The German Development Institute / Deutsches Institut für Entwicklungspolitik (DIE) and the Friedrich Ebert Foundation (FES) organised a series of online debates in the autumn of 2020. The debates built on the research and policy activities of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) teams in both organisations, and focussed on how international actors could renew their support for socio-economic justice as the region approached the 10th anniversary of the ‘Arab Spring’ uprisings in 2011.
Five online debates took place between September and December 2020. The first four were open to public participation and the fifth was a closed session for EU and German policymakers. Experts and decision makers from MENA countries, Europe and North America joined the debates, each focussing on a specific topic. Well over 100 participants tuned in to each of the four public debates, which were also streamed live on Facebook.
The first debate centred on the financial crises that have been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, and the role of international financial institutions in the region. The second discussed international support for economic reform and potential ‘post-Covid’ social contracts in MENA countries. The third debate raised the issue of popular protests and the so-called ‘second wave’ of the Arab Spring. The fourth focussed on the European Union as a development actor and supporter of change, especially in Palestine and Lebanon. The fifth debate for policymakers highlighted the social and economic fallout of the Covid-19 crisis and how international donors, especially the European Union and Germany, can mobilise support to alleviate shocks from the pandemic in the region.
The MENA research and policy teams at DIE and FES were very pleased with the responses to the debates. The online format was only chosen as a practical means of continuing discussions during the pandemic, but it enabled a broad participation and lively exchanges among colleagues from all over the world. The DIE and the FES are considering organising more debates in this format later in 2021.