An In-Depth Review of the Prospects for Human Rights Action in North Africa

(Beirut) – About 40 human rights researchers, defenders, and representatives of donor organizations met in Beirut over the weekend to review the state of human rights organizations and defenders in three Arab North African countries.

The symposium was organized by the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) as part of its project on the “Future of Human Rights Work in the Arab World” with support from the Lebanese organization, The Legal Agenda.

The research project aims at providing a repertoire of strategies that human rights actors could deploy separately and collectively to adjust to the major social and political shifts in this area post the Arab Spring. However, this workshop, the first in a series, was dedicated to debating the in-depth research that was carried out in Egypt, Morocco and Tunisia over the past few months by a group of independent researchers.

These three North African countries have evolved differently from each other, but their paths to reform and revolution have much more in common than that of remaining Arab countries. Rights organizations in these three countries share common experiences and challenges.

Over two days of the symposium, the 40 participants debated the outcome of research regarding the complex relations human rights actors in these three countries have with the state, with the Islamist political movements and with other actors in the civil society at large with a focus on social and economic rights. The symposium also discussed the internal and external governance systems of human rights organizations and looked at various ways to evaluate and measure their influence on legal, social, and political institutions.

It is hoped that by the end of 2017, this project would expand to research human rights action in other Arab countries starting with countries in conflict (Syrian, Iraq, Yemen and Libya).

The project’s activities and products should help all those concerned with human rights (including defenders, governments, local and foreign donors, and researchers) to reflect and probably change some central positions and strategies. They should also inform public and policy debates on the current challenges and prospects for the human rights action in the area.

The symposium included six sessions where participants discussed the conclusions of 18 research papers from the three countries. The papers will be published this spring and summer on ARI website and other platforms.