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UN in the Arab World


Land of Blue Helmets: The United Nations in the Arab World (University of California Press, 2017) 
Edited by Karim Makdisi (Former Director of the UN in the Arab World Program, Issam Fares Institute, and Associate Professor of Politics, AUB) and Vijay Prashad (Former Senior Fellow, Issam Fares Institute, and Professor of International Studies, Trinity College, USA).
This book’s claim is that the UN is a constant feature and site of struggle in the Arab world, and equally that the Arab world serves as a central location for the UN to define itself against the shifting politics of its age. Looking at the UN from the standpoint of the Arab world, this volume collects some of the finest scholars and practitioners on the promise and problems of a UN that is framed by the geo-political contradictions amongst its member states and the noble promises of its Charter. This is a landmark book and the first of its kind – a close and informed study of the United Nations in the region that taught the UN how to do its many jobs.
Purchase the book (Published by the University of California Press).​

Research Handbook: THE UN IN THE ARAB WORLD
Martin Wählisch,IFI Affiliated Scholar
United Nations in the Arab World
January 2015

This research handbook provides guidance to students, researchers and practitioners on current UN affairs in the Middle East and Northern Africa. It offers entry-points for exploring the role of the UN in the Arab world while explaining the various facets of the world organization’s activities, which range from political and diplomatic efforts to humanitarian, human rights and economic issues. The handbook includes references to key UN documents, such as relevant Security Council decisions and General Assembly resolutions, relevant legal documents, specialized thematic research guides and selected secondary sources, such as working papers and academic journal articles. Special attention is given to publicly available open-sources and research from the IFI-AUB community.

Working Paper Series

WP#37: Walk the Line: An investigation of the Micro-Processes of a UN Peacekeeping Mission
Vanessa Newby, Research Fellow, Department of International Relations, Coral Bell School of Asia-Pacific Affairs, Australian National University, Australia

WPS #24: Operation Protective Edge & Legal Remedies
Noura Erakat, Assistant Professor,George Mason University and a Co-Founder/Editor of Jadaliyya e-zine
Bianca C. Isaias, Third-year J.D. student at NYU School of Law
Salmah Rizvi, 2L at NYU School of Law on a Paul & Daisy Soros Fellowship for New Americans
English ||| Arabic

WPS #17: Displacement in the Middle East and North Africa: Between an Arab Winter and the Arab Spring
Shaden Khallaf, Adjunct Lecturer - American University in Cairo

Abstract:The Middle East and North Africa region has been rife with volatility and turmoil for decades due to inter-State conflict, military occupation, intra-State power struggles, international sanctions, strained economic systems, social transformations, high population growth, varying illiteracy rates, high unemployment and underemployment, poverty, gender inequalities, extremism, and an overarching lack of transparency in dealing with these daunting challenges. On the displacement front, the region has also seen its fair share of refugee crises, from the world’s largest and most protracted one, that of Palestinian refugees, to the Sudanese, Somali, Western Saharan, and Iraqi refugees, to those who fled the recent conflict in Libya, to those who continue to be internally displaced in Yemen, and finally to the dramatically large and ever increasing numbers currently fleeing the conflict in Syria. Despite the magnitude and almost continuous nature of the flows of forced displacement over several decades, the region has also been characterized by having largely informal, sometimes ad hoc, systems of dealing with refugee issues, which raises concerns among analysts and practitioners about their consistency, comprehensiveness, and predictability in providing effective protection and assistance to those who need it most.

WPS #15: Emerging Powers and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The Case of Brazil and Venezuela
Guy Burton

Abstract: What are the prospects of emerging powers to play a role in resolving the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Given the apparent failure of the Oslo peace process to lead to a two-state solution since 1993, this working paper examines the conflict and its relationship with the international community, in particular the Latin American cases of Brazil and Venezuela. Over the past decade, the two countries have become increasingly important globally as well as within the Middle East. Although neither state has significant forms of leverage or access to hard power resources in relation to the conflict or its actors, Brazil opted to present itself as an independent mediator while Venezuela pursued a more confrontational approach against Israel, including breaking diplomatic relations in 2009. Emerging powers like Brazil and Venezuela will therefore have to employ policies which tackle this directly, including the use of ‘sticks’ (e.g. international condemnation of Israel’s anti-Palestinian actions) and ‘carrots’ (e.g. working with supportive Israeli groups and like-minded international actors) if this is to happen.

WPS #13: Production of Norms and Securitization of Development Policies: From Human Security to Security Sector Reform
Penelope Larzilliere

Abstract: After 2001, the “global war on terror” has intensified the link between security and development. Security is now part of the conventional objectives assigned to development while development plans are systematically added to international and NATO military interventions, peace keeping and post conflict programs. As a result of the famous “soft power” doctrine[1], development is deemed a powerful strategic tool and humanitarian aid a way to gain acceptance and legitimacy for military operation. This article aims at giving insight on this evolution by analyzing the way the term security has been introduced and defined in development policies.

[1] Developed by Joseph Nye (2004). The latest evolution being the notion of ‘smart power” (Nye 2008), which advocates the synthesis of “hard “and “soft power” for leaders


WPS #10: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL):International Justice Dissected
Omar Nashabe,Columnist at Al-Akhbar & founding member of its Editorial Board, Former Adviser to the Minister of Interior in Lebanon, Consultant for the UN Office of Drugs and Crime in Beirut Part-time, Faculty member at The Lebanese American University of Beirut

Abstract: The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) was created by the UN Security Council in 2007 to prosecute those responsible for the assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and others in 2005. It has been controversial since its inception, with supporters claiming its very creation would ensure impunity. This paper offers a critique of the history, structure and procedures of the international criminal investigation and the establishment of the STL. Its central arguments are that: (1) launching an international criminal investigation in the Hariri case was politicized and highly selective in light of the history of political assassinations in Lebanon; (2) the establishment of the STL does not comply with the Lebanon’s Constitution, undermining Lebanon’s sovereignty; and (3) the professional standards of the international criminal investigation and the STL are questionable. It concludes that while these problems have thus undermined the original calls for justice and the ending of impunity in Lebanon, even leading to further division and violence, there are still steps that can be taken to serve the cause of international justice for Hariri while also protecting state institutions and the political process in Lebanon.

WPS #9: The Politics of International Justice – US Policy and the Legitimacy of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon UN in the Arab World
John Cerone, Professor of Law and Director of the Center for International Law and Policy New England Law, Boston

Abstract: This article traces the evolution of policy strands underpinning the US government’s attitudes toward international criminal courts and examines how these policy strands converged in a position of support for the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL). It also demonstrates how US foreign policy interests helped to shape the contours of the STL. The article then discusses some of the features of the tribunal that flow from these interests, and examines the merits of challenges to the legitimacy of the tribunal made at least in part on the basis of these features. It concludes with an examination of a spectrum of policy choices in relation to the creation of international criminal courts and implications for their legitimacy.

WPS #5: Europe's Lopsided Foreign Policy
Israel, Lebanon and the Palestinians

Stuart Reigeluth, Managing Editor of REVOLVE

Abstract: Europe is in the process of creating a common foreign policy. This is a difficult task since, as a supranational entity, the European Union must take into consideration the different interests of its 27 member states. Externally, these efforts have translated into EU civilian and military missions that aim to reform police and judicial systems, as well as to professionalize border management, such as in the Palestinian territories. However, beneath the umbrella of another supra-national body, the United Nations, European nation states also participate in peacekeeping missions, such as UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL), where they do not officially represent the EU. Europe's nascent foreign policy therefore provides a 'soft' buttress to the overarching foreign policy of the United States. This is also evident in the eastern Mediterranean where the European Union is part of the U.S.-led Middle East Quartet (along with the UN and Russia) that strives to advance the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. Behind these efforts to promote peace, Brussels has created its closest ties with Tel Aviv, while being engaged in conflict management and reform missions in Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. This has created a lopsided European foreign policy in Israel's favor.

Related Materials:EU Decision-making Structure ||| EU Trade Balance in the Eastern Mediterranean ||| EU Treaties

WPS #2: Is It Wrong or Illegal? Situating the Gaza Blockade between International Law and the UN Response
Noura Erakat, Adjunct Professor of International Human Rights Law in the Middle East, Georgetown University

Abstract: To demonstrate the United Nations Security Council's failure to uphold the rule of law this paper begins by providing a background of the Gaza Strip leading to the imposition of a blockade. It then shows that the blockade is illegal pursuant to international humanitarian law. Third, this paper demonstrates how the UN is in violation of its own Charter because of the Security Council's failure to respect international law and the grotesque discrepancy between its handling of crisis in Gaza as compared with other international case studies. Such a discrepancy renders the situation in Gaza a legal black hole where might, as opposed to law, is right. This paper concludes with recommendations made to the UN to redress such failure as well as to posit questions for future research.

Read working paper: English|||Arabic

Noura Erakat lecture: Video ||| Audio ||| Lecture presentation ||| Event poster

Research and Policy Memos

Policy-making in Lebanon: Potential Offshore Oil and Gas Discoveries

As part of its United Nations and the Arab World Program, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs released a student research summary by Jeremy Arbid. Read more

Irish Peacekeeping in the United Nations Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) A Historical, Political, and Socio-Cultural Study

As part of its United Nations and the Arab World Program, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs released a study made by Rita Sakr that explores Irish peacekeeping within UNIFIL, since 1978 through the expanded UNIFIL after its formation in the aftermath of the 2006 Lebanon war, from historical, social, political, and cultural perspectives. Read more

International Intervention in Lebanon and Beyond

As part of its United Nations and the Arab World Program, the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs initiated a series of panels and lectures entitled, “International Intervention in Lebanon and Beyond.” The series analyzes the role played by international institutions in conflict and post-conflict zones in the region and seeks to contextualize military, civilian and humanitarian stands that are often interlinked or sometimes so blurred as to obscure the reality on the ground. This series was covered by Maureen Ali. Read more


UN-related Publications

BENGHAZI SO FAR: A View From Inside The United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL)

In a piece for IFI, Georges Nasr, Senior Political Officer and Head of Office in Benghazi for the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) writes about his early experience in Libya. Read more

Insight into the UN in Libya

Dr. Tarek Mitri, Senior Fellow at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI), speaks about his new post as the Special Representative to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, and Head of the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Read more

Beyond a Seat in the United Nations: Palestine’s U.N. Membership and International Law

Visiting Scholar Martin Wählisch publishes "Beyond a Seat in the United Nations: Palestine’s U.N. Membership and International Law" in Harvard International Law Journal; June 2012 Volume 53.

Karim Makdisi (2011): Constructing Security Council Resolution 1701 for Lebanon in the Shadow of the 'War on Terror', International Peacekeeping, 18:1, 4-20

This article argues that the 'war on terror' gave global meaning to the 2006 Israel–Lebanon war and to the construction of UN Security Council resolution 1701 that authorized the deployment of robust UN peacekeepers in southern Lebanon (UNIFIL). It uses a critical, discursive approach to argue that UN resolutions have embedded in them a particular, powerful discourse, in this case the 'war on terror'. This discourse grounded a global struggle for and against US domination of the region in a local power dispute in Lebanon between 2004 and 2008. It concludes that Israel's failure to defeat Hizbullah militarily resulted in resolution 1701 comprising two contradictory narratives that represented the battle for and against US domination, and that the subsequent battle for hegemonic articulation of this resolution weakened, rather than strengthened the Lebanese state during 2006–08, plunging Lebanon into internal strife until the signing of a national peace accord in Doha in May 2008.

Read article

Palestinian Statehood Bid at the United Nations

Visiting Scholar Martin Wählisch publishes Palestine, the UN, and international law on the Al Jazeera English website. An unabridged version of the article, Palestine's UN Membership and International Law, can be accessed from The Palestine Chronicle. An Arabic translation of the article ia also available at Jadaliyya.

UNIFIL II: Emerging and Evolving European Engagement in Lebanon and the Middle East
EuroMeSCo Paper 76, January 2009

Written by Karim Makdisi, Timur Goksel, Hans Bastian Hauck, Stuart Reigeluth

There has been a long-standing debate on the merits and drawbacks of UNIFIL, the UN "interim" peacekeeping operation established by the UN Security Council (UNSC) in the aftermath of the 1978 Israeli invasion of Lebanon. This study contributes towards a greater understanding of the nature of peace-keeping operations in the Middle East through its overview of the two phases of UNIFIL's 30-year intervention in Lebanon. Viewing this force as part of a broader regional solution, this report offers concrete recommendations directed mainly at those EU Member States most heavily involved in UNIFIL II, in the hope of rendering their contribution more effective, avoiding recurrent pitfalls, and of finally reaching the set objectives – of not only down-sizing their participation, but also successfully implementing a viable and just peace that ensures shared human security and mutual economic prosperity for Israel and Lebanon alike.

Institutional backing for this report was provided by the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), Berlin, and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies (LCPS), Beirut, and also counted on additional support from the Toledo International Centre for Peace (CITpax), Madrid, and the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, American University of Beirut (AUB). As regards the authors, Karim Makdisi is Assistant Professor of International Relations in the Department of Political Studies and Public Administration at the American University of Beirut; Timur Göksel served as spokesperson and senior advisor to UNIFIL I until 2003, and now also teaches at the AUB; Hans Bastian Hauck is Head of Program of DGAP's International Forum on Strategic Thinking; and Stuart Reigeluth is Projects Manager for the Africa and Middle East Program at CITpax, Madrid.

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