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Governance of Diversity: Case of the Kurdish and Amazigh Communities in the Middle East and North Africa

Democratic transformations in the Arab world have reignited debate around the need for more inclusive political systems where the rights of different ethnic and religious groups are a priority in the transition period. This research will examine the dynamics of political representation for Kurdish and Amazigh communities, and help promote policies that govern diversity and enhance pluralism more effectively in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA). Giving voice to ethnic groups Since the Arab spring and ensuing efforts to negotiate new social contracts, diverse groups have become more vocal in expressing their demands, which cover political, economic, social, cultural and linguistic needs. The mechanisms they use to voice their claims for political representation are both formal and informal and differ depending on the national context. Ethnic groups make claims at different levels: constitutional, institutional (from national to local, such as Parliament, civil service, and the security sector), political (leadership of political parties, societal (through groups such as NGOs, professional organizations, and student groups), and traditional (groups such as tribes, religions, and sects). National governments generally struggle to devise policies to integrate these groups. They often resort to discriminatory practices by treating these groups as a security threat. Representation for Kurds and Amazighs This research will investigate modes of political representation for Kurdish and Amazigh peoples. Kurds number more than 20 million and are the second largest ethnic group in Iraq, Syria, and Turkey. In Iran, they represent approximately 10% of the population. The Amazigh, who number around 30 million, live mostly in North Africa, Morocco, and Algeria. They make up more than one-third of the total population, with smaller communities in Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt. These two groups are diverse from an ethnic, geographic, political, economic, cultural, linguistic, and religious perspective. Negotiating rights in a new Arab world This research will explore how -these groups are consolidating and negotiating their rights within their national systems -some groups seek better representation within their own communities -the nature of their demands has evolved in light of the Arab spring Researchers will also study regional dimensions of the issues faced by the Kurdish and Amazigh populations. At a time when identity politics in MENA are prevalent, the aim is to promote the emergence of participatory, legitimate political systems that are inclusive of all ethno-cultural groups.

Project ID
Project Status
End Date
24 months
IDRC Officer
Roula El-Rifai
Total Funding
CA$ 654,900.00
Employment and Growth
Governance and Justice
Institution Country
Project Leader
Faleh A Jabar
Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies, Inc.
Iraq Institute for Strategic Studies
Institution Country
Project Leader
Nacer Djabi
Centre de Recherche en Économie Appliquée pour le Développement