Conflict and Fragility

Guns, seats and protests: political reform in the Middle East
17 Nov 2021 15:00 - 17:00
Source: Tahrir Square, Mohmmd Abd / Wikimedia Commons

The expert dialogue series is on invitation only.

The expert dialogue series outlined below examines prospects for political reform across the contemporary Middle East by developing a conceptual approach for study, exploring selected case studies and dissecting practicalities of change interventions.

Download a concept note for the series.

Expert dialogue #1 - New rulers, old problems?

7 October, 15-17 hrs CET

With a more conceptual focus, the first Webinar of the series discusses the prospects for administrative, policy, and governance-related innovation as a function of demand and supply factors for political reform. Prospects are likely to vary widely across the different types of political orders in the Middle East, including majoritarian republics such as Turkey and Israel, quasi-democratic sectarian states like Iraq and Lebanon, (semi-) authoritarian states such as Jordan or Iran and rentier monarchies like Saudi Arabia or the Emirates. With this in mind, we will focus on the following questions:

  • What key features of the power structures that characterize the region's political orders enable or prevent political reforms?
  • What key features of the social structures that characterize the region's societies increase or decrease pressure for political reform?

Expert dialogue #2 - Prospect for reform in Saudi Arabia & Iran

20 October, 15-17 hrs CET

Our second Webinar will compare and contrast prospects for political reform among the two leading claimants for leadership of the Islamic world. It will examine the interplay between the possibilities for citizen mobilization, vested elite interests in the continuity of rule and the creation of reformist-minded alliances. Specifically, it will discuss the demand for reform among both countries' citizenry and whether the ruling elite sees the need for accommodation, including the availability of bureaucratic capacity to implement change. The Webinar will revolve around the following questions:

  • How do the power structures of Iran and Saudi Arabia influence the supply of reform?
  • How are activist strategies for change shaped in Iran and Saudi Arabia, and how effective are they?
  • What kind of reforms are most likely to occur over the next ten years in Iran and Saudi Arabia?

Expert dialogue #3 – Interventions and expectations matter

8 December, 15-17 hrs CET

Our series's third and final Webinar focuses on how interventions to achieve actual reform can play out and what conditions for successful change can look like, including under conditions of Covid-19. The Webinar aims to gather international practitioners and local activists to consider how change in different Middle Eastern countries can be supported and what sort of change seems achievable. The Webinar will centre on the following questions:

  • What intervention strategies, ranging from dialogue and protest to militancy, can work to secure political reform and under what conditions?
  • What are good practices to mobilize for collective action for change as peacefully as possible?
  • What are helpful strategies for European countries to support regional governments in administrative, policy, and governance-related reform processes?

This expert dialogue series is on invitation only. If you are interested in the results please send an email to