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Exploring a global research agenda on civic engagement: lessons from a decade of mobilization in the Arab region

A decade ago, the Arab uprisings ushered in a new era of civic engagement aimed at achieving meaningful participation in politics. Inspired by movements globally and led by a new generation of activists (youth, feminists, the LGBTQ community, labour rights activists and environmentalists), these massive popular movements are demanding decent social services, government accountability and more transparency. They are also exploring new forms of collective action, alliances and advocacy. Yet despite their energy and innovative approaches to putting their demands on the public agenda, they have often failed to translate their actions into actual policy change.

While much of the existing research has focused separately on the nature of the social movements on the one hand and how governments react to them on the other, this research focuses on interactions between the two dimensions. In particular, this project seeks to understand the dynamics that influence the ability of these social movements to enact inclusive and gender-transformative policy change in an ever-shifting environment, exploring how these groups define progress or success; the conditions that enable success; the role of research and knowledge in formulating demands; and the types of coalitions that prove effective. It will also consider resilience to change by those in power.

The policy labs implementing this project will examine at least 12 case studies of social mobilization in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon/Iraq and Tunisia. The aim is to understand the impacts of social movements on accountable governance, including reflections on the coalitions formed, the policy changes targeted, the response of elites/the state, the role of knowledge and knowledge producers in advocating for policy change and the interactions between local, national, regional and international actors in policy formulation and implementation.

The Advisory Knowledge Hub will facilitate exchange across the policy labs around the central question of how social movements can bring about accountable governance in contexts of fragility or transition. It will connect to regional and global stakeholders (think tanks, academia, civil society) through a series of dialogues, seminars and regular webinars to discuss lessons from the progress made by these movements regionally and globally.

Project ID
Project Status
24 months
IDRC Officer
Roula El-Rifai
Total Funding
CA$ 839,100.00
Middle East
Institution Country
Project Leader
Nadim Houry
ARI, Centre pour une initiative de réforme (ARI)