Student Prize

Welcome to ARI's Student Prize page!

Started in 2020, the competition provides an opportunity for young, up-and-coming voices to write about a variety of topics relevant to the MENA region in line with ARI's Areas of Work.

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,” Berfin Necimoglu, the founder of ARI’s Student Prize.

Prize 2024 - Reinventing the Regional Order: What Regional Organization for Today’s Challenges in the Arab Region?

The Arab region is grappling with major wars, massive displacement of populations, deep rooted governance problems and democracy deficits, cascading social and economic crises, and environmental injustices. Many of these problems call for regional solutions yet regional bodies are fractured and ineffective.

The League of Arab States has been unable to address any of the pressing issues within its member states or between them. Many would argue the League has repeatedly squandered opportunities to become relevant, working to preserve the narrow interests of Arab autocrats rather than promote the interest of local populations. Even sub-regional organizations like the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) have failed to address tensions within their members like those that erupted between Saudi/UAE and Qatar.

The ongoing wars in Gaza and Sudan serve as poignant illustrations of the League's inability to effectively mediate and resolve crises and further expose the broken regional order. IThis comes after two decades where the League's response to other regional challenges, including the conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Yemen or Libya, have been marred by indecision and inertia. This lack of coordinated regional response has invited armed intervention by global actors (from the US’s invasion of Iraq to Russia’s armed intervention in Syria), enabled the expansion of the influence of non-Arab regional powers (notably, Iran, Israel and Turkey) and stoked competition between certain states from the region – notably from the Gulf - who ended up on opposite sides of local battlefields.

The region’s fragmentation does not stop with wars. The MENA region is the least economically integrated in the world. It needs more collaboration to address deep seated economic problems, major environmental challenges, rampant human rights abuses and basic human mobility needs.

While the need for a better and fairer regional order is obvious, the way forward is less so. Does the answer lie in reforming the Arab League or creating new institutions? Given the role of Iran, Turkey and Israel in the region, what influence can an “Arab” regional organization play? What issues are ripe for cooperation and how do we ensure that regional cooperation benefits the peoples of the region? And finally, is the pathway one of pan-Arab regional cooperation or should the priority be on strengthening sub-regional collaborations (for instance at the Maghreb, Mashriq, Gulf levels) with a possible view for a broader regional rapprochement in the future?Participants of ARI’s 2024 Student Prize are invited to write an essay offering proposals and arguments on possible pathways forward. Students are welcomed to propose reforms aimed at enhancing the Arab League's capacity to mediate conflicts, foster cooperation among member states, and address pressing regional challenges or put forward other mechanisms entirely. In developing their arguments, students are encouraged to reflect on the issues that could serve as a priority for collaboration but also the institutional set-ups that could foster such a collaboration.

The overall aim of this year’s contest is to encourage participants to present innovative and actionable recommendations to rejuvenate successful regional governance mechanisms and empower the mandate of promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the Arab region.


Essays will be judged by a panel on the strength and relevance of argumentation. The winning essay will be published in English, Arabic, and French 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 English, Arabic, or French. Essays should be in the form of a policy-oriented op-ed (see below).

Style Guidelines

Policy-oriented op-eds aim to provide concrete steps towards dealing with a specific problem. Due to their short nature, flowery language should be avoided, and only brief context should be given for the situation.

We are looking for a policy-oriented op-ed that addresses a very specific topic or problem, mostly an established situation that can be analysed. The best essays would include a strong analysis of a case study as well as a good discussion of how different social movements can overcome social divisions when lobbying for feminist policies. Authors should use short sentences, 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, favour hyperlinks. 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.

Past Winners

Winner for 2023: Siba Mroueh on: “What policy reforms and/or policy alternatives should be articulated to counter the Arab region's chronic youth unemployment?

Winner for 2022: Hamza Bensouda on "Lessons from Morocco’s women’s rights movement: Overcoming divisions to push for reforms"

Winner for 2021: Rory Quick on "How can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA?"

Winner for 2020: Amine al-Sharif on "How can diasporas support democratic transitions in the Arab world?"