Justice & Dignity for the Middle East & North Africa
The Justice & Dignity for the Middle East & North Africa program employs a collaborative approach to respond to the needs of activists and civil society organizations working in transitional environments across the region.
With funding from the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor (DRL) and alongside eight partners with expertise in human rights, technology and citizen action, IREX and its consortium are implementing short-term projects that respond to immediate needs articulated by groups on the ground. In addition to developing its own initiatives, IREX serves as the lead member of the consortium.
Rights-Based Capacity Team
Technology Innovation Team
Citizen Action Team
The overarching goal of the program is to effectively respond to immediate rights-related needs emerging across the Middle East region. IREX and its partners' approach has the following key characteristics:
• Access existing regional networks and extensive contacts in the MENA region
• Provide assistance to local, rights-focused organizations that seek effective ways to conduct their work
• Offer innovation with fresh ideas and cutting-edge models from each of the consortium partners
• Be quick and agile in responding to crises as they arise or evolving needs with an understanding of the issues in the MENA region and existing networks and organizational contacts on the ground
• Serve as a valuable expertise resource for DRL, responding to identified issues and priorities with grounded expertise, research and analysis, and periodic meetings with the consortium to allow for pro-active and innovative responses
• Deliver mature and professional project management focused on results-based reporting and cost-effective techniques
In June 2011, IREX carried out an eight-country assessment of the changing conditions in the Middle East and North Africa. IREX met with long-standing and new partners, including: digital activists, returning exiles, young civil society leaders, long-time human rights advocates, Facebook journalists, independent candidates, new government officials, and business leaders.
Among activists, there is some degree of shock at how fast the change came where it finally did, and uncertainty about how to achieve what needs to occur next. Among citizens working for core rights, the need for tools, strategies, and support is only amplified. With an ear toward local voices and ideas, the Justice & Dignity program works with groups in the MENA region to identify rights-based issues and provides technical assistance for viable local solutions.
Respond rapidly to emerging needs in the MENA region as citizens seek change and governments make reforms. IREX and its partners have undertaken, and are continuing to undertake, numerous projects in the region, including:
• Advocate for Morocco: Engaging Civil Society for Reform: Together with its partners, IREX provided customized technical assistance to three rights-based, mission-driven civil society organizations (CSO) that each represent a marginalized group in Morocco: persons with disabilities, women, and Amazigh people. IREX and its partners assisted the organizations in improving their ability to advocate their missions to Morocco’s new government. All three Moroccan CSOs developed stronger advocacy tools, created clear advocacy plans, improved their support bases and connections with their constituents, and built stronger relationships with the government and media.
• Yemen: Non-Violent Solutions: Conducted over one week in February 2012, the Non-Violent Solutions project addressed young people in Yemen's political underrepresentation and helped them bring their voices to the transition process. Independent youth leaders from Sana'a, Aden, Ta'az, Al-Mahweet, Ma'areb, Ebb, and Hadramout learned how to participate in Yemen's political processes and build unity in their coutry through training on non-violent action, and vision and action plan development.
• We Love Network: Based on previous work with We Love Tripoli, a model that organizes youth from different sectarian backgrounds for civic participation activities in Lebanon, and the proliferation of 11 We Love groups in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Moroccos, Tunisia, and Palestine, the Justice & Dignity initiative is supporting the formation of a We Love Network. The Network will bring together the We Love groups and other civil society organizations interested in building citizenship, youth empowerment, citizen journalism, freedom of speech, and civic engagement. The Network hosted its first event in Sousse, Tunisia, where representatives of youth NGOs met to discuss ways they could collaborate and projects that would benefit their communities and established an action plan for the Network.
• World Press Freedom Day: IREX served as an organizer of the World Press Freedom Day conference in Tunis, Tunisia, held in May 2012. IREX arranged for Internews Network to organize events promoting media freedom and the reduction of barriers to free media expression. Internews arranged a roundtable meeting that brought together Tunisian journalists, international journalists, civil society actors from across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), and US State Department officials to discuss freedom of expression issues. Internews also conducted two training sessions for Tunisian, MENA region, and international journalists on digital security.
• Youth for a Democratic Syria: IREX and the Global Political Trends Center (GPoT) will be partnering to host a series of workshops for Syrian youth leaders in Turkey in order to equip them with the skills they will need to participate in a democratic transition for Syria. GPoT will lead workshops to help youth better understand democratic processes in order to examine their own organizations and how they can promote these processes. IREX will conduct workshops on how to engage constituencies and address the needs of constituencies. Finally they will conduct an advocacy workshop with the end goal of Syrian youth participants developing their own advocacy campaigns.
• Advocate for Libya: Engaging Civil Society, Government and Media for Justice Sector Reform: IREX and its partner, PILPG, help Libyans work toward justice sector reform in three steps. The first focuses on building the capacity of civil society organizations to advocate for inclusive and fair justice reform. The second aims to bring the Libyan government together with civil society for greater engagement. The third provides technical advice to media actors on how to cover women’s and minority issues.
• Promoting Conflict Sensitive Journalism in Libya: IREX and its partner train journalists on conflict sensitive journalism to help them when reporting on, or amid, different kinds of conflict. The trainings explore how news and information can be presented in ways that mitigate conflict, and how inflammatory language, inaccuracies, and bias can exacerbate it. The conflict sensitive curriculum also takes into account the impact of trauma both for journalists and the communities they cover.
• National Reconciliation in Syria: IREX supports its partner, ICRD, in leading three faith-based reconciliation programs. The programs engage diverse groups — Arab tribal leaders, Kurdish tribal leaders, and members of different Syrian opposition groups — to promote improved relations and cooperation. Participants engage in reconciliation processes and collaborative problem-solving using a framework built upon shared spiritual values that honors their ethnic, religious, and cultural identities.