Governance, Reform and Islamism in the Middle East and North Africa

Over the past two years, a number of divides have appeared in the Middle East. These occur within Iraq, Palestine and Lebanon; between Israel and Arab countries; between pro-Western regimes and their militant publics (e.g. Jordan and Egypt); between Sunnis and Shiites; between Islamist and secular forces; and between Iran (and to some extent Syria) and most other Arab states. More than in the past, there are concerns about civil war in Palestine, escalation of violence in Lebanon, the possibility of an Israeli-Syrian war and threats to Jordan's stability, as well as the continued crisis over Iran's nuclear program. Moreover, the actions of key players within and outside the region have exacerbated rather than reduced these tensions.

The International Crisis Group (Crisis Group) is an independent, nonprofit, nongovernmental organization, with some 145 staff members on five continents, working through field-based analysis and high-level advocacy to prevent and resolve deadly conflict. In the Middle East, Crisis Group has focused on understanding and demystifying these dynamics and finding policy solutions to reduce tensions. In doing so, it has continued to engage with so-called rogue nations and movements, the exclusion of which is often the source of renewed division.

This grant will allow Crisis Group to carry out a series of case studies on barriers to the emergence of a new democratic order and prospects for improving governance in the region. Four sets of reports (15-20 per year) will be produced. The first will deal with the Israel-Palestine conflict and such issues as agreements, governance and political constraints. The second will deal with Iraq and the challenges it faces (disputed areas, Iraqi refugees, tribal revival, etc.). The third will treat governance and reform in key countries (Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Saudi Arabia). And, the fourth will examine the dual challenge of meaningful political reform and the rise of Islamism. In addition, Crisis Group will publish a briefing paper on the impact of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict on the rise of violent Islamist movements in the Middle East, South Asia and Western Europe. Wherever possible, the analyses in the reports will be accompanied by practical recommendations on how policymakers can best support political reform and institution-building.

The results will be widely disseminated in the region and internationally, in Arabic, English, French and where appropriate Farsi.

Project ID


Project status


Start Date

Friday, February 1, 2008

End Date

Monday, February 1, 2010


24 months

IDRC Officer

Ahmimed, Charaf

Total funding

CA$ 500,000


Middle East, North of Sahara, South of Sahara, Central Asia, Far East Asia, South Asia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Egypt, West Bank and Gaza, Israel


Foundations for Innovation

Project Leader

Ulrike Hellmann


International Crisis Group

Institution Country


Institution Website