The School of Arts & Sciences

Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution

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The Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution (ISJCR) in LAU’s School of Arts and Sciences has received a generous grant from Carnegie Corporation New York for a research project on resilience and inclusive governance in the Middle East. The project is in collaboration with LAU New York Headquarters and Academic Center (LAU NY) and the Arab Institute for Women (AiW).

Setting the context

In a context of overlapping crises marked by COVID-19 and economic breakdowns, how can MENA states craft forms of governance that privilege citizen wellbeing? And how to foster grassroots resilience and socio-economic as well as political inclusiveness in the context of authoritarian counterrevolutions, growing class disparities, and collapsed social contracts?

Research shows that the struggles dotting the MENA landscape are closely related to weaponization of identity politics by regimes, elites, or non-state actors, unresponsive governance, declining levels of trust between governments and citizens, and authoritarian return or maintenance in the context of collapsing post-independence social contracts.  Often these struggles are played out through the lives of ordinary citizens, who continue to bear the brunt of the region’s conflicts and economic insecurities.

This project seeks to problematize and interrogate the concept of resilience—commonly understood as the ability of societies and individuals to manage shocks, develop “sustainable robustness” and successfully adapt to crises and threats—and to investigate the relational dynamics between resilience and inclusive politics.  

Much literature has already been written on resilient societies, states, and individuals in the MENA region. Often, however, policy-orientated approaches to “instilling” resilience have been mainly inspired by external actors, and international organizations. The adoption of such approaches without critical contextualization has been criticized. Also, these approaches overlook the polysemous dimensions of resiliency and its implications for governance. Often, international policy actors laud seemingly resilient MENA societies, confusing the resilience of the state with the resilience of the political regimes, governing elite, and armed non-state actors.

Project objectives

Against this backdrop, the project seeks to accomplish four objectives:

The project will focus on two sets of cases: the primary cases of Lebanon, Iraq and Jordan and the secondary cases of Yemen and Libya. These cases are different enough to give a variety of perspectives on challenges to resilience and inclusive politics that the MENA region is struggling with. Comparative perspectives from Egypt, Syria, or other Arab states may also be considered. We will also partner with local, regional, and international practitioners who work in and on these countries and who can generate empirical findings grounded in field research. Additionally, the project will engage with various stakeholders with a view to producing local knowledge, practice-based methodologies, and contextualized understandings of the interdependencies between resilient societies and inclusive governance.

The project also aims to establish a sustainable dialogue between regional and international stakeholders and to engage diverse stakeholders in the MENA, Europe, the USA and further afield. Conferences, workshops, online commentaries, op-eds, and policy briefs problematizing the meanings of (societal, state/regime, non-state actors and individual) resilience will help produce knowledge around the concept as well as unpack its various nuances amid overlapping crises. Deliberative methods allowing various stakeholders to discuss, and process complex issues will be adopted.

Project team

The Institute for Social Justice and Conflict Resolution (lead)  

LAU NY Academic Center:

Arab Women’s Institute (AIW):


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