criminal justice, which I will shorten to ICJ in the future, in Africa. So, that’s where my project came in. Our goal is to advance accountability and justice in Africa by trying to identify groups that may not be on the radar yet by bigger funders and also to bring groups that may have dissenting opinions so - tabled together - try and forge a common strategy on how to advance ICJ that’s less adversarial and more cooperative. What are some of the challenges in bringing greater accountability in Africa? [There are] several challenges. Accountability and justice is contingent on the idea that your government is responsive and as we know a lot of African governments are not responsive, and their legitimacy is also questionable. This is why the International Criminal Court has come to play such a big role in Africa because in many post-conflict settings, either governments are too weak or unwilling to respond to the justice needs of their populations. That’s how African cases have ended up in the International Criminal Court. There are three ways to go before the ICC: self-referrals, UN Security Council referrals, or the Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC refers the country. Most of the African cases before the ICC are all self-referrals and the really controversial ones are the cases where the UN Security Council has come in, like in Libya, or where the Office of the Prosecutor has taken it upon themselves to initiate prosecutions, as in the Kenyan case. Although, the Kenyan case is also the result of failure over 12 months for the Kenyan government to address the impunity issues themselves. With Kofi Annan as head of the negotiation process [and] after the power-sharing deal, they agreed to a 12-month timeframe to establish national prosecutions, and after three failed attempts to establish a special tribunal, they agreed to have their case go before the ICC. Now, the fact that we have the president and vice-president saying that the ICC is illegitimate, it’s very ironic because four years ago the vice president was saying, ‘Don’t be vague, go to the Hague.’ Moving on to the programme of African Philanthropy, how would you say that program operates? TrustAfrica has been a bit of a pioneer in the field of African philanthropy for several reasons. As early as the early 2000, some of the thinkers and creative minds behind the founding of TrustAfrica had a meeting around African philanthropy because – to give you a bit of history – TrustAfrica was founded by African intellectuals and programme officers who had served in major foundations working in Africa over the past 25 years. Working as foundation programme officers they realised that there was a gap in the funding landscape in Africa that most of the funding was being decided outside and that it would be good to have an African-led funding organisation, and that’s how TrustAfrica came about. So our engagement with philanthropy is really longstanding. Since TrustAfrica was established in 2006, we’ve made it a priority to kind of commission research and to lead thinking around African philanthropy.* We established the African grant makers’ network which is about active grant making organisations in Africa coming together and talking about their work, how to improve their work, talking about sustainability so that they have resources for the future. In general, the goal of African philanthropy is to be less dependent on foreign funding and to fund our own development, with all of the challenges that entails. Is grant-making an example of a new form of African giving in contrast with a dependency on foreign funding? Giving and philanthropy and charitable acts are fundamental to African society. From the moment you’re born to when you die, everything is about bringing the community together to share resources and to help people when they’re in need. When a child is born, the community can come together to name them, to pay for their baptism, to pay for the hospital fees. When you die there’s a burial society that can come together to fund that, so the idea of giving is not alien to Africa. On the contrary, it’s very innate to the African experience. Those are traditional forms of giving. New forms of giving, there’s a huge range. We’ve had really rich Africans. In the last 10 years, Africans have risen into the ranks of the top 50 wealthiest people on the planet, which was unheard of, and they’re giving. We have the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, we have a lot of mobile tech foundations, we have Tony Elumelu - these are really wealthy people setting up their own foundations, and this is all in the last 10 years. Additionally, you have crowdsourcing which is being used by Africans to fund their own disaster relief in a way that’s unheard of. I think what TrustAfrica is trying to do is bring together all of that knowledge and all of that experience and say, how are we doing it? How can we do it better? How can these rich Africans who have made money, how can we help them invest their money in ways that will be different? How can we avoid some of the mistakes that philanthropists in the West have made and how can we make African philanthropy more effective? Is this influx of wealthy Africans and greater use of crowdsourcing reasons why a philanthropic sector is beginning to emerge in the continent? I think the philanthropic sector is emerging because of the rapid economic growth in Africa over the last 10-15 years, which has created these millionaires, and because of technology, that makes crowdsourcing possible. I also think that Africans’ opinions of themselves have changed a lot, and I’m talking about sub-Saharan Africa. TrustAfrica itself was founded in 2006 and I remember when it was first founded, people were talking about the title of an Economist magazine that was ‘Africa: the hopeless continent’. In the last two years, we’ve seen Africa rising. The gambit between saying it’s hopeless and its rising within seven years shows that something has changed, and maybe TrustAfrica was a bit of a pioneer and we were on the cutting edge in 2006, but we’re now part of a wave of Africans who are coming back wanting to invest in Africa, not only for the profit, but also for social change and they can see that they can do it maybe better than people are already doing it. What effect do these TrustAfrica-backed philanthropic measures have? The research on philanthropy in Africa can help in many ways. It can make grant-makers that are already operating in Africa be more effective. It can also help influence the agendas of foreign funders, because if they see African foundations being creative and having impact, then they can be inspired to kind of let their programming be more based on African knowledge and African context, more than an imported narrative like the Washington consensus. Clearly not all funders are imposing their agenda that strictly, but there’s still an idea that the technical experts may be outside this continent and that’s why we need them to tell us how to do our development. I think that African funders based here will increasingly set the tone and set the agenda. Haiti’s not in Africa, but the whole campaign around cell phones when the earthquakes happened in Haiti, I think there was a lot of solidarity that people could tap into in the developing world. So far we’ve been relegated to the people who receive. We get the aid money, we beg, but actually there’s a lot of altruism and people with resources ready to give. They just don’t know how. TrustAfrica says it is committed to generating and testing new ideas. Could you provide us with an example? Well, philanthropy, I think, is one of those new ideas that we tested and I think now is growing a lot. I think that in my own work in International Criminal Justice, a lot of media attention to issues that become contentious – puts people in two camps – and I think that TrustAfrica’s strength is kind of bringing opposing sides together and that’s how you come up with a new idea. For a very precise example, I can talk about our work in Uganda where most of the people funding in Uganda fund pro-ICC mechanisms or they like to document the experiences of victims. This is a conflict that’s gone on for 30 years. Victims are tired of being documented. Some victims can even tell you that this is the sixth round of PhD students they’ve met who want to know when the atrocities took place, how it happened, and how they’re suffering. Our project is trying to bring the victims and the different communities together to have a concerted action with their government to be in solidarity and to kind of engage the government on more than just what happened in the past, but also what it means to be a government in a post-conflict setting, that you’re responsible for ensuring the safety of your citizens, no matter if they’re from the side that might have been responsible for the atrocities or the side that has been mostly victimized. I think that’s a new approach and I think that’s a result of the way we work. What do you feel are the biggest challenges facing the continent and how is TrustAfrica working to confront these? I think the politicisation of different debates is a big problem in Africa. I think African people have always been manipulated by their political and economic elites. I don’t think this has changed, but I think it remains a huge problem. TrustAfrica tries to bridge those divides by bringing stakeholders from the level of policymakers all the way down to grassroots. In terms of development challenges, still infrastructure, education, access to clean water, health – but those are things that there are systematic funders that do that. TrustAfrica is better positioned to kind of bring people to the table who might not meet otherwise to forge new partnerships, new collaborations. We work with international funders who want to have an impact in Africa, but don’t necessarily know how to do that. I think that they come to TrustAfrica because they recognize we’ve been successful where we’ve worked and because we bring a lot of knowledge and experience, and because we’re in touch of what’s going on because we’re located in Africa and we work with Africans.
*TrustAfrica and Amalion publishing have launched a new book, 'Giving to Help, Helping to Give: The Context and Politics of African Philanthropy'. For more information, please visit TrustAfrica's official website.
READ MORE...
Ghanim Al-Najjar: "The human rights discourse is vastly improving"
Ghanim Al-Najjar: "The human rights discourse is vastly improving"
Oscar Tollast 
Following a lengthy day of constructive conversations, Ghanim Al-Najjar, professor of political science at Kuwait University, sat in the Schloss Leopoldskron’s Chinese Room and told Salzburg Global: “Diversity and inclusion are the basis for human society.” The Arab Human Rights Fund board member returned to Salzburg Global Seminar to help co-organize the session, ‘Getting Transition Right: A Rights-based Approach towards Diversity and Inclusivity’. Speaking on Sunday evening, he said: “We have funded this meeting as part of our collaboration and as part of an exploration of ideas, and thinking of how to find ways to understand what’s happening and knowing more activists in the field. “That’s the main purpose of a meeting like this. You brainstorm, and then you get together and then maybe you can develop your projects in the future. I think this is happening.” The former non-resident scholar at the Carnegie Middle East Center helped set the context for the discussions on Friday evening. He said by having an inclusive society, a more prosperous, stable and just society was able to develop. “The society that can develop itself within a just system [and] an equitable system can be much better than the society that thinks of itself as an exclusive, one single identity." Until recently, Dr Al-Najjar was the UN independent expert for Human Rights in Somalia, a mandate he held for eight years. He highlighted Somalia as an example of a country homogeneous in matters of religion, ethnic background and language. He added, however, that existing divisions still “brought them to destruction” for over 20 years. “Differences are natural in society, and that’s why we have democracy. “It’s [about] managing differences because democracy goes beyond elections. It also goes to [the] independence of judiciary, equality and pluralism.” On Saturday, he discussed in front of participants the role for policy in terms of diversity and inclusion. Dr Al-Najjar said implementing a new piece of law was only a starting point, suggesting a culture of respect for human rights was needed as well. “You’ll have a nice piece of law, which will talk about human rights and equality in different levels, yet the culture comes in and tries to prevent it from being implemented. “The role of the media, the role of education, [and] the role of the judiciary is very important in moving policies towards achieving quality inside society.” A number of participants suggested during the session the concept of having a shared vision for the region to help improve diversity and inclusion. Dr Al-Najjar said this was a hope but not a guarantee. “The only thing is to have a system that allows everybody to express themselves [and] to be part of the political process. “They have a share of power [and] they have a share of resources – doesn’t matter how large or how small. Then the vision will prevail according to the majority rule.” Dr Al-Najjar has served as director of the Center for Strategic and Future Studies, and was editor of the Gulf Studies Series Journal in the United Arab Emirates. He has led and participated in a number of international fact-finding missions in several countries, including Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Egypt, and Somalia. When asked why he decided to enter this field of work in the first place, he replied: “A realization that politics in itself is not enough to improve social structure and make it more humane." He added: “Politics is a changing phenomenon and people keep changing their attitudes according to the balance of power.” Dr Al-Najjar felt working on human rights using the discipline of social sciences was “the right thing” to do. Teaching human rights within a political science department, he set about to introduce new courses and have them taught differently. “I started to link human rights with politics to warn that you have to do human rights without political leanings. “The improvement of the international human rights regime has been so fast [and] so quick in the last 10 years that I don’t think any other discipline has moved that fast.” Dr Al-Najjar continued by highlighting the gap between the political and human rights discourses. “The human rights discourse is vastly improving whilst the political discourse is going backwards. That’s why you see conflict is rising. “People will talk about democracy as part of the process. It’s past the time that people will say democracy is not good for us.” Aside from the discussions that have already taken place at Salzburg Global, Dr Al-Najjar highlighted another positive aspect of the session. “I have had the chance to see new activists, new people in the field, and that gives me hope. “That is not usual in our type of field. Normally, we see people who we know. I think the majority of people here I’ve seen for the first time.” He previously attended Salzburg Global Seminar in 1996 as part the session, ‘Reform in American History: Major Movements and Patterns’. Dr Al-Najjar believes a number of improvements have been made since then, and not only the construction of a new car park. “For Salzburg Global Seminar to get into this field, to open up and get into a different kind of thinking – regionally – is positive. “It’s great to have a place like this and it encourages us at the Arab Human Rights Fund to continue a good relationship. “The administration [and] the leadership of the Salzburg Global Seminar are worth any investment and they are worth the trust.”
READ MORE...
Shifting Public Perceptions and Values
Shifting Public Perceptions and Values
Louise Hallman 
Despite the fact that cultural rights are usually the most overlooked in the push for human rights, culture is often the first determinant, the pulse or manifestation, the symptom, and the expression of what is brewing or spilling over in societies on a social level. Culture, be that art, media, education or the public sphere in general, provides multiple important outlets through which opinions can be expressed, views exchanged and consensus built. This is especially important in countries in times of transition, such as the focus countries of the 'Getting Transition Right: A Rights-Based Approach towards Diversity and Inclusivity': Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. The media plays a particularly important role in this field. In fact it plays three positive, and potentially one negative role: as a watch dog of government and public institutions; a guard dog, defending citizens’ human rights; a guide dog, steering society’s values and views; but also unfortunately sometimes as a lap dog, pandering to the elites. Education, too, is vital, but is all too often left out until late into the policy delivery stage. Given that education can influence whole generations’ attitudes and values, educators and curriculum implementation experts should be involved in diversity and inclusion policy formulation process much earlier than end-stage implementation. After all, education is key to developing generational, long term change. The public sphere – the social realm where public opinion can be formed – is currently ailing in the post-revolution countries, resulting in the revolutions themselves faltering and failing. Social media, once held up as the tech of revolution is now enabling the customization of public sphere, allowing people to choose to listen only to those with whom they already agreed leading to a narrowing of views and radicalization. People are not being forced to consider competing ideas and a respect for rational arguments is lacking. Many call for the right to freedom of speech, but often this means only their own right to speak, not everyone’s right to speak. Broad civilian participation, including all marginalized and diverse groups of society, is needed in post-revolution discourse. Not only is this inclusive, but it also leads to a sense of shared ownership of ideas and thus greater legitimacy.
READ MORE...
Getting Transition Right: Ending the Diverse Discriminations
Getting Transition Right: Ending the Diverse Discriminations
Louise Hallman 
“Discrimination and exclusion doesn’t just make people’s lives a hassle, it ends in bloodshed.”

Grim words opened Sunday afternoon’s discussion on the different groups facing marginalization and discrimination in the MENA region as part of the Salzburg Global session 'Getting Transition Right: A Rights-Based Approach towards Diversity and Inclusivity'.

Despite making up roughly half of each of the four countries’ populations, women are treated as poorly as many minorities.

Many are still denied access to education, jobs and opportunities, if not but the state then by society.

In fact, in some countries, such as Yemen, women’s position in society has reduced further. The new constitution states that although international laws (including on human rights) should be observed, women are subject only to Sharia, the same legal system that says a man who kills his unfaithful wife needs only serve one year in prison, yet a woman who kills her unfaithful husband must be put to death.

Islamism in primary education is furthering this undermining of women; as one Fellow pointed out: “Our alphabet now includes ‘H as in Hijab’!”

Also marginalized and often forgotten are migrant workers and stateless people.

Migrant workers in the region are afforded few rights. Although some countries in the region have signed international conventions on migrant workers’ rights, these are all “sending” countries, rather than “receiving” countries. Many have their passports confiscated on entry to only be returned on their exit, making many of them little more than indentured servants.

Stateless people are inherently marginalized in society as their lack of official registration bars their access to such public services as education and health care, as well as excluding them from the new democratic processes introduced since the Arab Spring.

Increases in sectarianism and the resulting sectarian violence has been one of the greatest concerns since the revolutions. Coptic Christians have faced attacks from Muslims. Muslims have been attacked by secularists. But we must be wary of making such sweeping generalizations and groupings, warned one Fellow. It is exactly such behavior that leads to the dehumanization, demonization and in a worryingly high number of cases the death of individuals.

Power has shifted quickly and multiple times since the fall of Mubarak, meaning those that were once the “majority” have quickly found themselves marginalized and treated like the minority once they’ve lost their earlier status. How to map and overcome the divisions and hostilities will give the Fellows of the session much food for thought over the final two days.

READ MORE...
Belabbes Benkredda: "The Arab Spring is on life support"
Belabbes Benkredda: "The Arab Spring is on life support"
Oscar Tollast 
The founder of the Munathara Initiative has said a culture of understanding is needed to move the momentum of the Arab Spring forward.  Belabbes Benkredda spoke to Salzburg Global whilst attending the current seminar session - co-organized with the Arab Human Rights Fund - entitled ‘Getting Transition Right: A Rights-based Approach towards Diversity & Inclusivity’. The Munathara Initiative, a Tunisian-based online and television debate forum, aims to foster the participation of youth, women and marginalized communities in Arab public discourse. In our first session-related podcast, Mr Benkredda discusses the significance of the forum, which provides an opportunity for neglected voices to offer alternative perspectives. He also calls for a culture to be fostered where opposing views are not seen as threats but as new opportunities for ideas to evolve, thrive and lead to positive change.   With this in mind, Mr Benkredda suggests three factors to help re-establish a healthy and constructive public sphere and offers his opinion on which issues need to be prioritized in this discourse. Mr Benkredda acts as a government consultant specializing in public diplomacy and is an occasional television commentator. Prior to establishing the Munathara Initiative, Mr Benkredda was trained at the Federal Foreign Office of Germany’s Directorate-General for Public Diplomacy in the Middle East. He has previously worked for the League of Arab States, the Council for Arab-British Understanding, and the Peace Research Institute Frankfurt.
READ MORE...
Kawa Hassan: "It should lead to something tangible"
Kawa Hassan: "It should lead to something tangible"
Oscar Tollast 
A knowledge officer at the Dutch non-governmental organization Hivos is hoping for an action plan to come out of Salzburg Global’s latest session. Kawa Hassan is one of several participants attending the session, ‘Getting Transition Right: A Rights-based Approach towards Diversity & Inclusivity’. He said he was interested in a mix of conceptual discussions and practical ideas. “It’s a lovely gathering. We have interesting academic and activist discussions, but when we all leave here, it should lead to something tangible.” In his role, he coordinates Hivos’ Middle East Knowledge Program Civil Society in West Asia. Prior to this, he worked as senior program officer for South Asia/South East Asia at the Dutch INGO Simavi, and was program manager and field coordinator for the United Nations Development Program in Sri Lanka and the Swedish/Norwegian INGO FORUT in Sri Lanka. “I deal with researchers, academics and activists. I’m interested in those perspectives, so I would like to have new thought provoking discussions and that should lead to some practical ideas and projects.” Mr Hassan writes about dignity revolutions, democratization, democracy assistance in the Middle East, and Kurdish affairs. He said he received his invitation to Salzburg Global at very short notice, but he was happy to prioritize his work in order to attend. “It was on a very short notice – very chaotic – but I find it so interesting: the discussions, the groups, and the themes. “I had to cancel a couple of important appointments in Holland to come here.” Discussions have centered on the international and regional legal frameworks, the role of policy, shifting public perceptions and values, and salient issues around diversity and inclusion. Mr Hassan said the discussions have been aided by having a number of people from diverse backgrounds. “That creates an interesting dynamic in terms of views, in terms of discussions, critical thinking and being out of your usual comfort zone. “It allows for a good comparative analysis – analyzing transitions from the viewpoint of inclusivity and diversity. I’m always interested in comparative perspectives.” Participants have been separated into working groups by country, further analyzing the issues surrounding diversity and inclusivity in specific areas. It is a positive sign of how hard the participants are working when many of the sessions have overrun. Mr Hassan said time was needed to take in the discussions and digest them properly. “It’s only a good sign that the participants are interested in the debates and the discussions. There are so many different perspectives on these two themes. “On the one hand it shows the interest of the participants. On the other hand you need to keep a kind of central command, so you get into the end product, which is your aim, which is getting to practical ideas.” Mr Hassan revealed one of the biggest challenges to diversity and inclusivity in the region was intolerance at a social and state level. “For me that is the main challenge of these discussions: marginalization, manipulation, dehumanization and demonization of the other, which captures the core of the discussions around these two terms.”
READ MORE...
Displaying results ###SPAN_BEGIN###%s to %s out of ###SPAN_BEGIN###%s

VIDEOS

Libya, NATO and the Arab Spring
Perspectives from Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi

Perspectives on the Arab Spring protests
Maja Daruwala; Executive Director, Commonwealth Human Rights Initiative, India on the significance of the Arab Spring in Asia.


Perspectives on the Arab Spring protests
Saad Eddin Ibrahim on, founder Ibn Khaldun Center for Development Studies & Trustee, Arab Democracy Foundation.