Renegotiating Arab Civil-Military Relations: Political and Economic Governance in Transition

At a time of unprecedented political transitions in the Arab world, this project will promote evidence-based research and analysis of Arab militaries. The research team will document how these transitions have influenced the nature of civil-military relations in the Middle East and North Africa over the past three years. They will also recommend approaches to reshaping these relations in ways that help consolidate democracy in the region. Since 2011, Arab militaries have played a key role in the transitions witnessed under the Arab Spring. While the Arab revolts brought with them a wave of political change and toppled several autocratic regimes, the armed forces remain largely untouched in several countries across the region. In some cases, militaries were even bolstered in the aftermath. Today, the armed forces remain the most powerful institutions in countries such as Egypt, Tunisia, and Yemen. They have political clout and play important social welfare functions through military-based employment or subsidies. These militaries also control extensive economic and commercial assets. They often reflect society's dynamics and cracks. This research holds the premise that the reform of civil-military relations in the Middle East and North Africa is critical to democratic reform. It also assumes that failure to reshape these relations will hinder transitions to democracy, making them partial, fragile, and reversible. The project team will look primarily at the Arab Spring countries: Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen. It will also examine other Arab countries that raise similar questions about the nature, direction, and implications of evolving civil-military relations. These will include Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Morocco. The project's objectives include: -produce concrete recommendations on how to build healthier civil-military relations and promote civilian oversight over the military -encourage genuine political and financial accountability and transparency -promote a network of Arab institutions and researchers studying civil-military relations -build regional capacity among participating partner institutions, and among established and emerging Arab scholars and civil society actors, so that they can have a larger impact on the public policy agenda and -produce concrete policy recommendations for Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, and Yemen on how to reshape civil-military relations to transition to democracy.

Project ID


Project status



24 months

IDRC Officer

Roula El-Rifai

Total funding

CA$ 726,900


Egypt, Libya, Syria, Tunisia, Yemen, Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, United States

Project Leader

Yezid Sayigh


Carnegie Endowment for International Peace

Institution Country

United States

Institution Website