2019 - Cairo

“Social Policy in the MENA Region: Policy Learning in the Era of Social Protection”

Date: 30-31 October 2019, Cairo, Egypt

On 30 and 31 October 2019, nearly one hundred delegates from around the world, including academics, practitioners and students, descended on the American University of Cairo in Egypt for the fourth MENA Social Policy Network Conference. The conference was a truly international affair with delegates attending from throughout the MENA region as well from countries further afield including South Korea, Ghana, Germany, the UK and Japan.

Titled ‘Social Policy in the MENA Region: Policy Learning in the Era of Social Protection,’ the conference sought to engage with the following questions: how do we as researchers, policy-makers and practitioners make sense of the social protection agenda in the MENA region? In what ways does the present agenda replace or reinforce pre-existing social policy structures? And perhaps most importantly: how can social policy change be managed in this time of social transformation? The conference presentations tackled a large number of critical scholarly and policy research concerns.

Keynote speakers:

  • Professor Melani Cammett from Harvard University
  • Professor Nitra Rudra from Georgetown University

2016 - Bonn

‘A new social contract for MENA (Middle East and North Africa) countries: Experiences from Development and Social Policies’
Date: 5-6 December 2016, Bonn, Germany

For its third edition, in 2016, the conference reflected on social and political changes since the so-called ‘Arab Spring’ which had taken place five years previously. Prior to the ‘Arab Spring‘ governments had distributed material and immaterial benefits within society in order to compensate some groups for the lack of political freedom and participation – the ‘old social contract’. However, this system appeared in crisis and the conference sought to inquire as to whether now was the time for a ‘new social contract’ for MENA countries. If so, what might this contract look like?

Keynote speakers:

  • Steven Heydemann, Professor for Middle East Studies, Smith College, Northampton, Ma
  • Shanta Devarajan, Chief Economist, Middle East and North Africa Region, World Bank
  • Arthur van Diesen, Regional Social Policy Adviser for the Middle East and North Africa at UNICEF

2014 - Bath

Social Policy in the Middle East and North Africa: Challenges and opportunities
University of Bath and Chatham House (Bath), 21-22 November 2014

For its second edition, the conference was held at the University of Bath in conjunction with a meeting at Chatham House in Bath. These events focused on a number of key social policy issues in the MENA region. These included asking how effective Zakat funds are what the more general role of religious institutions in social protection in the MENA region is, as well as the evidence for and against cash transfer programs in the region. The participants also addressed the question of the how the geo-political situation in the MENA region impacts social protection policies there and considered what governance reforms would need to take place in order to advance a new social policy agenda for the MENA region.

Keynote speakers:

  • Zafiris Tzannatos – Independent Consultant, SILATECH, Qatar
  • Ms Ghada Waly – Managing Director, Social Development Fund, Egypt

2013 - Institute for Policy Research, Bath

Beyond International Security: Social Security for the Middle East and North Africa: What are the research and policy choices?
Institute for Policy research, Bath, 3 December 2013

For its inaugural session, the conference was held at the Institute for Policy Research in Bath. The conference addressed the particular trajectory of social policy in the MENA region and the tremendous scope for effective social activism which already exists there (prior to the Arab spring).

There were four themes to the conference, namely: (1) social rights and social protection; (2) poverty and unemployment; (3) vulnerable populations: female-headed households, elderly people, children and youth; and (4) social security and international security; cross country-comparison and trans-cultural processes.

Keynote speakers:

  • Ms Hanne Sayed, World Bank Regional Office, Beirut Lebanon
  • Prof Maksoud Karshenas, SOAS or Prof Bob Deacon, Sheffield University