Invitation: No Progress on the Social Front: Struggles over Social Justice in MENA

Tunis, 17 – 18 March / Zoom

Hotel Laico Tunis, Human Rights Square, 1001 Av. Mohamed 5, Tunis 1001 / Online


Socioeconomic grievances were a main driver of the Arab uprisings in 2011 and of many mass protests in the region ever since. Yet, while the socioeconomic situation did not improve and even severely deteriorated in the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, past and recent changes in economic and social policies have not received much attention. If a debate about socioeconomic reforms takes place at all, it is dominated by rather technocratic perspectives.

In contrast, we contend that socioeconomic policies are deeply political, embedded in domestic and international power relations, and likely to fuel societal conflicts. The conference “No progress on the Social Front: Struggles over Social Justice in the MENA” therefore brings together scholars, practitioners and activists from the region and beyond to discuss how domestic and external actors have dealt with the socioeconomic challenges since 2011. Which reforms have been pursued, which effects did reform policies have and which conflicts among political, economic and social stakeholders did they create? And what are the consequences of the ongoing struggles over social justice for political change in the MENA region?

Three panels, two keynote addresses by Isabel Ortiz (Director of the Global Social Justice Program at Joseph Stiglitz’s Initiative for Policy Dialogue of Columbia University) and Prof Gilbert Achcar (SOAS, London) and a roundtable discussion will tackle these questions with a focus on:

1) the interplay of the domestic and the external level: IMF reforms in the region

2) social inequality and social activism: from 2011 to a post-Covid MENA

3) social justice and democratization: socioeconomic explanations for the political crisis in Tunisia


Please find the detailed program in the attachment.

We would be delighted if you joined our conference either in presence in Tunis on 17 and 18 March 2022 or via Zoom: https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZElcu6qqD8sH9WeTS05A610ZsPS_WqsDSBQ

Please register at samira.ghazouani@fes.de until 16 March 2022


The conference builds on the work of two research projects. You can find more information and publications on the projects’ websites.

PRIF and the University of Sfax gratefully acknowledge the financial support of the Volkswagen Foundation for their research and the organization of this conference.


We believe that the coming years will be crucial in many regards, such as social (in)equality, social protection and the fiscal space for investment and development. We therefore hope to stimulate a fruitful exchange and enlarge networks between experts and activists in the field of social justice in the MENA to provide a critical view on new and old reform policies and their impact on the everyday lives of people in the region.

back to top