In the Middle East and North Africa region, the Heinrich Böll Foundation maintains offices in Beirut, Ramallah, Tel Aviv and Tunis, and there are co-operation projects in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Palestine, Jordan, Israel, Egypt, and Tunisia. Our Iran activities are coordinated from Berlin.
Main topics of our work in the region are, among others, the consequences of the political changes that have occurred since 2011 – with a special focus on political, social, and environmental participation, gender democracy, and the role of political Islam. A new regional focus will be the democratic governance of natural resources. In addition, exchange and dialogue between Europe, the southern Mediterranean area, and the Middle East are part of our programmes. A further issue we address is concepts of citizenship against the background of ethno-religious divisions. A specific focus area for our Israel office is German-Israeli relations in the context of German history and the special relationship between the two countries.
Mohamed Bouazizi’s self-immolation on 17 December 2010 is regarded as the event that triggered first the Jasmine Revolution and subsequently the so-called “Arab Spring.” The consequence were uprisings in Egypt, Libya, Bahrain, and Syria, with Cairo’s Tahrir Square as the symbol of revolt and a new awakening. Here, a new generation found its voice, and its struggles inspired the fight for freedom, democracy, and participation all over the world.
After the overthrow of Ben Ali, Mubarak, Gaddafi, and Saleh the countries in question are faced with the challenge of having to rebuild their crumbling structures under changed conditions and to handle the transformation towards democracy. While in Syria the struggle for democracy and freedom has escalated into armed conflict, the respective governments in Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, and Yemen increasingly face demands that the revolutionary principles of political participation, human rights, and social justice be implemented. What will be the content of the new constitutions? What will be the positions of the new political elites within the region and the wider world? And, above all, will they be able to bring about forms of development that meet standards of social and economic justice?
Within the manifold dynamics and processes of political change in the region the Heinrich Böll Foundation defines itself as a facilitator. We support civil-society groups and initiatives that, from a “green” point of view, engage in the promotion of
In order to step up these activities in the context of the Arab Spring, the Foundation has opened a new office in North Africa. Our Tunis office is active in Tunisia and Egypt, thus taking into account the region’s growing importance as a scene of political change as well as its neighborhood to Europe. In 2014, to widen the scope of our Middle East and North Africa programmes, a further office will open in Morocco.
Israel and Palestine do play a special role within the region. Within Israel the recent changes in the region are viewed with empathy for those seeking freedom – but also with apprehension regarding Israel’s security and the safety of its borders with Egypt and Syria. At the same time, Israeli-Palestinian negotiations have struck a dead end. On the West Bank, colonisation and the construction of settlements still proceed and the blockade of the Gaza Strip continues. Domestically, ultra-orthodox forces are on the rise, putting human rights and peace organisations on the defensive.
The Foundation organises its programmes around long-term co-operations with partner organisations in the respective countries. However, in case of rapid changes we are flexible enough to quickly organise relevant events and publications.