Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation in the Arab World

TitleConflict Resolution and Reconciliation in the Arab World
Publication TypeBook
Subtitle / Series TitleNew article in the Berghof Handbook
Year of Publication2007
AuthorsSafa, O
Number of Pages18 pp.
PublisherBerghof Conflict Research
Accession Number888

The Berghof Research Center for Constructive Conflict Management has launched a new article in Section V of the Berghof Handbook (Recovering from War - Post-Conflict Regeneration and Reconciliation). Its title is: Oussama Safa, Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation in the Arab World: The Work of Civil Society Organisations in Lebanon and Morocco. The article adds a new regional perspective to the Handbook. The author introduces local projects and initiatives; and reflects on the role of community-based organisations and NGOs vis-à-vis the state, their achievements and shortcomings in the face of international and regional political developments and the integration of Islamic traditions and modern techniques for conflict resolution. (Introduction into the article:)A tense relationship has marked decades of interaction between Arab regimes and their civil societies in the areas of human rights, democracy, governance reform, justice and reconciliation. While the role of civil society in development, humanitarian and environmental issues has generally been tolerated more easily by Arab governments, the same cannot be said for the areas just mentioned. The decade of the 1980s in particular was marked by open confrontations between interior ministries of a number of Arab regimes on one side and civil society associations and activists on the other. The confrontation eased in the late 1990s largely due to internal changes in regimes, as for example in Morocco, which manifested a desire of Arab rulers to open up to and benefit from a limited wave of globalisation or were due to moderate pressure exerted by the international community.In recent years there has been greater awareness of the increasing importance of civil society in assisting governments to push forward the wheel of development. A spate of regional reform initiatives succeeded in producing declarations that at least legitimise the existence of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and acknowledge the need for their efforts in complementing the process of reform and ensuring good governance and the rule of law. The desire for reform in the Arab world is bolstered by the desire of some Arab governments to introduce gradual but limited liberalisation, which necessitates the engagement of NGOs and civil society associations. There exists, though, no clear assessment of the role of civil society in reform movements or the degree and seriousness of their involvement to date. This article aims to contribute to closing this gap by exploring crucial civil society functions - strengthening civic engagement and community-empowerment - in the specific context of the Arab world, and by introducing the work of a number of organisations in this region. The next section briefly discusses the role of Arab civil society organisations (CSOs) and NGOs and explains some of their functions. Section three reflects on traditional conflict resolution and reconciliation methods and their relation to the \"Western field\" of conflict resolution. Section four presents cases from Lebanon and Morocco, looking at concrete projects, objectives and achievements of organisations, while section five discusses common challenges. The final section identifies possible next steps in light of the current political developments in the region.

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