The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University of Beirut was established in 2012 with a generous donation from the Asfari Foundation, founded and headed by AUB Trustee Ayman Asfari.
When the Institute was created, the Arab region was going through unprecedented social and political upheavals and transitions as citizens from all walks of life aspired for freedom, dignity, secure livelihoods, and the enjoyment of rights and entitlements. This period witnessed the upcoming of new voices and innovative forms of collective actions, locally grounded policy debates, and the framing of new solutions to overcome political, economic, and social ills. It is safe to say that various forms and iterations of effective and innovative civil society took shape in addition to a new take on the meaning and practice of citizenship in the Arab world.
The Asfari Institute was conceptualized as a regional hub that will accompany, serve, and resource the growing ecosystem of civil society in the Arab region through amplifying knowledge production and dissemination, creating safe physical and virtual spaces for convening, and learning, networking, mobilizing, and collaboration. In doing so, the Asfari Institute also seeks to redefine the meaning, definition, and practice of inclusive citizenship in the Arab region.
The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship is an integral part of the American University
of Beirut. It is located on campus in the Ayman and Sawsan Asfari Building which has been renovated and upgraded to host University-wide events and serves as a unique space that is accessible, inclusive, and conducive for connecting civil society with scholars, students, practitioners, as well as policymakers and other stakeholders. Through this unique space, it seeks to create synergies between academia and civil society action and facilitate the creation of meaningful and long-term engagement and collaboration between all parties concerned.
The Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship aspires to a robust, vibrant, diverse, and inclusive civil society in the Arab region, one that strives for a new social contract between citizens and states in the region. The Asfari Institute believes in accountable, transparent, efficient, inclusive, and responsive social institutions which fulfill their roles as duty bearers vis-à-vis both citizens and residents. As such, our vision is of a concept and practice of citizenship where people in their diversity enjoy individual rights and freedoms and are aware of their positions as rights holders.
Mission and strategies
The mission of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship is to serve as a solid regional knowledge and convening hub for civil society in the Arab region.
The Institute seeks to achieve its mission through:
- Designing and implementing engaged research programs based on research questions that are identified and crafted to serve civil society action in the region;
- Amplifying the capacities, skills, outreach, and visibility of civil society actors through learning events, collaborative spaces, and global and regional engagements activities;
- Producing and disseminating innovative knowledge that can feed directly into civil society actions;
- Provide a space for civil society actors to share their voices, analysis, and reflections;
- Document and archive contemporary experiences of civil society in the region; and
- Contribute to redefining inclusive citizenship through the creation of learning and training courses and modules.
Midan; the civil society virtual hub
As of 2022, and with the support of the Asfari Foundation, the Asfari Institue will host and operate Midan, a technology platform created by the Asfari Foundation and whose purpose is to serve as a state of the art virtual knowledge production space as well as a convening, learning, and melting point for civil society in the region.