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Promoting democratic governance

Building universal social protection systems in the Arab region

Last week, the Arab Reform Initiative (ARI) and The Policy Initiative (TPI) organised a regional policy forum on ‘Building Universal Social Protection Systems in the Arab Region’ in Beirut Lebanon. This forum was organised within the framework of the Arab Region Hub for Social Protection, a consortium comprising think-tanks and independent media outlets, undertaking research and advocacy efforts to promote universal social protection systems in Lebanon, Egypt, Tunisia, Jordan, Morocco, Sudan, and Iraq.

Invited panellists and participants came from government bodies and international agencies responsible for social protection programming, alongside trade unionists and political activists, academic institutions, think tanks and media organisations.



The meeting focused on building links between communities of practice and wider stakeholders across the region to share ideas from other countries about expanding social protection in the region to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience in times of crises. The meeting explored different ideas for social protection systems and shared a joint declaration endorsed by the community of practice.

In conclusions, Sami Attallah, Founding Director at the Policy Initiative in Lebanon stated that the challenge is not only to present alternative policies. Existing policies have failed to build a society and a state. Narratives that weak social protection systems are the result of lack of money should be dismantled. Social protection should be discussed as a broader human rights issue.

In closing the meeting Nadim Houry from regional research and convening organisation the Arab Reform Initiative talked about the challenges facing researchers in moving from slogans to public policies, and how to move from proposals to implementation. Mr Houry pointed out that social protection was a slogan of the Arab spring – but that it has remained a slogan.

“There isn’t a true public debate in our region. In our region it remains a loose and vague slogan, we have talked about weak institutions, lack of genuine dialogue, key stakeholders not playing their roles. We have now started raising the right questions, there is a research agenda revealed from these two days, based on the priorities of communities and of our regions. We have high averages of refugees and IDPs, chronic political and economic issues – how can we translate this into something practical and concrete?”