Ten years after the upheavals of the Arab Spring, many hopes have not been fulfilled. Changes in the countries concerned range from democratic awakening to the restoration of authoritarian regimes, open armed conflict and utter collapse. In view of these widely varying developments across the region, the Federal Foreign Office has thoroughly reviewed the funding programmes it established in 2012, Transformation Partnership with the Arab World and Scientific Partnerships with Transition Countries in North Africa / the Middle East, and has relaunched them as the Ta’ziz Partnership for Democracy. The Arabic word “Ta’ziz” means strength or consolidation, and draws attention to the core aim of the project – strengthening democratic reforms and structures.
Reorientation as the Ta’ziz Partnership
The Federal Foreign Office is continuing its support for democracy, good governance and the rule of law in the region under the banner of the Ta’ziz Partnership. The focus is more strongly on countries in which democratic transition processes are actively underway.
In places where there is no political will for democratic and rule-of-law reforms, German support will continue to focus on young civil society stakeholders and enhancing their networks. That will in future be achieved in part by awarding scholarships and primarily through scientific partnerships, which will remain widespread throughout the region as the cultural relations and education policy pillar of the Ta’ziz Partnership.
With the second pillar of the partnership, we intend to offer direct support for reforms that help consolidate democracy. This pillar will focus on civil society, the media and the individual governments. Our support is conditional on the existence of institutions that are democratically legitimated and/or on the holding of free and fair elections in the foreseeable future. It must also be possible to cooperate with governmental and civil society actors.
Partner countries for Ta’ziz second pillar projects are Tunisia, the Sudan, Lebanon and Iraq. The Sudan is a new partner following the latest political developments in the country. In all four countries, we aim to make a tangible contribution to strengthening areas of political participation, rule-of-law structures and good governance. The list of partner countries is under constant review.
Flexible, political and multifaceted
Despite shared cultural factors, there is a very wide range of historical, political and socio-economic conditions in the four partner countries. Because conditions vary so much, the Ta’ziz Partnership is designed to support a very wide range of projects and partner institutions – from strengthening the cultural sector to opening new forums for civil society participation. The focus is on civil society stakeholders. This varied approach will also enable us to respond flexibly to political, economic or social change in the partner countries. The long-term aim is for Ta’ziz Partnership projects to be put on a more permanent basis, for example by passing into local ownership and being continued by government or civil society stakeholders, or by being followed up under the framework of development cooperation. More information on the Ta’ziz Partnership funding programmes can be found at the end of this article.
Four partner countries, a wide range of projects
Examples from Tunisia, Lebanon and Iraq illustrate the wide range of projects:
Tunisia: A culture of debate
Since 2019, the Federal Foreign Office has supported the project “Tunisia Decides 2019”, run by the Munathara Initiative, a non-governmental organisation. It was thanks to this project that election debates were broadcast live for the first time ever in Tunisia during the parliamentary and presidential election campaigns. The follow-up project, “Debating our Destiny”, is designed to anchor a culture of debate in society, especially among the younger generation. In addition to broadcasting the TV debates, interactive participation by the public is being fostered by means of an online platform and a training programme about civic participation at local level. Projects to promote spaces for discussion are also underway in other countries of the region.
Lebanon: Culture and entrepreneurship
The Arts and Culture Entrepreneurship Training project run by the Lebanon-based Arab Fund for Arts and Culture (AFAC) is all about culture and entrepreneurship. The project funds up-and-coming cultural institutions in the Middle East to whom no public funding is available. It organises workshops, in which participants learn about ideas, concepts and options for sustainable cultural management. The aim is to support cultural institutions as a key part of civil society through further training programmes and individual mentoring, to develop networks as well as sustainable and business-oriented structures, which will enable the long-term financing of their cultural work. The focus is on entrepreneurial thinking, business models and communication strategies, as well as fundraising and donor relations.
In addition, the Federal Foreign Office also supports the Lebanon Solidarity Fund for the Arts and Cultural Community in Beirut, which was quickly established by the AFAC after the explosions in the port of Beirut in August 2020. This fund has provided help to 24 cultural organisations and 206 culture professionals whose work was directly affected by the explosion.
Iraq: Culture for equality and change
Building on the success of the writing and storytelling workshops for women in Iraq, opened in 2019 as part of a project run by the NGO elbarlament, in 2020 female Iraqi artists and students were trained as filmmakers as part of the project “Self-determined. Women make Film”. The four films produced in this context on women, peace and security and everyday life in Iraq were shown to the public at an online film festival in November 2020 and at the “Women’s Night In” on 27 November 2020. This year’s project, on female artists as witnesses of social change, is designed to enhance the skills of young women from all over the country and from all ethnic and religious groups in the fields of film, multimedia, theatre, visual arts, music and literature. The aim is to give women more self-confidence and new opportunities for social participation.