Social protection and sustainable peace in the Middle East and North Africa Region: Building a new welfare-centered politics

Lead Research Organisation: University of Bath
Department Name: Social and Policy Sciences

Abstract

Led by the MENA Social Policy Network, University of Bath, www.menasp.com (founded in 2012 and convened by Jawad, PI), in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), this proposal brings together a host of UK and international research leaders and partner organisations to undertake an ambitious programme of cross-disciplinary innovation and capability development in the governance of social policy in MENA. The distinctive contribution this network will make is to introduce a paradigm shift in MENA conflict prevention research, policy and practice that will enhance the social welfare politics of Arab countries in the Sothern Mediterranean region (Levant and North Africa) - our geographical focus. These are ODA compliant countries, the highest exporters of economic migration to Europe and historically, at the nexus of armed conflict in MENA. The Network management team includes expertise in ethics, mental health and disability, Middle East history, anthropology, urban planning and the environment, gender, visual arts and education.

Our Network vision is: to demonstrate, through a mutually supportive framework of innovative, cross-disciplinary research and capacity development for policy change, how effective social policy governance in MENA can provide nuanced and contextualised pathways to peace and emerging localised solution-driven initiatives. We will do this through a programme of work that will serve GCRF goals as follows: (1) maximising the impact of Co-I-led proof of concepts and an £800,000's worth of LMIC and UK-led commissioned research strand that is co-designed with LMIC partners and builds on localised expertise; (2) fostering shared learning across innovative peacebuilding research projects and testing the feasibility, scalability, transferability and effectiveness of different approaches across diverse fragile MENA countries; (3) bringing conflict prevention research more centrally into sustainable development planning and programming through the apparatus of social policy governance and its affiliated concept of social protection thereby addressing directly SDGs 1, 3 (reduce poverty; achieve wellbeing across life course), 5 (achieve gender equality), 10 (reduce inequalities) and 11 (promote inclusive peace). Our aims are: (1) Cross-disciplinary innovation: to improve knowledge bases and practices in conflict prevention and sustainable peace in MENA by focusing on the interconnections between community-level social justice grievances and the macro-level governance of social policy; (2) Capacity development of existing research and policy practice: we will support policy learning and "design thinking" such as through policy labs, social policy governance seminars and an e-learning course for policy-makers.

We argue that there is momentum for a fresh and expanded reassessment of the nature and scope of conflict in MENA which directly addresses the long-overlooked question of community-level social justice grievances and how these react against or are reproduced by macro-level political decision-making. We will advance current knowledge and practice by showing how conflict prevention and social policy governance share common concerns: how to enable communities to live cohesively and share resources equitably. This is a fundamentally cross-disciplinary question about state-society relations, otherwise referred to in the contemporary international development literature as "political settlements". It is an issue of relevance to volatile MENA countries that are now implementing austerity policies at a time when they are also mandated to produce national development plans supporting the universal social protection vision of the SDG 2030 agenda. The challenges of social and income inequality in MENA are stark: in a 2015 report, the World Bank acknowledged the need to address the "quality of life" grievances that had fueled the Arab uprisings.

Planned Impact

Academic impact: LMIC researchers based in universities, NGOs, government institutions and independent think tanks are the primary academic beneficiary group. Our international Co-Is, partner organisations such as CREAD, IFI and ARDD-legal aid and the early career researchers in our advisory board (such as Bailey - UK, Zaki - Egypt and Al Jabiri - Iraq) already give an idea of the wide range of researchers we will work with and who will support the commissioning and synthesis of our network activities. The Network will undertake a suite of capacity building and knowledge sharing activities with strand (ii) grant-holders, including ECRs and researchers in our partner organisations, civil society and policy stakeholder groups using various tools such as research ethics training (IFI, Lebanon seminar in year 1) and social policy governance (CREAD, Algeria Seminar in year 2). In addition, researchers will benefit from peer mentoring activities and an e-learning course (see IPC-IG letter of support). In line with the Impact strategy and Theory of Change plan, the project manager will support the management team in tracking the milestone academic activities of the network through progress meetings, mentoring clinics, synthesis events and the online tools of the www.menasp.com website.

Societal impact: There are various ways in which our Network will achieve societal impact since it is directly focused on understanding and tackling the major social justice grievances that drive conflict in MENA such as precarious work, social exclusion and lack of voice . Indeed, our research will directly enhance understanding and test the applicability of the current spread of the Adaptive Social Protection (ASP) framework which is informing government and donor agency interventions in MENA countries and calling into question state capacities in addressing the rights and needs of citizens and refugee populations. Hence, policy officials both internationally and in MENA, community groups and NGOs working on conflict prevention, social protection and social justice issues are key stakeholder groups. By engaging global organisations as Network partners (such as Friends of the British Council, UNDP, IPC-IG, Centre for Social Development in Africa, Centre for Poverty, IFI-AUB and NGOs such as the ARDD-legal aid), this proposal will directly reach, inform and influence state and civil society actors in MENA. It will do this by exposing them to new policy learning opportunities and involving them in the analysis and synthesis of project findings. The Policy Lab activity in year 3 (Mohammad V University, Morocco) feeds directly into the societal impact pathway since it provides a safe space to introduce principles and elements of "design thinking" to NGOs working on social protection issues. Marginalised populations such as unemployed youth, refugees, female-headed households, people with disabilities, religious minorities are also key beneficiary groups. The Network will work with its advisory board and partners to create space for new policy dialogue by engaging hard-to-reach groups like unorganized male protesters in Basra (Iraq), powerful religious endowment institutions or Waqfs (Lebanon, Jordan, Tunisia), marginalised populations (such as IDPS in borders along Yemen and Syria) and people with disabilities (whether this is caused by conflict or not). This effort directly supports the aim of the network to link micro- and macro-level analysis of social policy governance. The policy lab will be a way to reach marginalised populations via their community representatives.

In our due diligence and planning meetings, we will highlight examples of confirming actions or corrective actions that may be taken by the management team to mitigate the risk factors to the theory of change assumptions. We will rely on pre-existing networks of trust that our management team and advisory board provide to anticipate risks to our impact pathway strategy.

Publications

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Rana Jawad (2020) Religion, social policy and populism in Social Policy and Society

 
Description The network is expanding and building momentum internationally as a credible and safe space for rigorous knowledge sharing about social policy and conflict prevention in the MENA region. We are collaborating with new partners like ARI, Cardno and have gained new funding from The Ford Foundation. We are about to start a seminar series and our efforts for early careers are really taking off and gaining momentum.
First Year Of Impact 2020
Sector Communities and Social Services/Policy,Government, Democracy and Justice,Security and Diplomacy
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description Consultancy work on covid and social protection in MENA
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Gave evidence to a government review
Impact Providing advice on how to strengthen social policy and deal with the Covid-19 impact
 
Description social protection in conflict-afflicted societies
Geographic Reach Asia 
Policy Influence Type Participation in a national consultation
 
Description Social protection and Covid-19 in MENA
Amount $645,000 (USD)
Organisation Ford Foundation 
Sector Charity/Non Profit
Country United States
Start 03/2021 
End 03/2023
 
Title Ethics training tools 
Description Ethnics training films and guidance 
Type Of Material Improvements to research infrastructure 
Year Produced 2021 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact training tools and methods 
 
Title MENA social policy expertise 
Description I established the IPR MENA social policy network which now includes over 1000 contacts and members. This is a platform for communication about MENA social policy research and has helped to build a community of experts on social policy in the MENA region. We will continue work on this database as part of the AHRC development award. We continue to develop this database and it will support out GCRF network analysis. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2013 
Provided To Others? Yes  
Impact I now organise the bi-monthly conference on MENA social policy with host institutions. Most recently, this was the GDIE in Bonn and the forthcoming collaborator will be Cairo University. I successfully gained a contract with UNICEF, Middle East office in Jordan to establish a database on social policy expertise in the MENA region. I am also regularly contacted to act as the MENA lead on other projects. For instance, there is a new database on social safety nets in Developing countries which is funded by DFID-ESRC and led by Manchester University and I am in charge of the MENA charge in this database - www.gdi.manchester.ac.uk 
URL http://www.bath.ac.uk/cds/projects-activities/UNICEF/index.html
 
Description 1st network meeting - Dubai 7-9 March 2020 
Organisation Lebanon Support
Country Lebanon 
Sector Charity/Non Profit 
PI Contribution Lebanon support is an NGO working in conflict and social protection in Lebanon. They are a new network partner whom we have scoped and they will take part in our forthcoming workshop.
Collaborator Contribution They will give us feedback on our network strategies and ethics plan. They will also help us reach policy stakeholders in the region. They therefore help us achieve key criteria of the AHRC network plus both in the development and inception phase.
Impact Various outputs will emerge from the Dubai workshop such as an ethics protocol.
Start Year 2020
 
Description Early Careers events and others on human security with Maastricht University - Tamara Kool and Des Gasper 
Organisation Maastricht University (UM)
Country Netherlands 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Joint events collaboration on human security
Collaborator Contribution Ideas, organisation, inviting speakers and attendees
Impact Not yet - in planning phase
Start Year 2021
 
Description Blogs 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Blogs on a range of topics
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020,2021
 
Description Establishment of the MENASP network website 
Form Of Engagement Activity Engagement focused website, blog or social media channel
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact website allowing wider engagement with academics and policy-makers

source of information and analysis
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020
URL http://www.menasp.com
 
Description Invited speaker 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Invited speaker on social protection - Arab reform Initiative
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2021
 
Description Newsletter 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Quarterly newsletter
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020,2021
 
Description PODCAST 
Form Of Engagement Activity A broadcast e.g. TV/radio/film/podcast (other than news/press)
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact A podcast about my research
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2020
URL https://www.bath.ac.uk/research-centres/centre-for-the-analysis-of-social-policy/
 
Description Policy Innovation Case Studies 
Form Of Engagement Activity A magazine, newsletter or online publication
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Policymakers/politicians
Results and Impact Policy innovation case studies (PICS) on a range of topics including employment, civil society, social accountability and social assistance

These activities continue to go strong.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018,2019,2020,2021
URL http://www.menasp.com