A new four-year AHRC-funded project, which aims to shift analysis about conflict prevention in the Middle East and North Africa by drawing in social protection as a key issue, has launched.

Funded through the government’s flagship Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), the project aims to draw together academics and practitioners from different disciplines in the UK with international colleagues in order to recast discussions about conflict prevention, social protection and state development.

Led by the MENA Social Policy Network at the University of Bath with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) (UK), international project partners span the MENA region and beyond, from Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, Lebanon and Algeria, as well as the USA, South Africa and Brazil.

The work is led by international expert in the social policies and welfare systems of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, Dr Rana Jawad from the University of Bath’s Department of Social & Policy Sciences. Rana’s previous research has focused on the often-neglected issue of fledgling social policies and welfare systems within the region and the impacts this is having on individuals living there.

Her specific focus has been on Arabic MENA countries and the role of religion as an influential actor on social policy. In 2012, Rana established the MENASP (Social Policy) network in order to connect scholars working in this area and to give more visibility to this marginal area of research.

Commenting from Bath, she explained: “Having avoided the study of conflict in the Middle East for my entire career – believing that social policy matters in its own right – I am honoured to work with a range of colleagues from within and outside of my subject field and region of study to embark on an area of work that is most plain in its intuitive appeal to scholarship and policy making. Ultimately this is about understanding how the core concepts of social policy (social welfare and social cohesion) can promote peaceful and just societies.”

In addition to building the academic community around this theme through networks including MENASP, Rana and the team will work to reach new policy audiences within the MENA region and internationally with their analysis and findings over the course of the project.

Other researchers from Bath involved include: Professor Timo Kivimäki (PoLIS), Dr Wali Aslam (PoLIS), Professor Joe Devine (HoD, SPS), Professor Rachel Forrester-Jones (CASP / SPS) and Dr Oliver Walton (SPS).

Professor Louise Brown, Associate Dean (International) for the Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, added: "This important project led by Dr Jawad not only draws together key research themes from across our Faculty of Humanities & Social, in particular in Social & Policy Sciences and PoLIS, but also our international partners across the MENA region and beyond. I'm really excited to see the contributions and impact these collaborations will bring to long-standing, international policy challenges."

Project Partners:

American University in Cairo, Egypt · Arab Renaissance for Democracy and Development (ARDD), Jordan · Centre for Poverty Analysis, Sri Lanka · Centre for Social Development in Africa (CSDA), South Africa · Friends of the British Council USA Inc., United States · International Policy Centre for Inclusive Growth, Brazil · Issam Fares Institute, American University of Beirut, Lebanon · Mohammed V University, Morocco · Research Center in Applied Economics for Development (CREAD), Algeria · Yarmouk University, Jordan · UNDP Regional Office for Arab States, Jordan