Featured Publications and Research

Upcoming Events

The Spring 2017 events calendar has come to a close. Thanks to all those who came to events this past semester and supported our programming! We look forward to restarting our events in the fall. The most up-to-date information is always available under the Events tab on our website.

MEI banner

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

students infographic

MEI's recruiting and fundraising efforts have led to a 70% increase in the number of students from the Middle East admitted to HKS (from 2012-2016) and have enabled 30% of students from the region to receive fellowships.

Events infographic

Every year, MEI hosts an average of more than 65 public events, attracting nearly 3,800 attendees.

exec ed infographic

Over 1,000 HKS Executive Education alumni from the region from MEI sponsored executive fellowships or executive programs.

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. Decisions will be announced by March 31, 2017.

MEI Study Groups are responsive series to encourage multidisciplinary discussion and exchange of ideas and on important questions facing the Middle East, convened by MEI Faculty Affiliates, Visiting Scholars, Senior Fellows and/or other associates. 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

Past Study Groups

  • Fall 2016 | Globalization and its Discontents in the Middle East and North Africa

    Springborg Image

    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.

    Download the Study Group Calendar [PDF]

    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?

    Spring 2016 Study Group Image_Danin

    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

    Fall 2015 Study Group photo

    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.


    LISTEN: Podcasts of all sessions are available online. Access the playlist by clicking here.

    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.

    PHOTOS: Check out highlights of pictures from the sessions on the Belfer Center Flickr page.

    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.

    Download the Study Group Calendar [PDF]

    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

    SP15 Study Group headline image

    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.

    PHOTOS: Check out highlights of pictures from the sessions on the Belfer Center Flickr page.

    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.

Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy

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.

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. The application period for 2017 summer internship funding is now closed.

Upon return from field study courses and internships, students complete a short summary of their work. Below see a sampling of post-award reports.

2016 Summer Internship Funding

  • Bank of Algeria

    James Fallon, Master in Public Administration in International Development Candidate, received summer internship funding to travel to Algeria in 2016. He will graduate in the spring of 2017. 

    With the help of a grant from the Middle East Initiative at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, I spent ten weeks with the Bank of Algeria during the summer of 2016. The internship was undertaken in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master in Public Administration in International Development (MPA/ID).

    As Algeria’s central bank, the bank manages the country’s monetary policy and provides foreign exchange services for all of the country’s international trade. It prints and manages the circulation of the Algerian dinar, and also plays a role in bank regulation and supervision.

    Over the course of my time with the bank, I was able to focus on the particular challenges that major commodity exporters face in managing monetary policy. Given Algeria’s status as a major oil and gas exporter and a state-centered economy, these challenges have become especially salient for the country since the 2014 fall in oil prices.

    My time with the bank was a fantastic learning experience, and fit well with my coursework on development economics at the Kennedy School. I rotated through all major departments of the bank, including the research department, foreign exchange trading, capital controls and bank inspection. I was able to engage with the practical challenges of central banking for an economy that exports almost exclusively oil and gas, while also participating in the broader discussion of how to encourage diversification in economies that rely heavily on commodity export earnings.

    Importantly, the experience also gave me a chance to build relationships with Algerian policymakers and bank employees, while also exposing me to a broader community of interest for economic policy in Africa and the Middle East that spent time visiting the bank or attending conferences hosted there. The experience lent a strong grounding to my academic work in economic policy, and helped me envision various ways to apply that interest to my career.

  • Za'atari Refugee Camp

    Anina Hewey, Farida El-Gueretly, and Sonya Temko received summer internship funding to travel to Jordan in 2016. They graduated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education with Masters in International Education Policy the same year. In Jordan they evaluated the TIGER Program at Za'atari Refugee Camp.

    Anina Hewey, Farida El-Gueretly, and Sonya Temko in Za'atari Refugee Camp.
    Anina Hewey, Farida El-Gueretly, and Sonya Temko in Za'atari Refugee Camp

    Thanks to generous support from the Middle East Initiative, we, Anina Hewey, Farida El-Gueretly and Sonya Temko, (HGSE International Education Policy 2016) traveled to Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan in June to conduct a process evaluation of the pilot TIGER program. TIGER (These Inspiring Girls Enjoy Reading) is a community-based, non-formal education initiative for adolescent Syrian girls in Za’atari funded through the UNHCR Innovation fund, implemented by IRD and designed and supported by Open Learning Exchange. The program aims to keep girls in school once they reach the at-risk age of adolescence and re-enroll out-of-school girls into formal schooling. The program also seeks to enhance girls’ sense of agency, meaning and connection in their lives. To achieve these goals, the program is comprised of three essential parts: academic support, project-based learning, and a personalized learning system on tablets. Across six districts of Za’atari, 120 TIGER girls meet daily in teams of about ten guided by a co-teaching pair of Syrian women.

    The purpose of our trip was to evaluate these goals and determine what more, if anything, could be done to strengthen the program. Through our interviews with coaches, focus group discussions with TIGER girls, and observations of each of the TIGER teams, we found the program to be successful in increasing girls’ motivation to go to and stay in school. The combination of direct academic support, community service projects, and strong trusting relationships with coaches, made the TIGER girls and their families part of a “network of girl change makers” within the camp. Many girls reported feeling increased confidence at school and developed new skills in collaborative problem solving.

    The projects the girls have done as part of the TIGER program demonstrate their creativity and power. The first round of projects centered on the theme of recycling. Teams did projects varying from creating decorations out of recycled materials, creating and performing a play about recycling, to conducting interviews in the camp about how the community recycles. The current project cycle is focused on the theme of education and teams are doing projects including peer-learning with non-TIGER girls, publishing an article about social issues in the community magazine, creating their own magazine on the importance of education, organizing a “girl pool” to have all girls walk safely together to and from school, organizing a registration drive to re-enroll girls into school, and organizing a girls’ soccer tournament.

    Our biggest recommendation for the program is to expand it to reach as many girls as possible in the camp. This should be done through systematic training that leverages the knowledge and experience of the current coaches to train oncoming coaches in project-based learning. Because of the impact that the peer-learning project has had on TIGER and non-TIGER girls, this model should be expanded to all TIGER teams and could be considered as a route for expansion of the program at-large.

  • ANU - Connect to Change

    Heli Mishael, Maser of Public Policy Candidate and current teaching fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School, received summer internship funding to travel to Israel in 2016. She will graduate in the spring of 2017.

    Heli Mishael with her colleagues at ANU - Connect to Change.
    Heli Mishael with her colleagues at ANU - Connect to Change.

    In the summer of 2016, I spent two months interning at ANU, a nonprofit organization organizing for socioeconomic issues in Israel. Through ANU, I was able to put my skills learnt in the Kennedy School into action in the social justice organizing campaigns and learn from dozens of organizations collaborating under the umbrella of ANU.

    My responsibility was to organize and train activists in public narrative, a skill that I learnt in Prof. Ganz’s Public Narrative class. I coached over 80 individuals in their stories of self and worked with eight different campaigns for their narratives. I also got to help ANU’s organizing coalitions with their campaign strategy. I identified best cases, benchmarks and data that were useful for campaigns to utilize and was able to help them with “infographics” that could communicate the coalitions’ issues to the public especially through social media.

    One of my favorite experiences in my summer internship was the advocacy work done in the Knesset, the Israeli Parliament. With the activists of ANU’s coalitions, we presented issues and the work of the coalition in to Members of the Knesset (MKs) and in the relevant Committees. We also staged actions in the Knesset hallways, calling for MKs to support our campaigns. I got to see many different campaigns in different stages: from planning many of them to celebrating the win of the public summer camp affordability campaign. I was able to get a lot of insight into the dynamics of the civil society, the media’s and the MKs’ collaboration.

    My summer experience was the first time I transitioned from nonprofit programming into advocacy and direct organizing work. I learnt that this is a path that I would like to continue on, because I saw how social justice change happened before my very eyes, and that it can be and is initiated by the civil society working directly to pressure the government to change its policies.

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.

  • 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.

  • 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: julia_martin@hks.harvard.edu.

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 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


  • 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


  • Reforming the Middle East’s social service delivery systems with a special emphasis on health, education and social protection


  • Working to ensure that the Middle East’s financial and labor markets benefit the entire population, not merely the elite


  • 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.

I. Research

II. Student Degree Fellowships

III. Executive Education

IV. On-Site Learning in the UAE


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:

Office Address

124 Mt. Auburn Street, Suite 100
Cambridge, MA 02138

Mailing Address

79 JFK Street, Box 126
Cambridge, MA 02138


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MEI Events Podcast

Audio recordings of select Middle East Initiative public events, listed in reverse chronological order. For more details on events, click on the Events tab of the website, above.

*The views expressed by guest speakers and others on the podcast do not represent the views of the Middle East Initiative, the Belfer Center, Harvard Kennedy School, or Harvard University.