Covid-19 pandemic has disrupted the habits and priorities of everyone, including the university students we are soliciting, so we have decided to extend the deadline of this contest to 30 JUNE.

Call for Submissions

How can diasporas support democratic transitions in the Arab world?

The new waves of mass protests that spread across the Arab world in 2019 were marked not only by sustained mass mobilisation at home but also the notable participation of diaspora communities abroad. Algerian and Lebanese diasporic communities, for example, organised dozens of marches and protests in solidarity with movements back home, while the Sudanese diaspora engaged in worldwide fundraising campaigns in support of injured protestors. As these countries move from mass uprising and social mobilisation to the arduous period of transition and political reform, what role can these engaged diasporas play in the democratisation process?

In an op-ed of 800-1,000 words, lay out your argument for how diasporas can support democratic transitions in the Arab world.

All essays are due 15 April 2020 and should be sent to the address: with the subject line “Student Essay Contest.”


Essays will be judged by a panel on the strength and relevance of argumentation. The winning essay will be published in both English and Arabic on Arab Reform Initiative’s website and will receive a prize of $500 USD.


Anyone currently enrolled in an undergraduate or graduate programme is eligible to participate. Essays can be submitted in either English or Arabic. Essays should be in the form of a policy paper (see style guidelines below).

Style Guidelines

We are looking for a policy-oriented op-ed that addresses a very specific topic or problem, mostly an established fact that can be analysed. Authors should use short sentences and should avoid technical or scientific language, and should focus on writing a clear and easy-to-follow argument.

The components of a policy-oriented op-ed include:

  • The lead, which outlines succinctly the problem and the conclusion or recommendations. The length of the lead should not exceed 1-2 paragraphs. An excellent lead is one which goes straight to the core of the problem and summarises your main recommendation or approach.
  • The body of the paper, which provides the proof of the author’s argument, based on evidence and on facts which are based upon research. Don’t use footnotes. Include reference to a source in the text itself.
  • The policy recommendations, which must be precise, realistic, and actionable. Suggest ways to address the issue/problem you have identified. Try to provide examples to back them up.
  • Don’t hesitate to develop your own voice and use analogies, anecdotes, or unique examples to illustrate your points and add some colour to your piece.