ARI Announces Winner of its 2023 Student Prize

Beirut/Tunis/Paris – October 27, 2023

The Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) announced today the winner of its 2023 Student Essay Prize. Candidates were invited to submit a policy paper addressing the question: What policy reforms and/or policy alternatives should be articulated to counter the Arab region's chronic youth unemployment?

The winning essay, submitted by Siba Mroueh who is currently pursuing a master's degree in Anthropology of Politics, Violence and Crime at University College London, with a specific focus on the Middle East, addresses the unemployment issue in Lebanon from a macroeconomic perspective. Her analysis effectively positions Lebanese youth as the key social group impacted by this chronic crisis, arguing that they require particular policy attention from the state. The essay outlines the kinds of reforms that are feasible in the short, medium, and long run to secure youth livelihood and wellbeing.

ARI’s Social Protection Program Director, Farah Al Shami, asserted that “Siba’s paper was chosen as the winner because it provides a critical understanding of the unemployment impasse in Lebanon, going back to its root causes. Siba correctly analyzes the politico-economic factors hindering the needed shift in the prevalent economic model and development paradigm, which constitutes the entry point for a radical and sustainable solution.”

On her win, Siba Mroueh said “I am honored to be selected as the winner of this year's Student Essay Competition. I extend my heartfelt gratitude to the entire team for considering my work and finding it worthy of this recognition. It is indeed a privilege to have my paper acknowledged in such a manner and I am proud to express my opinion on the multi-dimensional crisis in Lebanon that needs deep analysis.”

ARI’s annual Student Prize aims to encourage university students to think critically and propose concrete policy solutions that aim to resolve the variety of challenges and opportunities facing the Arab region today. “As ARI, we are very proud to give a space where young, up-and-coming actors and scholars in the region can propose policy solutions for and by themselves,” adds Berfin Necimoglu, the founder of ARI’s Student Prize. As part of the Award, the winning essay is published in English and Arabic on the ARI’s website and receives a prize of USD 500.

This year's contest sought to engage participants with issues that ARI is tackling through its Social Protection Program. Started in 2020, this program aims to build more inclusive social policies and place them center stage in the post-COVID-19 recovery strategies and the concerted efforts to “build back better” amid the multitude of crises and conflicts afflicting Arab countries. Through producing and disseminating interdisciplinary knowledge, facilitating multi-stakeholder exchanges, and supporting and joining collective action and advocacy efforts, the program seeks to consolidate a community of practice and knowledge on social protection in the Arab region.

Siba Mroueh’s research interests revolve around political sociology and anthropology in the Arab countries. She is also president and founder of the Arabic Students Society and the President and co-founder of Change Starts Here, an independent student movement at the American University of Beirut. She has experience in academic research, communications, journalism, and anti-corruption activism.

The views represented in this paper are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Arab Reform Initiative, its staff, or its board.