American University of Beirut


In the last decade, the Arab region has witnessed major mobilizations, drastic economic and political transformations and catastrophic civil wars; in addition to the COVID-19 pandemic that has amplified inequalities. Today, Arab countries experience some of the biggest social, economic, environmental and humanitarian crises since the Second World War. At the same time, countries that avoided catastrophic civil wars and external invasions are nevertheless struggling with the far-reaching effects of neoliberal policies among wide segments of the population. It is increasingly recognized that underlying these major upheavals, remain the questions of economic underdevelopment and inequality, political freedom, as well as social and environmental justice more broadly.
The scale of the transformations taking place in the Arab region and the alarming development indicators, as well as the rising concerns and challenges of development in the region have been met with a flood in international aid funds and an exponential increase in non-governmental organizations (NGOs). In light of the collapse of public social welfare under war or neoliberalism - or combinations of both - NGOs have increasingly taken on a variety of basic services for the populations in situ or in refuge, such as housing, nutrition, education, health care, and even recreation. This trend has led to significant changes and subsequent critical claims with regards to questions of transparency, accountability, democracy, sovereignty, and the wider concept of participatory and fair development.  
Given the magnitude of these changes and the necessity to address them from a critical and interdisciplinary perspective, we are launching this initiative in the hope to provide a platform for engaging in crucial discussions about the future of development in the Arab region, and the Global South more broadly.

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