Lost in the furor over what Moscow did or did not do, and what effects it did or did not have, is the broader question of what this incident says about Russian intentions and aims. Just how unusual was it for great powers to interfere in a democracy’s electoral processes, and just how outraged should Americans be by the alleged activities?
Featured Publications and Research
Dedicated to advancing public policy in the Middle East
Established in 1998, MEI has expanded its programs to address diverse topics including alternative energy, humanitarian crisis response, economic opportunity, demographic challenges, and beyond. Through the integration of research and policy analysis, education, and community engagement, MEI aims to advance public policy and build capacity in the Middle East.
The Middle East today is experiencing a profound transition, confronting political, demographic, and economic challenges and opportunities that will have a tremendous impact on the future of the region and the world.
The Middle East Initiative (MEI), chaired by Professor Nicholas Burns, Roy and Barbara Goodman Family Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Relations at the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), is dedicated to advancing public policy in the Middle East by convening the world’s foremost academic and policy experts, developing the next generation of leaders, and promoting community engagement on campus and in the region.
Advancing Research and Policy Analysis
MEI is committed to building a community of scholars at Harvard that works to advance policy-relevant knowledge on the Middle East and to serving as a pivotal resource for translating research into practice by:
- funding Harvard-wide faculty research grants and encouraging interdisciplinary research.
- awarding pre- and postdoctoral fellowships for research related to Middle Eastern governance, economics, and public policy.
- supporting student research projects in the region.
- hosting senior fellows and visiting scholars who enhance Harvard’s expertise on the region.
"My year at MEI was the most productive of my graduate career. The cohort of MEI Research Fellows and connection to other experts across Harvard University has been incredible for collaboration, community, and ultimately my work."
Amanda Rizkallah, MEI Research Fellow 2015–2016
Research topic: How Civil War Networks Shape Lebanon’s Post-War Political System
Educating Future Leaders
“The unique insights we gained in Jordan from exposure to local complexities and discussions with practitioners would have been impossible to develop in Cambridge, far away from realities on the ground.”
Ruben Brekelmans, MPP 2015
Participant, 2015 Field Study Course: Assessing Rehabilitation Needs of the Syrian Refugee Population in Jordan
Through a wide array of opportunities and programming, MEI prepares students and experienced professionals to bring positive and lasting change to the region by:
- developing experiential learning opportunities in the region through policy field visits and intensive, short-term courses.
- awarding travel grants for students to complete internships or research projects.
- supporting the student-run Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy.
- providing customized Executive Education programs for experienced practitioners to address concerns such as good governance, NGO management, and education reform.
- recruiting students from the region and awarding scholarships.
- offering fellowships for advanced training through ongoing Executive Education programs.
- generating synergies with a flourishing alumni base in the region.
- supporting the career development of students and alumni by arranging mentorship, internship, and networking opportunities.
Promoting Community Engagement
"MEI's study groups fill an important gap at HKS, supplementing our coursework with a broad base of highly informative and insightful speakers. By the end of the semester, I had a new base of knowledge that I simply didn't have before about the region."
Khaled Kteily, MPP 2016 and Emirates Leadership Initiative Fellow
With a broad network across the Middle East and around the world, MEI creates connections and
fosters collaboration. Through a robust series of events that brings more than 80 experts each year to Cambridge, MEI builds a community on campus and promotes the exchange of ideas and knowledge on the Middle East. The majority of this programming is free and open to the public:
- Speaker series, book talks, and research seminars shed a nuanced light on the region’s diverse challenges and opportunities.
- Study groups, workshops, and conferences investigate important questions facing the region in greater depth; recent topics include the Arab social contract, globalization in the region, and U.S. foreign policy in Israel and Palestine.
- The MEI film series spotlights a variety of policy-relevant issues through feature films from the region.
MEI at a Glance
By the Numbers
The Middle East Initiative Research Fellowship Program, part of the Emirates Leadership Initiative, offers one year fellowships for researchers at the pre-doctoral, post-doctoral and junior faculty level for research related to Middle Eastern governance and public policy. All fellowships carry a stipend. Eligible candidates include advanced doctoral candidates, recent recipients of a Ph.D. or equivalent degree, and untenured faculty members. Applicants for pre-doctoral fellowships must have passed general examinations and should be in or near the final year of their program. We welcome applications from political scientists, historians, economists, sociologists, and other social scientists. We also encourage applications from women, minorities, and citizens of all countries.
For more information regarding eligibility, application requirements, and program details, please visit the Middle East Initiative Fellowships Page.
The 2017-2018 fellowship application period is now closed. Recommendations will be due on Monday, February 1, 2017. Decisions will be announced by March 31, 2017.
MEI Study Groups are responsive series to encourage multidisciplinary discussion and exchange of ideas on the important questions facing the Middle East. Study Groups are convened by MEI Faculty Affiliates, Visiting Scholars, Senior Fellows and/or other associates, who select a relevant topic and develop insightful and interdisciplinary sessions presenting original and innovative research. Study Groups are designed to encourage public participation among the Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard University and members of the greater Boston community. This includes faculty, visiting scholars, doctoral students and fellows, graduate and undergraduate students and other academic and policy practitioners from Harvard and other Boston-area institutions. Study Groups take various formats, including public seminar series spanning an entire semester and application-only or student-only intensive seminars over a full semester or just a few weeks, and can feature multiple guest speakers or one expert leader over several sessions.
Click on the group titles below to see current and past offerings, including listings of ongoing sessions, RSVPs and applications to join groups, and resources from past groups.
Ongoing Study Groups
Spring 2017 | Human Rights in the Arab Region: What Next?
Human Rights in the Arab Region: What Next?
MEI-Carr Center Joint Study Group | Spring 2017
Fateh Azzam, former director of the Asfari Institute for Civil Society and Citizenship at the American University in Beirut, will join MEI and the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy to lead a four-session study group during spring 2017 on the challenges and prospects for the human rights movement in the Arab region in the context of armed conflict and authoritarianism.
Applications will go live on the MEI website the last week of January. You must apply to attend this Study Group.
2016-2017 | Building Bridges: An Interdisciplinary Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
MEI-FXB Joint Seminar Series | 2016-2017
Building Bridges: An Interdisciplinary Response to the Syrian Refugee Crisis
led by Lara Jirmanus, MD, MPH
Presented jointly by the FXB Center for Health and Human Rights at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School.
The Syrian refugee crisis has been described as the worst humanitarian crisis of our time. With half of the Syrian population displaced, including over 500,000 Palestinian refugees from Syria, an interdisciplinary approach is urgently needed to address their complex needs. Many of the host countries neighboring Syria struggle to serve their own populations, and new strategies are essential to support institutions in host communities to cope with the Syrian crisis and facilitate co-existence. As the Syrian conflict continues and refugees emigrate to Europe, innovative approaches are needed to maintain the long-term political, economic and social capabilities of Syrian refugees and to promote the political stability of Syria and the surrounding region.
The Seminar Series on the Syrian refugee crisis will gather scholars, practitioners, and thought leaders from across the Harvard and Boston communities engaged in research on Syrian refugees to discuss challenges and innovative solutions to promote refugee well-being. Bringing together academics from fields ranging from international law to education and public health, the seminar will foster collaboration and a global understanding of the complexity of the crisis.
The online application form for core participants has now closed. For those who wish to petition for late admittance or have any other questions about becoming a core participant, please email Lara Jirmanus at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A small number of spots for individual sessions are also available! Please click on the RSVP link next to each session below to reserve a seat. Please email Chris Mawhorter at email@example.com with questions about RSVPs to individual sessions.
In order to provide background knowledge for the series, the organizers recommend the in-depth news website Syria Deeply. In addition, to provide detailed background on research related to supporting Syrian refugees, the organizers recommend the paper: “Beyond Survival: Setting Priorities in Livelihoods Research and Education for Refugees in the Middle East” from the conference “Beyond Survival: Livelihood Strategies for Refugees in the Middle East” convened at Cornell Law School in Ithaca, NY in November 2015.
Resources from individual sessions, possibly to include reading materials and summaries or podcasts of sessions, will be posted with session details in the calendar, below, as they become available from, and with permission of, the presenters.
Sessions will meet Thursdays from 4:00-5:30p.m. on a bi-weekly basis either at Harvard Kennedy School campus (Cambridge) or Harvard School of Public Health (Longwood Medical Area). A tentative schedule of speakers and topics can be found below.
Seminars at the Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health will be held in the FXB Building, Room G13 at 651 Huntington Ave, Boston, MA in the rooms listed below.
Seminars at the Harvard Kennedy School will be held in the Darman Conference Room, Taubman Building, Room 135 at 15 Eliot Street, Cambridge, MA 02138, except on November 3, which will be held in Nye A on the 5th floor of the Taubman Building.
February 2 - Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, FXB Building, Room G13 - RSVP here
Understanding Resilience Among Syrian Refugees
Sarah Tobin, PhD, Associate Director of Middle East Studies, Brown University
Readings for February 2nd Session:
February 16 - Harvard Kennedy School, Darman Seminar Room -
Building a Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Displaced Syrian Youths' Education and Migration Aspirations and Their Sources of Support
Vidur Chopra, PhD Candidate, Harvard Graduate School of Education
March 2 - Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, FXB Building, Room G13
Protection for Syrian Refugees: Laws, Policies and Global Responsibility Sharing
Susan Akram, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, International Human Rights Clinic, Boston University School of Law and BU Law Students
March 23 - Middle East Initiative (MEI) at Harvard Kennedy School of Government
Building Environmentally Sound, Culturally Compatible Schools for Syrian Refugee Children in Lebanon
Richard Mollica, MD MAR, Director, Harvard Program in Refugee Trauma at Harvard Medical School
April 6 - Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, FXB Building, Room G13
Trauma and Torture among Syrian Refugees
Hussam Jefee-Bahloul, MD, Assistant Professor of Psychiatry, University of Massachusetts Medical School
April 20 - Middle East Initiative (MEI) at Harvard Kennedy School of Government
U.S. Refugee Resettlement and Asylum Processing: Challenges and Barriers
Sabrineh Ardalan, Assistant Director, Harvard Immigration and Refugee Clinical Program, Harvard Law School
September 29 - RSVP here
Location: *Kresge G3, Kresge Building, Harvard School of Public Health, 677 Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA
Documentation of Attacks on Medical Infrastructure and Personnel in Syria: Opportunities and Challenges
Adrienne Fricke, JD, Senior Fellow, Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, Visiting Scientist, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
Spotlight on Aleppo and the Current State of the Syrian Health System
Mahmoud Hariri, MD, General and Trauma Surgeon from Aleppo, Syria
Reading(s): The Shadow Doctors, Ben Taub
October 13 - RSVP here
Location: Harvard Kennedy School
Civil and Legal Documentation of Syrian Refugees in Jordan: Problems with Identity Cards and Birth Certificates
Anna Crowe, JD, Clinical Instructor, Human Rights Program, Harvard Law School
Reading(s): Registering Rights: Syrian refugees and the documentation of births, deaths and marriages in Jordan, IHRC and NRC
October 27 - RSVP here
Location: Harvard School of Public Health, FXB Building, Room G12
Childhood Illness in an Underserved Neighborhood in Beirut: Health Practices and Barriers Faced by Lebanese Residents and Syrian Refugees
Lara Jirmanus, MD, MPH, Fellow, Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights, Harvard School of Public Health
Health Needs and Priorities of Syrian Refugees in Camp and Urban Settings in Jordan
Tala al Rousan, MD MPH, Lown Scholar, Harvard School of Public Health
Reading(s): UNHCR 3RP Progress Report, June 2015 (pages 1-9)
Health Service Utilization among Syrian Refugees with Chronic Health Conditions in Jordan, Doocy et al. (2016)
Prevalence and Care-seeking for Chronic Diseases among Syrian Refugees in Jordan, Doocy et al. (2015)
November 3 - RSVP here
Location: *Nye Conference Room A, Taubman Building, Fifth Floor, Harvard Kennedy School
Impact of Trauma and Toxic Stress on Child Development Among Syrian Refugees in Jordan, Lebanon and Greece
Alexandra Chen, Child Protection and Mental Health specialist and PhD Candidate at Harvard Graduate School of Education
Refugee Crisis in Greece: Child protection Challenges in Lesvos
Vasileia Digidiki, PhD, Visiting Scholar, Harvard FXB Center for Health and Human Rights
1. Desperate Journey: Europe's Refugee Crisis (Human Rights Watch)
2. Ode to Lesvos
1. The Mean Bargain: The EU/Turkey Refugee and Migrant Deal (Bhabha, J. & Digidiki, V. )
2.Shonkoff, J. P., Gardner, A. (2012). The Lifelong Effects of Early Childhood Adversity and Toxic Stress. The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics,129 (1): e232-246.
3. Miller, K. E. and A. Rasmussen (2010). "Mental health and armed conflict: The importance of distinguishing between war exposure and other sources of adversity: A response to Neuner." Social Science & Medicine 71(8): 1385-1389.
November 10 - RSVP here
*please note, this session will run from 4:00-5:30pm (shifted from planned 4:30pm start)
*New Location: Harvard Kennedy School, WAPPP Cason Conference Room, Taubman Building, Room 102
The Syrian Humanitarian Health Response: Challenges and Opportunities
Fouad Fouad, MD, Assistant Research Professor, American University of Beirut, Beirut, Lebanon & Adam Coutts, PhD, Public Policy Fellow, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, England (update: Adam Coutts is no longer able to join the discussion.)
War, Disasters and Data
*Jesse Berns, PhD, MPH, NREMT-CCP, Founder and Chief Operating Officer, Dharma
1. Miriam Rabkin, Fouad M. Fouad & Wafaa M. El-Sadr (2016): Addressing chronic diseases in protracted emergencies: Lessons from HIV for a new health imperative, Global Public Health.
2. Fouad M. Fouad. Human Resources in Protracted Crisis: Syrian Medical Workers. Lancet. 2016, April 16; 387(10028):1613.
December 1 - RSVP here
Location: Harvard Kennedy School
UNHCR-Jordan and Syrian Refugee Livelihoods: Successes & Ongoing Challenges
Charles Simpson, Assistant Director, Boston Consortium for Arab Region Studies; Rima Rassi, Program Manager, Program in Public Policy and International Affairs (PPIA), Department of Political Studies and Public Administration, American University of Beirut; & Leen AlHajjar, BA Candidate, Northeastern University; Former UNHCR-Jordan Intern
Reading(s): Jordan Times: Syrians Having Easier Access to Jobs in Jordan - UNHCR
**Dates, locations, titles, and speakers subject to change.
Past Study Groups
Fall 2016 | Globalization and its Discontents in the Middle East and North Africa
MEI Visiting Scholar Study Group | Fall 2016
Globalization and its Discontents in the Middle East and North Africa
with Professor Robert Springborg
The Middle East Initiative announces a series at Harvard Kennedy School, led by Professor Robert Springborg. Dr. Springborg is the fall 2016 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Initiative and non-resident Research Fellow of the Italian Institute of International Affairs. The series will run for nine sessions during the fall 2016 semester at Harvard Kennedy School. Please see below for a full description of the study group and list of sessions, and click on each of the titles for more information about individual sessions and to RSVP.
About the Series
The great wave of globalization that welled up as the Cold War was ending, and which peaked with the 2008-2009 global financial crisis, is ebbing away. Despite its significant contribution to economic growth and growing national income equality between countries of the North and South, globalization has stimulated a matching wave of skepticism in the developed and developing worlds. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) such negative views are particularly widespread, despite the fact that globalization drove more rapid economic growth there than in the old colonial powers. The case could be made that it was not rapid globalization, but its sudden, dramatic slowing from 2007 that has been the cause of subsequent, pronounced discontent in MENA. As globalization has slowed to a crawl, MENA states have scrambled to meet intensifying domestic and regional economic and political challenges. Just as they turned in unison in a liberal direction in the late 1980s with globalization’s rise, so they have now turned en bloc in a conservative one, shoring up state authority over the political economy while justifying de-liberalization on security grounds. How this political tightening can be reconciled with the ever more urgent imperative to diversify economies is a critical question for the entire region.
The ebb and flow of globalization and what appear to be related developments in MENA political economies suggest that this relationship is vital to understanding previous and future economic and political change in that region. This study group will investigate the relationship in a series of nine colloquia. It will begin with historical comparisons of the impacts of the modern or “second wave” of globalization, begun in the late 1980s, and the earlier “first wave” of the late-19th century, including the dynamics of imperialism and colonialism in both time periods. Then the group will examine the modern challenges of reforming political economies as globalization slows, referencing particular sectors and actors such as militaries, universities, financial flows, resource-extraction industries, religiously based parties, as well as the unique position of non-Arab states in the region. Finally, the group will consider globalization’s impacts on regional and international interactions, including the reshuffling of regional alliances and resultant impacts on the policies of global powers in the region.
LISTEN: Recordings of all lectures are available as a podcast playlist.
READ: The following article by Prof. Springborg served as an overview for the series:
Globalization and its Discontents in the MENA Region. Springborg, Robert. Middle East Policy, Volume 23, Issue 2, Summer 2016, 146-160.
All sessions meet Tuesdays, 4:00-5:30pm in Allison Dining Room, Taubman Building, Fifth Floor, HKS campus, unless otherwise noted.
RSVP is required for each session. To RSVP for a session, click on the session title below. Please note that an RSVP does not guarantee a seat at the session.
The First Wave of Globalization in the Middle East and North Africa: Lessons from 1870-1914
Tuesday, September 13, 4:00-5:30pm
*Location: Nye A, Taubman Building, Fifth Floor, HKS campus
Roger Owen, A.J. Meyer Professor of Middle East History, Emeritus, Harvard University
Prisoners of History? Postcolonial Countercurrents in the Second Wave of Globalization in the Middle East and North Africa
Tuesday, September 20, 4:00-5:30pm
Clement Moore Henry, Professor of Government, Emeritus, The University of Texas at Austin
Obstacles to Global Integration of Iran’s Economy: Why the Nuclear Agreement has Lost Support Among Ordinary Iranians
Tuesday, September 27, 4:00-5:30pm
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative and the Iran Project and Professor of Economics, Virginia Tech
Enabling Egypt's New Mamelukes: Global Partnering with the Military Economy
Tuesday, October 4, 4:00-5:30pm
*Location: Fainsod Room, Littauer Building, Room 324, HKS campus
Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate, Middle East Centre, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
Globalization and MENA: Widening the Gap
Tuesday, October 11, 4:00-5:30pm
*Location: Nye A, Taubman Building, Fifth Floor, HKS campus
Giacomo Luciani, Scientific Advisor, Master in International Energy program, Paris School of International Affairs, Sciences Po
Resource Wealth, Political Settlements and the “Rule of Law” in the Middle East
Tuesday, October 18, 4:00-5:30pm
Melani Cammett, Professor of Government, Harvard University
Ishac Diwan, MEI Visiting Scholar and Distinguished Chair of Arab World Studies, Paris Sciences et Lettres
Globalization, Neo-Liberalism and the Liberal Arts: The University in the Middle East and North Africa
Tuesday, October 25, 4:00-5:30pm
Professor Lisa Anderson, former president, American University in Cairo
Does Economic Strain Induce Support for Islamism?
Tuesday, November 1, 4:00-5:30pm
Amaney Jamal, Edwards S. Sanford Professor of Politics and Director, Mamdouha S. Bobst Center for Peace and Justice, Princeton University
The Future of America's Middle East Alliances
Monday, November 14, 4:00-5:30pm
Stephen M. Walt, Belfer Professor of International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School
Spring 2016 | How Should the Next President of the United States Handle the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?
MEI Senior Fellow Study Group | Spring 2016
How Should the Next President of the United States Handle the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict?
with Dr. Robert M. Danin
In November 2015, President Obama acknowledged publicly that there will not be a negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine during the lifespan of his administration. The Israeli-Palestinian situation is stalemated. There are no diplomatic contacts between the two parties, and virtually all international attention towards the Middle East is focused on hot wars and conflicts raging in Syria, Iraq, Libya, and Yemen. When President Obama’s successor takes office in January 2017, he or she will confront a myriad of foreign policy challenges in the Middle East, including an Israeli-Palestinian conflict that continues to seethe and simmer on the ground. What should he or she do, if anything?
Over the course of three sessions, the study group examined the realities and challenges that the next American president will face when trying to craft a coherent Israel-Palestine policy. The purpose of the course is to look at a major American foreign policy challenge the way that senior U.S. government officials, from the President down, are forced to confront them. The seminar examined the geo-strategic, diplomatic, and political contexts and the policy options that the next U.S. administration will face.
Calendar and Resources
Session 1: How did we get here?
Tuesday, February 9, 4:00-6:00pm
Kalb Seminar Room, Taubman Building, Room 275, HKS
Session 2: Today's picture.
Tuesday, March 1, 4:00-6:00pm
Allison Dining Room, Taubman Building, Fifth Floor, HKS
Session 3: What can be done, what should be done?
Tuesday, March 29, 4:00-6:00pm
Allison Dining Room, Taubman Building, Fifth Floor, HKS
Readings:Click to Download Reading List
Robert M. Danin is a non-resident senior fellow at the Belfer Center's Middle East Initiative. He is also a senior fellow for Middle East studies at the Council on Foreign Relations. Prior to joining CFR, he headed the Jerusalem mission of the Quartet representative, Tony Blair, from April 2008 until August 2010. A former career State Department official with over twenty years of Middle East experience, Dr. Danin previously served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs with responsibilities for Israeli-Palestinian issues and Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Egypt. He also served at the National Security Council for over three years, first as Director for Israeli-Palestinian affairs and the Levant and then as acting Senior Director for Near East and North African affairs. A recipient of the State Department's Superior Honor Award, Dr. Danin served as a Middle East and Gulf specialist on the Secretary of State's Policy Planning Staff, and as a State Department senior Middle East political and military analyst. Prior to joining the State Department, he worked as a Jerusalem-based journalist covering Israeli and Palestinian politics. He has served as a thought leader for the World Economic Forum since 2012.
Dr. Danin has published widely, including in Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, the Financial Times, CNN, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times and The Atlantic; and he has been a frequent guest on a wide range of U.S. and international television and broadcast media.. He is a contributing author of Pathways to Peace: America and the Arab-Israeli Conflict (Palgrave Macmillan 2012), and Iran: The Nuclear Challenge (CFR, 2012).
Dr. Danin holds a BA in history from the University of California, Berkeley, an MSFS degree from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service, and a doctorate in the international relations of the Middle East from St. Antony's College, Oxford University.
Fall 2015 | Rewriting the Arab Social Contract: Toward Inclusive Development and Politics in the Arab World
MEI Visiting Scholar Study Group | Fall 2015
Rewriting the Arab Social Contract: Toward Inclusive Development and Politics in the Arab World
with Minister Hedi Larbi
The Middle East Initiative hosted a series at Harvard Kennedy School, led by Minister Hedi Larbi. Mr. Larbi is the Fall 2015 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Initiative and former Minister of Economic Infrastructure and Sustainable Development and Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister, Tunisia. The series ran for seven sessions during the Fall 2015 semester at Harvard Kennedy School. Please see the calendar below, and click on each of the titles for more information about individual sessions.
READ: The full report on the study group from Minister Larbi, including his notes from each presentation, conclusions from the semester, and avenues for further research, is available to read and download here.
About the Series
As the Arab uprisings have unfolded over the past four years, the economic and social issues at their roots have received little attention and in some cases have been entirely overlooked by the transitioning countries themselves and the international community. Compounded by four years of turbulent, often failed transitions, polarized politics, and deteriorating state institutions and capacity, these fundamental challenges have only grown more daunting while economic conditions have further declined. This study group will attempt to address these issues, demonstrating the need for a new social contract able to confront political and economic challenges together, to promote shared prosperity, to hold governments accountable, to uphold freedom and human rights standards, and to empower people to participate in public affairs. To the extent possible, the study group will move beyond identifying the need, and explore possible processes for developing such a new social contract, drawing on the insights of distinguished experts with direct operational and research experience in Arab countries and relevant global contexts.
All sessions meet Tuesdays, 4:15-5:45pm in Weil Town Hall, Belfer Building, Ground Floor, HKS, unless otherwise noted.
RSVP is required for each session. To RSVP for a session, click on the session title below. Please note that an RSVP does not guarantee a seat at the session.
The Arab Spring's Uneven Harvest: Successes, Setbacks, and Failed States
Tuesday, September 15, 4:15-6:00pm
Hedi Larbi, former Minister of Economic Infrastructure and Sustainable Development, Tunisia and Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School
Paul Salem, Vice President for Policy and Research, Middle East Institute, Washington, D.C.
Lessons from the Tunisian Transition: Challenges and Imperatives
Tuesday, September 29, 4:15-5:45pm
Ghazi Gherairi, Secretary General of the International Academy of Constitutional Law
Limitations and Political Economy of Past Development Policies in the Arab World: The Challenge of Achieving Stability and Inclusive Growth in a Complex Environment
Tuesday, October 6, 4:15-5:45pm
Björn Rother, Advisor and Chief of Strategy and Partnership Unit, Middle East and Central Asia Department, International Monetary Fund
The Economic and Social Impact of Arab Political Transitions
Tuesday, October 20, 4:15-5:45pm
Mustapha Kamel Nabli, former Chief Economist and Director, World Bank Middle East and North Africa Region; former Governor, Central Bank of Tunisia
Making the Case for a New Social Contract in the Middle East and North Africa
Tuesday, October 27, 4:15-5:45pm
Shantayanan Devarajan, Chief Economist, Middle East and North Africa Region, World Bank
Writing a New Arab Social Contract: the Need for Work and Dignity
Tuesday, November 3, 4:15-5:45pm
Zafiris Tzannatos, former Senior Advisor on Social Policy for the World Bank, International Labor Organization, and Government of the United Arab Emirates
Roadmap to a New Arab Future: Negotiating and Managing a New Social Contract and Development Model
Tuesday, November 10, 4:15-6:00pm
Panel Discussion, featuring:
Hedi Larbi, Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School
Hafez Ghanem, Vice President of the World Bank for the Middle East and North Africa
Melani Cammett, Professor of Government, Harvard University and MEI Faculty Affiliate
**Dates, locations, titles, and speakers subject to change.
Spring 2015 | Rethinking the Arab State: The Collapse of Legitimacy in Arab Politics
MEI Visiting Scholar Study Group | Spring 2015
Rethinking the Arab State: The Collapse of Legitimacy in Arab Politics
with Professor Michael C. Hudson
This series was led by professor Michael C. Hudson, Spring 2015 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Initiative and Seif Ghobash Professor of Arab Studies and International Affairs, Emeritus at Georgetown University. Please see the calendar below, and click on each of the titles for more information about the talks.
LISTEN: Podcasts of all sessions - except Lisa Wedeen's - are available online. Check out the entire playlist by clicking here. In addition, listen to short interviews with study group speakers: Samer Shehata, Madawi Al-Rasheed, and Bassam Haddad.
READ: The full report on the study group from Professor Hudson, including his notes from each presentation, conclusions from the semester, and avenues for further research, is available to read and download here.
About the Series
The Arab uprisings that began in 2011 and the ensuing turbulence have forced scholars to re-examine previously accepted propositions about legitimacy, the state, civil society, religion, and regional stability. New information technologies and social media have galvanized civil society and provide platforms for public expression. Radical Islamist ideology is challenging nationalism as a basic legitimizing principle. Transnational Islamist networks and ISIS have shaken states and the regional state system. And foreign interventions have contributed to the destablization of a region already wracked by internal conflicts. No longer, it seems, is the United States able to guarantee regional stability.
The following book served as an overview for the series:
Beyond the Arab Spring: Authoritarianism and Democracy in the Arab World. Brynen, Rex, Moore, Pete W., Salloukh, Bassel F., Zahar, Marie-Joelle, Lynne Reinner Publishing, November 2012.
The Arab States in Crisis: The Collapse of Old Legitimacy Formulas and the Search for New Ones
Tuesday, February 17, 4:00-5:30pm
Michael C. Hudson, Seif Ghobash Professor of International Relations and Arab Studies, Emeritus, Georgetown University and Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School
Islamist Politics in the Age of ISIS
Wednesday, February 25, 4:00-5:30pm
Jillian Schwedler, Professor of Political Science, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York
The Resurgence of Egypt's 'Deep State'?
Tuesday, March 3, 4:00-5:30pm
Samer Shehata, Associate Professor of Middle East Studies, University of Oklahoma
Not So Good to be King: the Saudi Monarchy at Crossroads
Tuesday, March 10, 4:00-5:30pm
Madawi Al-Rasheed, Visiting Professor, Middle East Centre, London School of Economics
ISIS: a ‘State in Waiting’
Tuesday, March 31, 4:00-5:30pm
Yezid Sayigh, Senior Associate and Professor, Carnegie Middle East Center, Beirut
The Syrian State: A Stateless Regime or State with Many Regimes?
Thursday, April 2, 4:00-5:30pm
Bassam Haddad, Associate Professor, School of Policy, Government, and International Affairs, and Director, Middle East and Islamic Studies Program, George Mason University
*Co-sponsored by the Center for Middle Eastern Studies
United States Military Deployments and the Status of Women in the Arab World
Tuesday, April 7, 4:00-5:30pm
Amaney Jamal, Edward S. Sanford Professor of Politics, Princeton University
Abandoning 'Legitimacy': Reflections on Syria and Yemen
Tuesday, April 14, 4:00-5:30pm
Lisa Wedeen, Mary R. Morton Professor of Political Science, University of Chicago
Can the United States 'Manage' the Middle East? Should It Try?
Wednesday, April 29, 4:00-5:30pm
Stephen M. Walt, Robert and Renee Belfer Professor of International Relations, Harvard Kennedy School
2014-2015 | The Syrian Refugee Crisis
The Syrian Refugee Crisis
This study group aimed to generate engagement around the Syrian refugee crisis, contribute to the identification of long-term strategies to address the rehabilitation challenges facing refugees and refugee host nations, and create opportunities for Harvard students and fellows to contribute to an evidence-based dialogue about strategic approaches to respond to this crisis. The one-year initiative used an evidence-based approach to understand refugee needs and to support a dialogue on refugee rehabilitation among professionals and policymakers with impact on the refugee situation in the Middle East. This required gathering information about rehabilitation needs; discussion of regional engagement on policy options; and networking between key stakeholders at the technical, professional, and political levels. Through experiential learning, students and fellows from Harvard Kennedy School, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Harvard's Center for Middle Eastern Studies developed research and policy expertise, and contributed directly to this transformational policy process. Among their achievements: Presented on partnerships at UNHCR's Sharjah Conference on MENA refugees (October 2014) Prepared the ICRC for the Berlin Ministerial Meeting on the Syrian Refugee Rehabilitation Needs (October 2014) Co-hosted and presented at the IPI Roundtable on Innovative Approaches to the Needs of those Affected by the Syrian Refugee Crisis (December 2014) Presented at a roundtable event in Jordan on Business-Humanitarian co-operation in the Syrian Refugee Crisis (January 2015) Completed field assessment missions in Jordan, Turkey and Lebanon (January 2015); Published an article on social tensions in the Syrian Refugee Crisis through Spanish think tank, IEMed (June 2015) Presented the IEMed article at the Migration Policy Center's Annual Conference on seeking sustainable solutions to vulnerability and instability in the Syrian Refugee Crisis to migration policy experts (July 2015)
Fall 2013 | The Politics and Economics of Transitions in the Middle East
The Politics and Economics of Transitions in the Middle East
This series was led by Professor Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Fall 2013 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar at the Middle East Initiative and Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech. It focused on the serious economic challenges facing countries in the Middle East, both old ones inherited from the past and new ones created by uprisings and revolutions. The seminars aimed to illuminate the politics and economics of the choices countries in the region were grappling with: how to stabilize their economies at a time when revolutions have raised expectations for redistribution and jobs, while also dealing with the almost contradictory demands for radical change to economic structures that had given rise to inequality, unemployment and poverty, the very circumstances that had brought the revolutions in the first place.
Please see the calendar below and click on each of the titles for more information about the talks.
About the Series:
Countries in the Middle East that have experienced uprisings and revolutions confront serious economic challenges, old ones inherited from the past and new ones created by the uprising itself. They face the need to stabilize their economies at a time when revolutions have raised expectations for redistribution and jobs. At the same time they have to deal with the almost contradictory demands for radical change to economic structures that had given rise to inequality, unemployment and poverty, the very circumstances that had brought the revolutions in the first place. The seminars aimed to illuminate the politics and economics of these choices, as well as the experience of actual transitions in Egypt and Tunisia.
The following paper served as an overview for the series:
After the Spring: Economic Transitions in the Arab World
Magdi, A., R. Assaad, et al. Oxford University Press, 2012.
The Politics and Economics of Transitions in the Middle East: An Introduction
Wednesday, September 11, 4:00-5:30pm
Djavad Salehi-Isfahani, Professor of Economics, Virginia Tech, and Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative, Harvard Kennedy School
Making Sense of Arab Labor Markets: The Enduring Legacy of Dualism
Wednesday, September 18, 4:00-5:30pm
Ragui Assaad, Professor of Planning and Public Affairs, Humphrey School of Public Affairs, University of Minnesota
Obstacles to Egypt's Economic Development
Wednesday, October 9, 4:00-5:30pm
Robert Springborg, Professor in the Department of National Security Affairs, Naval Postgraduate School
Business Elites and Institutional Change in Turkey
Wednesday, October 16, 4:00-5:30pm
Sevket Pamuk, Professor of Economics and Economic History, Bosphorus University, Turkey
Documenting Crony Capitalism in Egypt
Wednesday, October 23, 4:00-5:30pm
Ishac Diwan, Lecturer in Public Policy, Harvard Kennedy School
Community and Economic Development in Egypt
Wednesday, October 30, 4:00-5:30pm
Heba Handoussa, Founder, Egypt Network for Integrated Development (ENID)
Iran’s Political Economy in Flux: The Shifting Terrain in the Islamic Republic
Wednesday, November 13, 4:30-6:00pm
Kevan Harris, Sociologist and Postdoctoral Research Associate, Near Eastern Studies, Princeton University
The Dynamics of Regime Transitions: Insights from Theory and Historical Experiences for the Arab Transitioning Countries
Wednesday, November 20, 4:00-5:30pm
Melani Cammett, Associate Professor of Political Science, Brown University
The Middle East Initiative has a variety of offerings for students at Harvard Kennedy School. We encourage you to explore some of these opportunities on this page or contact us at MEI to discuss your interests in depth.
January Term Field Study Courses
MEI supports an experiential field study course each year in the region. In January 2017, the course will focus on humanitarian negotiations on the frontlines. Please note the deadline to apply for the course has passed. Past winter field study courses have taken students to Jordan to study the rehabilitation needs of the Syrian refugee population and Morocco/Italy to explore the Mediterranean migration crisis.
Field Experience Trips
MEI supports an annual policy field visit to the UAE in collaboration with the Center for Public Leadership. In January 2017, up to twenty HKS students will be selected to participate in the visit to explore government innovation and public policy.
Research and Travel Funding
MEI offers funding to HKS students to conduct research for their PAEs and SYPAs, participate in field study courses/programs, or for internships in the Middle East and North Africa. Information about how to apply for winter 2016-17 funding will be available in late September.
MEI supports the student-run Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy (JMEPP), a policy review published annually at Harvard Kennedy School that presents cutting-edge analysis on the contemporary Middle East and North Africa region. JMEPP is committed to presenting new perspectives on pressing problems, addressing complex issues with insightful analysis, and exploring emerging trends shaping the region.
Harvard Coalition for Syrian Refugees
The Harvard Coalition for Syrian Refugees is a student-driven initiative that started in the fall of 2015 to leverage the resources across Harvard University to collaboratively respond to the Syrian refugee crisis through local, national and international efforts.
The Middle East Initiative organizes dozens of events each semester through its speaker series, book talk series, film series, forums, study groups and conferences. Subscribe to our listserv to receive emails about upcoming events here.
Internships and Career Opportunities
The Middle East Initiative helps connect interested HKS students with jobs, internships, fellowships, research opportunities and other programs in the Middle East. We encourage you to contact us to set up a meeting to discuss your career interests.
Are you thinking about applying to HKS? Learn more about the various degrees offered through HKS and how to apply from the Office of Admissions here. There are ample fellowship opportunities for prospective students from the Middle East. We encourage you to explore the various fellowships listed below, and contact us or visit the HKS Financial Aid Office here to find out more.
As an additional resource, we also encourage you to watch this video to hear about the HKS student experience from recent alumni from the region:
Representatives from the Office of Admisssions travel to the Middle East frequently to host information sessions on degree programs and fellowships. Follow the HKS Admissions Blog to find out about opportunities near you.
Degree Fellowships for HKS Students from the Middle East
Aida Kayali International Public Service Fellowship - Established to support students (women preferred) committed to public service in the Middle East, Africa or South America
Bashir Al-Haffar Public Service Fellowship - Established to support students (women preferred) from the Arab League.
Emirates Leadership Initiative Fellowship - Established by the government of the United Arab Emirates to support students from the United Arab Emirates and other Arab countries who have demonstrated interest in developing their leadership and public management skills in the United Arab Emirates and Arab countries.
The Kuwait Foundation Fellowship for Outstanding Emerging Leaders - Established by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences to support students from Kuwait, students from other Arab countries living in Kuwait, as well as students from the Gulf and other Arab countries.
Lamont Graduate Fellowship - Established to support students from the Middle East, India and South Asia.
Latifa Kosta Graduate Fellowship - Established to support students from the Middle East with a preference for students from Lebanon.
Mary and David Boies Fellowship - Established to support students from Afghanistan, Iraq, Israel, Palestinian Territories, and former Soviet Union countries in Central Asia who demonstrate a capacity to lead, with a vision for their countries or region, and potential to make a significant, positive difference when they return to their home country.
Middle East-North Africa Graduate Fellowship Fund -Established by Norwegian oil and gas company DNO International ASA to support qualified applicants who enroll at HKS through the Edward S. Mason Program.
Mona Hammami Graduate Fellowship - Established to support students of the MPA/ID Program from Algeria, Bahrain, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Lebanon, Liberia, Libya, Morocco, Oman, occupied Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.
Princess Banderi Al-Faisal Public Service Fellowship - Established to support students from the Arab League (women preferred). As a demonstration of his/her commitment to public service, the successful applicant must be professionally employed in the public sector in their home country, broadly defined, for three years upon graduation. If the three-year commitment is not met, recipients must repay the fellowship.
The Sammy Ofer Fellowship for Emerging Leaders - Established to support promising students from Israel and Palestine. The fellowship was established in memory of Israeli businessman Sammy Ofer, who in his lifetime was a firm believer in the role that education can play in sound leadership, promoting peace and coexistence in the region.
Sheikh Abdulaziz A. Al-Tuwaijiri Public Service -Established to honor Sheikh Abulaziz Al-Tuwaijri and to advance his commitment to world peace. Preference given to Middle Eastern students committed to the cause of world peace and conflict resolution.
Sheikh Suhaim bin Hamad Al Thani Fellowship - Established to commemorate H.E. Sheikh Suhaim bin Hamad Al Thani, one of the founders and visionaries who shaped modern day Qatar. It supports students of the Edward S. Mason Program from Yemen, Egypt, Sudan, Palestinian Territories, Iraq, Liberia, Rwanda, Senegal, and Vietnam.
Tamer Fellowship - Established to support students from Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Egypt, Yemen, Congo, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Somalia and Tanzania.
Turkish Secretariat General for European Union Affairs Graduate Fellowship - Established in honor of the Secretariat General's dedication to further the education of Turkish government officials. It supports Mason program students with at least five years of service at the Turkish Secretariat General.
Wexner Israel Fellowship - Established to support outstanding Israeli government and public service professionals as they pursue a mid-career Master's Degree in Public Administration at HKS.
The following fellowship is managed through the Harvard Arab Alumni Association. More information is available here.
Harvard Arab Alumni Scholarship - An alumni-led scholarship fund at Harvard to support the Harvard Arab Alumni Association's objective of increasing the number of Arab students at Harvard.
The Middle East Initiative offers funding each year to Harvard faculty for research proposals on major policy issues affecting the region. There are two grant opportunities: one funded by the Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School, and one funded by the Emirates Leadership Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School. Harvard faculty are encouraged to collaborate with academics and educational institutions in the region.
Applications are for one-year grants (up to $80,000) and multi-year grants (up to $120,000 per year) to support research by Harvard University faculty members on issues of critical importance to Kuwait, the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab World. Grants can be applied toward research assistance, travel, summer salary, workshops, and course buy-out.
Please submit proposals, budget, other sources of funding and the curriculum vitae for senior researchers by October 7, 2016 to the Research Program Coordinator of the Middle East Initiative by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Kuwait Program
The Kuwait Program will consider research proposals on a wide range of topics, but focused primarily on Kuwait and the Gulf Cooperation Council countries. We strongly encourage proposals that have collaborative elements with scholars in the region. Please contact MEI if you would like assistance connecting with researchers in Kuwait. Priority will be given to the following subjects, although proposals will be considered for research in other areas as well:
- Management of higher education in Kuwait
- Youth and their role in the future of the Arab World
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT IN THE GULF
- Economic development and structural diversification
- Building a stronger private sector
- Attracting foreign investment and managing civil risks
- Regulatory and legal reform
- Strategic planning and crisis analysis/control
- The Arab political transformation
- Externality impacts of energy development, including water
- Renewable options
SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY AND INNOVATION
- Environmental and health impacts
- Urban sustainability
- The culture, systems, modes of delivery, and management of knowledge
Find more information on previous grants awarded through the Kuwait Program here.
The Emirates Leadership Initiative
The Emirates Leadership Initiative will consider research proposals on a wide range of countries in the region, but focused on the following topics:
- Establishing durable, accountable democracies not only by focusing on political institutions, but also by empowering the region’s citizens
REVITALIZING THE STATE
- Reforming the Middle East’s social service delivery systems with a special emphasis on health, education and social protection
DEMOCRATIZING FINANCIAL AND LABOR MARKETS
- Working to ensure that the Middle East’s financial and labor markets benefit the entire population, not merely the elite
SCIENCE AND EMERGING TECHNOLOGIES
- Aligning science and technology missions to promote regional development goals
Find more information on previous grants awarded through the Emirates Leadership Initiative here.
A collaboration between Harvard Kennedy School’s Center for Public Leadership and the Belfer Center’s Middle East Initiative, the Emirates Leadership Initiative (ELI) provides the critical opportunities needed for emerging leaders from the United Arab Emirates and the Middle East to confront the region’s public policy issues in question through a multi-pronged approach.
The complexities of modern leadership require more than traditional academic coursework. Effective leaders utilize tools of strategic and financial analysis balanced with self-understanding and the ability to work across cultures and sectors. Now, more than ever, leaders need to be equipped with the tools to think globally and act locally.
Funded by the government of the United Arab Emirates, the Emirates Leadership Initiative features several components, including: a research fund supporting pre-doctoral, post-doctoral, and faculty research; student degree fellowships; an on-site learning experience in the UAE; and Executive Education programs. Please click the links below to learn more about ELI's various elements.
III. Executive Education
The Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School is generously supported by the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS). The Kuwait Program, housed at the Middle East Initiative, serves current and emerging leaders and decision-makers of various institutions in Kuwait, the Gulf Cooperation Council, and the wider Arab world through unique opportunities for cooperation on advanced research, teaching, training and outreach on critical issues of importance to Kuwait and the region. Please click the links below to learn more about the various components of the Kuwait Program:
The Middle East at Harvard
Harvard University's teaching, research, and fellowship activities span the globe and take many forms.
Harvard Worldwide allows users to search for activities by geography, by activity type, by the Harvard School in which the activity is housed, by keyword, or by any combination of these.
Centers & Programs
- The Center for Middle Eastern Studies
- Arabic and Islamic Studies (Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations)
- Prince Alwaleed bin Talal Islamic Studies Program
- Islamic Legal Studies Program (Harvard Law School)
- Aga Khan Program for Islamic Architecture
- Center for the Study of World Religions
- Middle Eastern Collection, Harvard Libraries
- Abraham Path Initiative (Program on Negotiation, Harvard Law School)
- Harvard Arab Alumni Association
- Harvard Armenian Society
- Harvard College Interfaith Council
- Harvard College Turkish Student Association
- Harvard Hillel
- Harvard Islamic Society
- Harvard Iranian Students Association
- Harvard Palestine Solidarity Committee
- Harvard Progressive Jewish Alliance
- Harvard Middle Eastern Cultural Association
- Harvard Near Eastern Society (HNES)
- Harvard Society of Arab Students
- Middle East and North Africa Club (Business School)
- Middle Eastern Law Students Association (Law School)
Executive Education at Harvard
Research Program Coordinator
For inquires about pre-doctoral and postdoctoral research fellowships, visiting scholars or faculty research grants.
For inquiries about events, study groups, student activities, conferences and workshops.
124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 100
Cambridge, MA 02138
79 JFK Street, Box 126
Cambridge, MA 02138