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), directed by Professor Tarek Masoud, Sultan Qaboos Bin Said of Oman Professor of International Relations at Harvard Kennedy School (HKS), is dedicated to advancing public policy in the Middle East through applied research, engagement with practitioners, and leadership development 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.

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.


Current Study Groups

  • Fall 2020 | James Snyder in Conversation: A series of dialogues on art, culture, politics, and the possibilities for transcending conflict in the modern Middle East

    MEI Senior Fellow Study Group | Fall 2020

    James Snyder in Conversation: A series of dialogues on art, culture, politics, and the possibilities for transcending conflict in the modern Middle East

    with James Snyder, MEI Senior Fellow and Executive Chairman, Jerusalem Foundation, Inc.;  Director Emeritus, Israel Museum.


    The Power of Place
    Wednesday, September 16, 2020, 5:00pm

    James S. Snyder, HKS/MEI Senior Fellow, in conversation with MEI Faculty Director Tarek Masoud, speaks personally about his experience living and working among Jerusalem’s Christian, Jewish, and Muslim communities, reflecting on the meaning of place and identity and the role of culture and the cultural landscape as sources of unity and division. 

    Making Monotheism: Scholarly and Artistic Interpretations
    Wednesday, October 14, 2020, 5:00pm (date and time TBC)

    James Snyder in conversation with Moshe Halbertal, Biblical scholar specializing in the legacy of Maimonides, and Anthony Roth Costanzo, American countertenor who portrayed Akhenaten in the Philip Glass opera “Akhenaten” in the Metropolitan Opera’s 2019-2020 season, discussing creative interpretations of the emergence of the Middle East’s most significant contribution to the history of world religion—the belief in a single, all-powerful God.

    Antique Inspirations, Fresh Creations
    Wednesday, November 18, 2020, 5:00pm (date and time TBC)

    James Snyder in conversation with award-winning Palestinian Israeli architect Senan Abdelqader on the influences of Arab culture across time on art, architecture, and design in Israel, Palestine, and the world today.

    Israel and Palestine on Screen 
    Wednesday, December 16, 2020, 5:00pm (date and time TBC)

    James Snyder and Tarek Masoud in conversation with Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers Joseph Cedar and Tawfik Abu Wael, collaborating writers and directors for the HBO series Our Boys, discussing serial television as a medium for exploring cross-cultural narratives in Israel and Palestine and strategies for doing so with accuracy and sensitivity.


    James S. Snyder is the Executive Chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation, Inc. and Director Emeritus of the Israel Museum. He served as the Israel Museum’s Anne and Jerome Fisher Director from 1997-2016 and then its International President through 2018.

    As Director, Snyder led the Museum through the most dramatic period of growth since its founding and secured its stature as one of the world’s foremost museums. During his tenure, the Museum more than doubled its annual attendance to nearly one million visitors and increased its endowment more than fivefold to $200 million. Snyder also conceived and realized a series of successful initiatives to upgrade and enhance the experience of art and architecture across the Museum’s 20-acre campus, culminating in a comprehensive $100-million, 300,000-square-foot expansion and renewal designed to resonate with the Museum’s original architectural plan and a dynamic reinstallation of its wide-ranging collections. During his subsequent term in the newly created role of International President, Snyder continued to spearhead the development of the Museum’s extensive international network of Friends organizations; to build the Museum’s relationships with sister institutions and collectors worldwide; and to support the Museum’s leadership in strategic planning, professional staff development, and program planning.

    Israel’s largest cultural institution, the Museum is universal in scope, comprising over 500,000 objects under the jurisdiction of curatorial wings for archeology, Jewish world culture, and the fine arts extending to contemporary art worldwide. Snyder led a staff of over 350 complemented by a volunteer force equal in size. He also fostered substantial growth of the Museum’s International Friends network, expanding it across 16 countries on four continents and strengthening the Museum’s global foundation for operating, exhibition and programming, and capital support. Given its cross-communal reach in Jerusalem – serving local visitors, tourists, and over 100,000 students each year from all of its diverse communities – and its global profile, the Museum has become an important center for cultural diplomacy in Israel and internationally from the Middle East to North and South America, Europe, Africa, and Asia.

    Under Snyder’s leadership, the Museum also greatly expanded its encyclopedic holdings across all collecting areas, with the addition of more than 55,000 individual objects and works of art, including a collection-building campaign during the Museum’s 50th Anniversary in 2015, which attracted gifts of more than 20 collections numbering several thousand objects and nearly 500 individual works of art. Among the notable works acquired during Snyder’s tenure include: in Archaeology, the Renée and Robert Belfer Collection of Ancient Glass and Greek and Roman Antiquity and the Demirjian Family European Bronze Age Collection; in Jewish Art and Life, an illuminated Mishneh Torah of Maimonides (ca. 1457), acquired jointly with the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the restored 18th-century Tzedek ve-Shalom Synagogue from Paramaribo, Suriname; and, in the Fine Arts, Nicolas Poussin’s Destruction and Sack of the Temple of Jerusalem (1625), Rembrandt van Rijn’s St. Peter in Prison (1631), the Arturo Schwarz Collection of Dada and Surrealist Art, Jackson Pollock’s Horizontal Composition (1949), the Noel and Harriette Levine Collection of Photography, Yayoi Kusama’s Ironing Board (1963), Alina Szapocznikow’s Cleaning Woman (1965), and Gerhard Richter’s Abstraktes Bild (1997); together with acquisitions of emerging contemporary art and site-specific commissions by such artists as Ai Weiwei, Olafur Eliasson, Anish Kapoor, and Doug and Mike Starn.

    Snyder strengthened the Museum’s regional and international presence with an ambitious series of collection and loan exhibitions in Jerusalem and traveling exhibitions worldwide, extending to North and South America, Europe, and Asia. These included: Ai Weiwei: Maybe, Maybe Not (2017); the Museum’s 50th Anniversary exhibitions, among them A Brief History of Humankind (2015), featuring 14 pivotal objects from across the Museum’s collections from prehistoric times through the present day, complemented by signature works from the Museum’s contemporary holdings, and Twilight over Berlin: Masterworks from the Nationalgalerie, 1905-1945 (2015); James Turrell: Light Spaces (2014); Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe (2014); Herod the Great: The King’s Final Journey (2013); A World Apart: Glimpses into the Lives of Hasidic Jews (2012); William Kentridge: Five Themes (2011); Looking for Owners and Orphaned Art (2008), two ground-breaking exhibitions on art looted during World War II; and Surrealism and Beyond (2007), which completed major international tours in 2009 and then again in 2014-15.

    Snyder’s publications include: Museum Design: Planning and Building for Art (Oxford University Press) in 1993; and RENEWED: The Israel Museum Campus Renewal Project (Israel Museum) in 2011 and 2015 (revised).

    Prior to his appointment at the Israel Museum, Snyder held a number of positions at The Museum of Modern Art, New York, culminating as Deputy Director from 1986 to 1996. During his tenure at MoMA, he oversaw the $60-million, 350,000-square-foot expansion of the Museum in 1984 and had significant organizational responsibility for major international loan exhibitions, including Pablo Picasso: A Retrospective (1980) and Henri Matisse: A Retrospective (1992).

    In recognition of his leadership in the arts, Snyder has been awarded the Commendatore dell’Ordine della Stella della Solidarietà Italiana (Commander of the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity) by the Republic of Italy and the Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (Knight of the Order of Arts and Letters) of the French Republic. In 2011, he was awarded the Jerusalem Foundation’s Teddy Kollek Award for Significant Contribution to Jerusalem, and, in 2012, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat conferred on him the title of Honorary Citizen of Jerusalem.

    Born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Snyder is a graduate of Harvard University and a Loeb Fellow of Harvard’s Graduate School of Design, and he holds an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters from Hebrew Union College. He is married to Tina Davis, a graphic artist and designer, and they have two children.

Past Study Groups

  • Fall 2019 | Reporting From and To the Heart: The Craft of Anthony Shadid's Journalism and Why it Matters More Than Ever Today

    Reporting From and To the Heart: The Craft of Anthony Shadid's Journalism and Why it Matters More Than Ever Today

    with Rami Khouri, MEI Senior Fellow and Senior Fellow, Issam Fares Institute; Visiting Adjunct Professor of Journalism; and Journalist-in-Residence, American University of Beirut.

    Open to Harvard ID holders and invited Boston-area writers and journalists only. Learn more and apply: www.belfercenter.org/ShadidJournalism. Questions? Email chris_mawhorter@hks.harvard.edu.

    Overview

    The late Anthony Shadid was one of the most honored foreign correspondents in modern U.S. journalism. He won two Pulitzer Prizes for coverage of the U.S. presence in Iraq, in 2004 while Baghdad bureau chief for The Washington Post and in 2010 while Beirut bureau chief for The New York Times, where he worked until his untimely death in 2012, while on assignment in Syria. He was also a finalist for the 2007 Pulitzer and received numerous other awards for his reporting. This study group will be a hands-on, workshop-style approach to learning from veteran Middle East journalist Rami Khouri’s archival research in Shadid’s personal papers now deposited at the American University of Beirut and interviews with over 50 of Shadid’s colleagues. Participants will learn about key elements in Shadid’s “narrative reporting” style – employing techniques of narrative non-fiction writing to cover foreign affairs. Through discussion of narrative reporting craft, analysis of texts by Shadid and other outstanding writers, and producing and reviewing each other’s reporting, participants will learn why and how narrative reporting works, and how to benefit from the legacy of Shadid’s craft. The group will also discuss the implications of Shadid’s style for other sectors of society today beyond journalism, including diplomacy, education, commerce, religion, and civil society engagement.

  • Fall 2019 | Social and Economic Policy in MENA

    Social and Economic Policy in the Middle East and North Africa

    led by and for HKS students, this working group aims to critically engage on current topics to promote and generate iterative discussion.

    Open to Harvard students with the priority given to HKS students. Learn more and apply: https://forms.gle/dXXxWCmc59oR6rek6. Applications are due Tuesday, September 24 at 12:00pm (noon) Questions? Email maura_james@hks.harvard.edu.

    Overview

     

    This study group aims to generate engagement on economic and social policy issues in the Middle East and North Africa region and to create opportunities for Harvard students and fellows to delve into evidence-based strategies using case studies. The first session will explore the political context of governance by discussing the social contract, the form of governance that it generates, and how it has shaped the social and economic issues the region currently faces. 

    The following two sessions will more deeply explore a policy area selected by study group participants. Possible topics include: social welfare, labor markets, and forced migration/refugees.

    The study group will conclude by analyzing gaps in governance in the region. The discussion will explore the ways in which these gaps have caused civil society to organize alternative methods for public service provision. The first session will be led by HKS students. Ideally, subsequent sessions will be led by guest speakers with expertise in the topic area.

    The sessions will be held on Tuesdays, October 1, 15, 29 and November 5 at 4:15pm.

  • Fall 2018 | Is there a Pathway to Democracy in the Arab World?

    Is there a Pathway to Democracy in the Arab World? with Salam Fayyad

     

  • 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.


    Resources

    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.


    Calendar
    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

  • 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.


    Resources

    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.


    Calendar

    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

  • Fall 2014 - Spring 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.

    Calendar

    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



Contacting MEI

Office Address

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

Mailing Address

79 JFK Street, Box 126
Cambridge, MA 02138

Faculty Research Grants

The Middle East Initiative is seeking proposals for research on major policy issues affecting the region. Funding for the program is made possible by the Emirates Leadership Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School and the Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School. Priority will be given to HKS faculty and applicants who have not received funding through this program within the past three years. Priority topics and details on proposals for specific funding sources and types are listed below.

  1. Improving Governance: Promoting the inclusivity, accountability, responsiveness, and efficiency of governing institutions and empowering the region's citizens.
  2. Building Peace: Addressing the sources of domestic and interstate conflict and generating durable political settlements.
  3. Revitalizing the State:Reforming the Middle East's social service delivery systems with a special emphasis on health, education and social protection.
  4. Broadening Financial and Labor Markets: Working to ensure that the financial and labor markets in the Middle East are open, competitive, and beneficial to the entire population.
  5. Governing Technology: Assessing how governments in the Middle East adapt to and integrate technological changes such as the growth of cyberspace, automation, and artificial intelligence, as well as how these advances in technology have shaped governance.
  6. Adapting to the Environment: Exploring how the governments of the region can cope and are coping with the challenges of water scarcity and climate change.

Application Instructions

Application dates for the fall 2020 cycle are forthcoming.

Submit inquiries and your research proposal (no more than 5 pages), budget expectation, other sources of funding, and curriculum vitae for senior researchers to Mikaela Bennett, Coordinator for Research Programs and Student Engagement, by email: mbennett@hks.harvard.edu


Fund Details and Priority Topics

  • Emirates Leadership Initiative | Major Research Projects

    Proposals may be for one- and two-year grants to support research by Harvard faculty members and can be applied toward research assistance, travel, summer salary, workshops, and course buy-out. The Emirates Leadership Initiative will consider proposals on issues of critical importance to the Gulf Cooperation Council and the Arab World with priority given to those focused on the following topics:

    Adapting to the Environment

    Building Peace

    Revitalizing the State

    Improving Governance

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

    Broadening Financial and Labor Markets

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

    Governing Technology

    • Aligning science and technology missions to promote regional development goals.
  • Kuwait Program | Major Research Projects

    Proposals may be for one- and two-year grants to support research by Harvard faculty members and can be applied toward research assistance, travel, summer salary, workshops, and course buy-out. The Kuwait Program will consider proposals primarily on Kuwait and GCC countries with priority given to those focused on the following topics:

    Education Reform

    • Management of higher education in Kuwait
    • The role of youth 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

    Political Reform in the Gulf

    • Regulatory and legal reform
    • Strategic planning and crisis analysis/control
    • Arab political reform

    Energy Policy

    • Externality impacts of energy development
    • Renewable options

    Science, Technology, and Innovation

    • Environmental and health impacts
    • Urban sustainability
    • The culture, systems, modes of delivery, and management of knowledge
  • Kuwait Program | Exploratory Research Projects

    Kuwait Program Exploratory Research Grants will provide funding up to $15,000 for interested Harvard faculty to explore prospective collaborations with researchers in Kuwait, including travel to Kuwait to meet with local scholars, develop professional relationships, and explore shared areas of interest. Grants can be applied toward airfare, ground transportation, accommodation, meals and incidentals, and honoraria. Priority will be given to proposals focused on the topics listed below (same as Kuwait Program Major Research Projects):

    Education Reform

    • Management of higher education in Kuwait
    • The role of youth 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

    Political Reform in the Gulf

    • Regulatory and legal reform
    • Strategic planning and crisis analysis/control
    • Arab political reform

    Energy Policy

    • Externality impacts of energy development
    • Renewable options

    Science, Technology, and Innovation

    • Environmental and health impacts
    • Urban sustainability
    • The culture, systems, modes of delivery, and management of knowledge

Emirates Leadership Initiative Research Fellowship Program

The Middle East Initiative Research Fellowship Program 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. Priority will be given to applications pursuing one of these five primary areas of focus:

DEMOCRATIZING POLITICS

  • Establishing durable, accountable democracies not only by focusing on political institutions, but also by empowering the region’s citizens.

BUILDING PEACE

  • Addressing the sources of domestic and interstate conflict and generating durable political settlements.

REVITALIZING THE STATE

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

DEMOCRATIZING THE MARKET

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

DIGITAL GOVERNANCE

  • Assessing how regional governments in the Middle East adapt and integrate technology, as well as how these advances in technology and cybersecurity have shaped governance.

This program is made possible through funding from the Emirates Leadership Initiative at Harvard Kennedy School. An application period generally opens during December and January each year. All application materials must be submitted in PDF format through the official application portal.

For more information regarding the program and application process, please visit: www.belfercenter.org/fellowship/middle-east-initiative.

Please submit inquiries to Mikaela Bennett, Coordinator for Research Programs and Student Engagement, by e-mail at: mbennett@hks.harvard.edu


Kuwait Visiting Research Fellowship

The Middle East Initiative hosts an academic from Kuwait each spring to either conduct a research project or lead a study group on a topic relevant to policy and development in the Middle East and North Africa. Priority will be given to applications pursuing one of these primary areas of focus: (1) economic development in the Gulf; (2) political reform in the Gulf; or (3) energy policy.

The deadline to apply for the spring 2021 Kuwait Visiting Research Fellowship has passed. Applications for this position are no longer being accepted at this time. 


The Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholars Program

For: Senior Practitioners and Academics

Duration: One Semester (about four months)

Application Deadline: The deadline to apply for the fall 2019 position has passed. 


The Middle East Initiative hosts senior policymakers and academics to engage with students and faculty as a visiting scholar for one semester as part of the Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School. Applications from scholars working on contemporary issues of policy relevance to the Middle East, and the Arabian Gulf in particular, in the disciplines of political science, economics, history, and sociology are especially welcome. All visiting scholars are expected to either:

  • Conduct a research project preferably with a Harvard Kennedy School faculty member; or
  • Lead a not-for credit eight week study group on a topic relevant to policy and development in the Middle East and North Africa.

The visiting scholar is required to be in residence for the semester and is expected to participate in Middle East Initiative activities and must be available to students throughout their time on campus. In some cases, visiting scholars may be asked to teach a course on campus. The program will provide the visiting scholar $5,000 a month and a housing allowance.

The deadline to apply for the fall 2019 position has passed. 

Student Resources

Current Students

The Middle East Initiative offers a variety of opportunities for students at Harvard Kennedy School. 

January Term Field Study Courses

Classroom-in-the-Field: Leadership and Social Transformation in the Arab World

How can societies move from poverty to prosperity? How can weak, stagnant, and dependent countries become strong, innovative, and influential? Does the answer lie in the transformation of cultural and religious norms? Does it require the adoption of institutions employed by “successful” societies? What is the role of leadership in effecting (or inhibiting) what needs to be done for states and their peoples to maximize their potential? Taught by Faculty Director Professor Tarek Masoud and supported by MEI, this for-credit module brings HKS students to the Arab Middle East to explore these questions.   

Eligibility: This course is open to HKS degree program students and fellows eligible to enroll in HKS classes. This course is not open for bidding and enrollment is limited. Information regarding the  January 2021 course is forthcoming. 

Middle East Field Study Course: Humanitarian Negotiations on the Frontlines

MEI supports an experiential field study course in the region each year taught by Prof.Claude Bruderlein(Harvard Humanitarian Initiative). The January 2020 course brought students to Lebanon and explored the larger response to the significant burden of war injury in the Middle East region, including Yemen, Syria, Libya and Iraq. Specifically, it examined the negotiation strategies involved in facilitating the access of war-affected civilians in need of reconstructive surgery.

This course aims to advance professional dialogue on complex humanitarian and political issues and to further exchanges between graduate students and practitioners in the field. Information regarding the  January 2021 course is forthcoming. 

Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy

MEI supports the student-run Harvard Journal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy (JMEPP), an online student-run policy journal, published at the Harvard Kennedy School. Founded in 2011, JMEPP is committed to presenting new perspectives on pressing problems, addressing complex issues with insightful analysis, and exploring emerging trends shaping the region. JMEPP's audience, composed of policymakers, academics, and more casual readers, is interested in policy writing that is forward-thinking, empirically grounded, and accessible. 

If you are passionate about writing, editing, and the Middle East, you may consider applying to join the JMEPP editorial team, or submit your original article manuscript (please refer to JMEPP's submission information page).  

Please email jmepp@hks.harvard.edu with questions regarding JMEPP or the application process.

Events

The Middle East Initiative organizes dozens of events each semester through its speaker series, book talk series, film series, forums, study groups and conferences. Sign up to receive emails about upcoming events here.

Research and Internship Funding

MEI offers funding to HKS students to conduct PAE, SYPA, and independent research, participate in field study courses, and to participate in summer internships in or on the Middle East and North Africa.

The next window for winter funding will open in October 2020 for winter 2020/2021. Please refer to the Harvard Kennedy School Winter Funding Common Application page for further details. 

Information on summer 2021 funding is forthcoming. Please refer to the Harvard Kennedy School Summer Funding Common Application page for further details.

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


Prospective Students

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. 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 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 Admissions 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.

  • Rawabi Fellowship for Leaders from Palestine - Established to support promising students from Palestine, with a preference for those students with demonstrated financial need. Ideally, fellowship recipients will use their knowledge, networks and expertise to improve opportunities for the people of Palestine.

  • 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. 



Featured Publications and Research


MEI Mosaic


MEI Research Series

2018

2017

2016

2015

2014

2013

2011


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.
 

 

Emirates Leadership Initiative Logo

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

 

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.

Applications for 2019 Summer Internship Funding are 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.

The Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School

About the Kuwait Program

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:

Celebrating 15 Years in 2017

Read the feature spread on 15 years of the Kuwait Program at HKS from the 2017 Mosaic below.


The Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholars Program

For: Senior Practitioners and Academics

Duration: One Semester (about four months)

Application Deadline: The deadline to apply for the fall 2019 position has passed. 


The Middle East Initiative hosts senior policymakers and academics to engage with students and faculty as a visiting scholar for one semester as part of the Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School. Applications from scholars working on contemporary issues of policy relevance to the Middle East, and the Arabian Gulf in particular, in the disciplines of political science, economics, history, and sociology are especially welcome. All visiting scholars are expected to either:

  • Conduct a research project preferably with a Harvard Kennedy School faculty member; or
  • Lead a not-for credit eight week study group on a topic relevant to policy and development in the Middle East and North Africa.

The visiting scholar is required to be in residence for the semester and is expected to participate in Middle East Initiative activities and must be available to students throughout their time on campus. In some cases, visiting scholars may be asked to teach a course on campus. The program will provide the visiting scholar $5,000 a month and a housing allowance.

The deadline to apply for the fall 2019 position has passed. 

Please submit inquiries to Julia Martin, Assistant Director for Research and Finance, Middle East Initiative, by email at: julia_martin@hks.harvard.edu.


Former Visiting Scholars

Mr. Hedi Larbi (2015-2016)

Former Minister Hedi Larbi was the 2015-2016 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar. Prior to his appointment at Harvard Kennedy School, he served as Advisor to the MENA Vice President at the World Bank, and from January 2014 to February 2015 served as both the Minister of Economic Infrastructure and Sustainable Development and the Economic Advisor to the Prime Minister in Tunisia. Mr. Larbi has over 35 years of professional experience in economic and social development as both a policy advisor and policy maker, with more than two decades of high level work in the World Bank Group, the private sector (in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa), and the Tunisian transition government.

At MEI, Mr. Larbi led a study group, Rewriting the Arab Social Contract: Toward Inclusive Development and Politics in the Arab World, that aimed to address the economic and social issues at the root of the Arab uprisings.

  • 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.


    Resources

    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.


    Calendar
    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

Prof. Michael C. Hudson (spring 2015)

Professor Michael C. Hudson was the spring 2015 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar and is the is the Seif Ghobash Professor of Arab Studies and International Affairs, Emeritus at Georgetown University. During his semester at MEI, he led a study group, Rethinking the Arab State: The Collapse of Legitimacy in Arab Politics, that featured Middle East experts from a variety of disciplines in an effort to re-examine the foundational concepts of legitimacy, the state, civil society, religion, and regional stability in the wake of the Arab uprisings.

  • 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.


    Resources

    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.


    Calendar

    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

Dr. Abbas Al-Mejren (fall 2014)

Dr. Abbas Al-Mejren was the fall 2014 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar and is a professor of economics at the College of Business Administration at Kuwait University. He is also an expert consultant to Kuwait's Ministry of Planning, Ministry of Commerce and Industry, and the Kuwait Industrial Bank. During his semester at MEI, he conducted research on assessing the development policies of oil rich, rentier states in the Gulf, as well as the application of the global standard indictors and criteria used to evaluate development policy success of these states.

Prof. Mohamad Al-Ississ (spring 2014)

Professor Mohamad Al-Ississ was the spring 2014 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar and is currently the Associate Dean of Administration, Undergraduate Studies, and Public Outreach at the School of Global Affairs and Public Policy and Assistant Professor in the School of Business at the American University in Cairo. During his semester at MEI, he engaged in research on the determinants of democracy preferences of people in the Middle East, examining how these preferences evolved after the Arab Spring when security collapsed and uncertainty increased. He also recorded lectures for the first massive open online course (MOOC) to be conducted entirely in Arabic as part of Edraak, an initiative of Harvard and MIT’s EdX and the Queen Rania Foundation.

Prof. Djavad Salehi-Isfahani (fall 2013)

Professor Djavad Salehi-Isfahani was the fall 2013 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar and is Professor of Economics at Virginia Tech and a non-resident Senior Fellow at The Brookings Institution. During his semester at MEI, he led a study group on The Politics and Economics of Transitions in the Middle East that sought to illuminate the challenges governments face when trying to stabilize their economies at a time when revolutions have raised expectations for redistribution and jobs.

  • 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.

    Calendar

    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

Prof. Ellis Goldberg (spring 2013)

Professor Ellis Goldberg was the spring 2013 Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar and is a professor in the Department of Political Science at the University of Washington. He specializes in the study of Middle Eastern Politics and was a Guggenheim Fellow at Princeton University in 2012. During his semester at MEI, Professor Goldberg taught "Politics of the Arab Spring," a course in the Democracy, Politics and Institutions (DPI) concentration at HKS.


The Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School is made possible through funding from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS).


Kuwait Visiting Research Fellowship

 

The Middle East Initiative hosts an academic from Kuwait each spring to either conduct a research project or lead a study group on a topic relevant to policy and development in the Middle East and North Africa. Priority will be given to applications pursuing one of these primary areas of focus: (1) economic development in the Gulf; (2) political reform in the Gulf; or (3) energy policy.

For: Researchers and faculty ranging from postdoctoral to the senior level. Applicants must be either a Kuwaiti national or currently residing in Kuwait.

Length: Appointments may vary in length for up to one semester (about 4 months)

Application Deadline: The deadline to apply for the spring 2021 Kuwait Visiting Research Fellowship has passed. Applications for this position are no longer being accepted at this time. 


As part of the Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School, the Middle East Initiative hosts one academic from Kuwait each spring to either conduct a research project or lead a not-for-credit study group on a topic relevant to public policy and development in the Middle East and North Africa.

Eligibility

Eligible candidates include researchers and faculty ranging from recent recipients of a Ph.D. or equivalent degree up to the senior level. Applicants must be either a Kuwaiti national or currently residing in Kuwait. We welcome applications from scholars working on contemporary issues of policy relevance in the fields of political science, economics, sociology, public policy, and other social sciences.

Priority will be given to applications pursuing one of these primary areas of focus:

  1. Economic Development in the Gulf: Economic development and structural diversification; Building a stronger private sector; attracting foreign investment and managing civil risks
  2. Political Reform in the Gulf: Regulatory and legal reform; Strategic planning and crisis analysis/control; Arab political reform
  3. Energy Policy: Externality impacts of energy development; renewable options

Expectations

The Kuwait Visiting Research Fellow is expected to either:

  • Lead a not-for-credit study group on a topic relevant to policy and development in the Middle East and North Africa

OR

  • Conduct a research project, preferably with a Harvard Kennedy School faculty member, to conclude in a 25-30 page Middle East Initiative Working Paper as well as a presentation

The Kuwait Visiting Research Fellow is also expected to be physically present at Harvard for the duration of the appointment, which may vary in length for up to one semester, and to participate in Middle East Initiative activities as appropriate.

Stipend Information

The Middle East Initiative will provide the Kuwait Visiting Research Fellow $7,500 per month for the duration of the appointment.

Application Requirements

The following application materials must be uploaded in .PDF format in the application portal:

  • CV/Resume
  • Study Group and/or Research Proposal (3-5 pages)
  • Writing Sample (less than 50 pages)
  • Names and contact information for three recommenders submitting letters on your behalf

Contact

For more information, contact Julia Martin, Assistant Director of the Middle East Initiative, at Julia_Martin@hks.harvard.edu.


The Kuwait Program at Harvard Kennedy School is made possible through funding from the Kuwait Foundation for the Advancement of Sciences (KFAS).

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