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.

2021 Student Essay Contest - Call for submissions

How can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA?

Environmental activism is on the rise in the MENA region, as the effects of ecological challenges on public health and livelihoods continue to mount. Yet relative to other regions of the world, and to other issues in the region, mobilization around environmental issues continues to take a back seat. Focusing on one country case, or on a specific environmental issue of critical importance within a MENA country, how can activists best advance environmental reforms in MENA?

In a policy op-ed of approximately 1,500 words, lay out your argument for how activists can best advance environmental reforms on the issue or the country that you have identified. Please refer to the style guidelines below to write a strong submission.

All essays are due 15 May 2021 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 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 an environmental issue as well as a good discussion of recommendations and ways forward that activists could adopt to address (or start addressing) the issue. 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; favor 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.

Background on Arab Reform Initiative
The Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) is a leading independent Arab think tank working with expert partners in the Middle East and North Africa and beyond to articulate a home-grown agenda for democratic change and social justice. It conducts research and policy analysis and provides a platform for inspirational voices based on the principles of diversity, impartiality, and gender equality. ARI seeks to encourage innovative research from the MENA region and to provide a space for activists to reflect upon their strategies and efforts. We are launching our Environmental Program this year to address gaps in research and activism that have often left environmental issues and activists in MENA on the margins of wider governance discussions.