Rule of Law in the Middle East

In partnership with the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office’s Arab Partnership Programme JST has inspired local leaders from across the Middle East to promote the rule of law and good governance in their societies through the implementation of 120 individual social action projects.

38% of projects included targeted training programmes.

Fellow’s Story: For many young people in Jordan, particularly in rural areas, politics and the rule of law are very distant concepts. Maha Oudat found that many students with whom she worked were unaware, for example, that women in Jordan were permitted to live alone - a right established by the constitution. Her JST Action Plan therefore titled ‘Know Your Constitution’ aimed at raising awareness and empowering young people to stand up for their rights. In 2014 she held a number of university training workshops, held a ‘Know Your Constitution’ open day, and published a ‘Know Your Constitution’ guidebook. Inspired by the Fellowship Maha has even introduced an ‘action plan’ component to her training – encouraging participants develop their own action plans to help other people.  

32% of projects contributed to or influenced policy reforms.

Fellow’s Story: Decades of war and conflict have left Lebanon divided and while there has been much progress towards peace and reconciliation, religious and ethnic tensions remain. Unsurprisingly, this fragile stability is threatened by the influx of Syrian refugees which Elias Diab primarily attributes to the pressure placed on public services and rising demand for social security. Believing that the best way to tackle the problem is to decentralise funds and strengthen local governance, Elias worked with the Ministry of Social Affairs to hold roundtable and town hall meetings with targeted municipalities in central and southern Lebanon, discussing the main issues that trigger conflicts and offering training to community leaders. As a result, locally owned conflict mitigation capacities and an “institutionalized” dialogue framework have been put in place between refugees and host communities.

31% of projects involved developing partnerships and networks to promote the Rule of Law at local and national levels.

Fellow’s Story: Successful implementation of the rule of law is at the heart of Iraq’s re-development agenda following the 2003 war but continues to be a challenge. In 2009 Haval Raoof initiated and led a project to develop a 10-year Rule of Law strategy for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. His JST Action Plan was to turn this strategy into government policy. Crediting the Fellowship with giving him the skills and confidence to move forward Haval has since gained support from the Executive and Judicial branches of the KRG, and is now one of 78 stakeholders working towards the strategy’s implementation. His aim is to increase citizens’ trust in institutions and encourage them to resolve problems peacefully by increasing community engagement of law enforcement officers and members of the judiciary.

20% Fellows have set up their own organisations or NGOs.

Fellow’s Story: Working as a doctor during the 2011 uprisings Mona Hejres witnessed first hand the gross rise in human rights violations and subsequent disintegration of medical standards based on political, sectarian and ideological beliefs. Compelled to act Mona developed a range of initiatives to protect the ethics of medical professionals and defend patients’ rights. Believing that the universal values of Human Rights could help rebuild unity amongst Bahrainis, Mona’s plan as a John Smith Trust Fellow was to establish “Together for Human Rights” - an NGO to campaign for human rights independent of political affiliation. By December 2014 Mona had succeeded and “Together for Human Rights” hosted the First General Conference on “Human Rights in the Countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC)” in collaboration with the International Gulf Organization for Human Rights. 

18% of projects have seen the launch of full-scale advocacy campaigns.

Fellow’s Story: One of the greatest challenges to the rule of law in any society is a lack of awareness of the law which can lead to legal infringements or people not being able to defend their rights legally. Seeing the lack of credible and reliable legal information available in Oman Maimuna Al-Sulaimani’s Action Plan was to establish the first bilingual legal magazine in the Gulf, called Law & Life, to raise awareness of the law. Just months after attending the programme Maimuna launched the first edition with a print run of 3000 copies and continues to be published once a month while Maimuna writes a weekly Law & Life column for English-speaking newspaper The Observer and organises monthly workshops on Rule of Law issues. Keen to reach as many people as possible Maimuna is now presenting her own weekly TV talk show, Rights Reserved, which is designed to raise legal awareness among the general public.

Click here for profiles and stories on all JST Middle East Fellows.