Hivos International


In the aftermath of Egypt’s revolution, controversies  over foreign funding to Egyptian civil society organisations (CSO) have  become even more politicised. This has resulted in the prosecution of a  number of international and Egyptian NGO workers. Because CSOs are a  critical part of the democratic transition, the Egyptian public needs to  engage in a transparent debate over the role of foreign funding.

Tunisia’s Islamist-led government is in a tight spot. Tunisian voters are frustrated with the slow pace of government delivery, and Ennahda’s organisational head-start over other political formations is gradually narrowing. With Nidaa Tounes, an electoral coalition of different opposition parties has emerged which for the first time bears the potential of challenging Islamist hegemony.

In this tense political context, the ways in which external forces might try to influence the course of events is the subject of heated debate. The present paper aims to assess the way foreign democracy assistance and other means of ‘foreign funding’ in Tunisia have developed after the 2011 revolution, focusing on the local perceptions of such assistance.

As the Syrian revolution enters its third year, the risks to regional stability are escalating. Violence has spilled over all of Syria's borders. The conflict has elevated sectarian tensions in Lebanon, threatening the 1990 Taif settlement that ended 15 years of civil war. It has sharpened ethnic and sectarian frictions in Iraq and engulfed southern Turkey. It has heightened tensions across the Syrian-Israeli border. Violence has also spilled into Syria from across the region. Regional involvement in the conflict is deepening. Syrian refugees, now numbering more than a million, are straining the economies and the social fabric of receiving countries. This paper addresses the implications of the regionalisation of Syria’s conflict and the challenges it presents to the stability of the post-Ottoman state order in the Levant.

For decades, the Muslim Brotherhood focused on the need  to uphold and defend Muslim identity in order to maintain organisational  unity, spending less time on developing alternative policies to those  of the regime.

While successful in the short term, in the medium and  long terms this strategy could lead to the marginalisation of the  Brotherhood and its replacement by other more sophisticated forms of  religiously-motivated political and social activism. Its coming to power creates new challenges for the organisation that will define the  group’s future path: the relation between religion and state; the shift from identity politics to policy questions; the 'political relevance' versus 'religious authenticity' dilemma; and the balance of power  between the organisation and its members.

Democracy promotion has had a tough decade, nowhere more so than in the Middle East. In Working Paper 12 Steven Heydemann reviews the policy paper Beyond Orthodox Approaches: Assessing Opportunities for Democracy Support in the Middle East and North Africa.

Looking at historical facts, it becomes clear that non-democratic government has been the norm for most of human history. Nevertheless, much of the existing (western-oriented) literature focuses on ideals of democracy and on democratization-issues. Besides being the historical dominant political system, there are more reasons to study non-democratic regimes. It highlights the moral ambiguities and contrasts involved in government and politics, it illustrates differences of the structural behavior of different types of non-democratic rule and it offers a comparative perspective on democracy.

This paper analyzes non-democratic regimes and introduces a general model, in which (de)stabilizing factors/influences on non-democratic regimes are combined. This model can be used as a toolbox in order to analyze non-democratic regime stability in specific cases.

This publication is part of the working paper series of the Knowledge Programme Civil Society in West Asia.

On the 10th of September 2009, violent unrest broke out in Kampala, the capital of Uganda in East Africa. Groups of youngsters attacked people and destroyed property. Police and army responded with force. Within two or three days, 27 people were killed and many more injured. Journalists were arrested and hundreds of people taken into custody.The rioting came after the central government moved to prevent the Kabaka (king) of the Baganda people – Uganda's largest ethnic group – from visiting a part of his traditional territory.

The Arab Spring: Common Roots, Common Challenges

Article By Mohamed Elagati

Ongoing revolutions in the Arab world signify another iteration of a process the world has witnessed before in various regions, including Southern and Eastern Europe, Latin America and Sub-Saharan Africa. Observers were wondering why the cloud of democracy passed over the Arab World without raining. This question led analysts to believe in what was called “Arab exceptionalism,” or the alleged incompatibility of the societies of the region with democratic development. This claim resonated with the conventional argument that Arab ruling elites used to justify their repressive policies against their own citizens on the grounds that ‘people are not ready for democracy.’ The Tunisian revolution came in early 2011 to refute these allegations and prove that the Arab peoples desire dignity and freedom as much as any other people.

2011: The Year When Citizens Woke Up

Leila Nachawati: Syrian/Spanish activist and journalist

As both a Syrian and Spanish citizen Leila Nachawati, activist and journalist and participant of the event The Changing Face of Citizen Action, she has found herself in the middle of citizen mobilisations in both countries at the same time. "Growing up in the Middle Eastern context of repression and lack of freedom, mobilizations in the Arab countries seemed like a miracle to me, to my friends and my family. After decades of dictatorship suddenly everything was shaking."

Unruly politics: atomised movements, activist individuals and clientilism

Jenny Morgan on

Do new social media create new forms of citizen action? Jenny Morgan reports on the 'Changing Face of Citizen Action' knowledge exploration in the Hague.