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  • Author: Rachid Chennani
  • Publication Date: 04-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Moroccan state started to seriously interact with the human rights discourse in the early 1990s due to long domestic struggles by human rights advocates and global pressures to reform. At the same time, human rights organizations have developed and set aside much of their political lineage, taking up an active role in policy advocacy and pushing for alternatives to meet growing social and societal demands. The 2011 movement has revitalized the human rights approach to politics and social problems, and culminated a decades-long struggle to peacefully and gradually move to a social rights-based contract with the state. Such a state of affairs no longer seems far off.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Affairs
  • Political Geography: Morocco
  • Author: Mohamed El Agati
  • Publication Date: 03-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The Egyptian state seeks to control civil society through laws and puts in place security measures to restrict its action, while civil society organizations, especially rights groups, deploy various strategies to ensure a minimal space for action. In this struggle, a solution lies not only in legislation enabling the participation of independent civil society but more in the opening of the political domain itself. In a context where the real danger lies in the continuation of a status quo that prevents the construction of a modern democratic state, civil society must build wider social and political network to enable it to influence state decisions and represent rights holders.
  • Topic: Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Hatem Chakroun
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The interaction between Tunisian human rights organizations and movements struggling for economic and social rights present the former with hard questions and important challenges. Human rights actors need to scrutinize their role and tactics to decide whether they would remain in the fast eroding mediation level (between the movements and the state) or they could explore other avenues that can address the complex issues of representation and brokerage between human rights defenders and the bearers of these very rights who are busy developing new ways of defending themselves.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Political Economy
  • Political Geography: Tunisia
  • Author: Amr Adly
  • Publication Date: 01-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: The economic and social rights movement has struck some success in working with contentious movements to challenge public policies and institutions in Egypt. However, no organic relationship developed between the two. The contentious movement did not strategically adopt an economic and social rights framing that would have enabled it to get beyond its local, largely apolitical and un-institutionalized characteristics in favour of a nationwide platform.
  • Topic: Human Rights
  • Political Geography: Egypt
  • Author: Hatem Chakroun
  • Publication Date: 05-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This paper seeks to describe and analyse in a contextual way how the relationship between human rights organizations and the State in Tunisia has evolved since independence. The establishment and consolidation of national State institutions after independence was the main obsession of the ruling political network in Tunisia. This dictated its antagonistic position and measures against pluralism and inclusion of various political groups, all of which had been once unified in the anticolonial struggle. After independence, this common objective disappeared and differences materialized regarding which political system and policies to adopt in order to building a modern nation-state in Tunisia. The consolidated regime of President Habib Bourguiba succeeded in imposing an authoritarian single-party political system, whose “legitimacy” rested on the anticolonial struggle, that controlled the state, to which all had to show loyalty. The autocratic political system continued after 1987 with the reign of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali, who presented a retooled authoritarian political vision. The human rights community represented by the Tunisian League for the Defence of Human Rights came under pressure as the State attempted to coerce it into adopting a tailored vision of human rights compatible with the logic of a dictatorship. Ben Ali regime had also set up a façade of commitment to human rights as expressed in various laws, about which he boasted on all occasions and political events with total disregard for systematic violations by repressive state bodies. After the fall of Ben Ali following a popular uprising that rejected repression and authoritarianism and expressed a popular longing for freedom and dignity, a new vision began to form of the relationship between the State and the human rights community in Tunisia. The starting point was very positive with long time human rights activists playing a central role in the process of establishing a vision for the new republic based on respect for the principles of human rights. However, the political contention among various political factions and higher state echelons, fuelled by varying ideologies and interests, has affected this relationship, which oscillated between harmony and dissonance.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Social Movement, Protests, NGOs
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Tunisia
  • Author: Mohamed Sahbi Khalfaoui
  • Publication Date: 09-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: How can we understand the relation of political Islam in Tunisia with the human rights system in its indivisibility and universality? Since the establishment of the Tunisian Islamic Movement in the early seventies, it has worked extensively to articulate public positions addressing issues of human rights and freedoms. This relationship sprang from a dual position which juxtaposed full hostility to personal freedoms such as sexual rights and a relatively positive interaction with public freedoms. Then came the deliberations and process of ratification of the 2014 Constitution which was special in its emphasis on equality between women and men, freedom of belief, and criminalization of accusation of blasphemy. The repression of Islamists in Tunisia in the 1980s and 1990s was the most important factor that defined their position, views, and engagement with human rights principles. After the fall of former Tunisian President Zine El Abedine Ben Ali in 2011, the return of the Islamist Ennahda (Renaissance) Movement to public activity was one of the most important features of the new political phase in the country. The Tunisian society was split between supporters and opponents of such a development. With the return of Ennahda and the emergence of other Islamist groups, especially the Salafis, the debate resumed over the position of Islamists towards human rights. While they attempted to include Islamic law (Sharia) as the main source of legislation in the constitution, Islamists continued to declare their belief in human rights principles. Some analysts were optimistic concerning a transformation in the Islamist ideology, while others insisted that Islamists were duplicitous, waiting until they are empowered enough to impose their project, which is inherently hostile to human rights. This paper is an attempt to review the Islamists’ positions on human rights and how they changed over time.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Islam, Constitution, Islamism
  • Political Geography: Africa, North Africa, Tunisia, Mediterranean, Tunis
  • Author: Heba Raoul Ezzat
  • Publication Date: 10-2018
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: Animosity has been the keyword in the relationship between Islamists and rights advocates for most of the past few years in Egypt. Islamists turned a blind eye to many crimes committed by the regime and its security agencies between 25 January 2011 and mid-2013. On the other hand, some rights advocates took part in mobilizing and supporting the opposition movement that led to the June 2013 demonstrations and the military seizing power. However, the killings, executions, and other egregious rights violations, then the direct confrontation between the regime and rights groups culminating in a more restrictive NGO law, led rights defenders to take a firmer position, by condemning the regime, and monitoring and documenting its violations. More Islamists are expected to see an opportunity in resorting to human rights advocacy. As such, this would mean accepting more cooperation, especially in terms of monitoring and documentation through various initiatives and institutions established after 2013. Led by a new generation of actors, will this cooperation be free from ideological conflicts? The paper seeks to review, in broad brushstrokes, the contours and important turning points of the relationship between the two groups of actors and outline a possible future trajectory.
  • Topic: Human Rights, International Cooperation, Islam, NGOs, Repression
  • Political Geography: Africa, United Nations, North Africa, Egypt, Mediterranean
  • Author: Mohammad Tariq
  • Publication Date: 12-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This paper concludes a series on governance and human rights action in North Africa. Written by Mohammad Tariq, it presents a preliminary analysis of the issues of governance in human rights organizations in Morocco. Such a research faces methodological and practical impediments stemming from the scarcity of information on funding flows and other governance issues.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Governance
  • Political Geography: Morocco
  • Author: Hafedh Chekir
  • Publication Date: 12-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: ARI's project on the Future of Human Rights Action in North Africa continues to explore the governance challenges and moves in this paper to Tunisia where prominent feminist, academic and human rights defender Hafidha Chekir explores the legal environment of civil society organizations in Tunisia and how this affected their own internal governance.
  • Topic: Human Rights, Governance
  • Political Geography: Tunisia
  • Author: Yara Shahin
  • Publication Date: 12-2017
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Arab Reform Initiative (ARI)
  • Abstract: This paper explores the state of internal governance in Egyptian human rights NGOs. It looks at their internal structures including; decision-making processes, the existence and role of governing boards, relationships with donors, levels of accountability and representation of constituencies along with the relationship with the government within a restrictive legal and political environment. It argues that while the restrictive environment for civil society in Egypt has hindered the development of stronger internal governance mechanisms in many organizations, the internal dynamics of these organizations have also contributed to the weak internal governance structures in most of them. The dilemmas that persisted through different generations and phases of Egyptian human rights organizations include balancing activism on public issues with bureaucratization and professionalization of vehicle organizations, the difficulty for and resistance from founders/directors to leave their influential posts, developing better participatory mechanisms of accountability towards the NGOs constituencies and addressing the “stigma” of foreign funding
  • Topic: Human Rights, Governance
  • Political Geography: Egypt