The U.S. Institute of Peace established the Middle East North Africa Center (MENA) to prevent, mitigate, and resolve violent conflicts in the area stretching from Iran to Morocco by engaging directly in conflicts zones, providing policy analysis to the U.S. government and resources to those working for peace in this region.  To do this, our experts engage local, national, and regional actors in participatory processes that promote sustainable peace.

Within this wide region, the MENA Center has programs on:

  • The Middle East: Our MENA Middle East program focuses primarily on Iraq and Syria, where we work to promote reconciliation and social cohesion by engaging religious, civic, and tribal leaders in action-oriented dialogues.
  • North Africa: MENA’s North Africa program focuses on TunisiaLibya, and Egypt, where we work to strengthen the rule of law and promote non-violent conflict resolution through facilitation and mediation in country-specific dialogue projects.
  • The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict: The MENA Center works to inform policy, bridge divides, strengthen Palestinian institutions, and prepare the ground for peace in the Israeli-Palestinian and broader Arab-Israeli arena. We serve as a trusted convener to inform policy considerations and approaches, support inclusive dialogue between religious and ideological communities, foster trust-building and cooperation between Israeli and Palestinian institutions, and strengthen grassroots capacity to create an environment conducive to a sustainable Israeli-Palestinian and Arab-Israeli peace.
  • MENA’s Iran program runs The Iran Primer, which provides original articles, analysis, data, timelines, policy statements and other resources on Iran’s politics, economy, military, foreign policy, and nuclear program on a website co-hosted with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars.
  • In partnership with the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, MENA’s Islamist program focuses on the origins, evolution, and positions of Islamist movements in the Middle East. These movements are redefining the order and borders in the world’s most volatile region, yet they have diverse goals and different constituencies that sometimes rival each other. 

Currents Projects

The Islamists

The Islamists

In 2012, USIP and the Woodrow Wilson Center published “The Islamists are Coming: Who They Really Are”—an original book and regularly updated website—to provide information and analysis about the diverse spectrum of Islamist political movements; from peaceful groups to jihadi extremists.

The Iran Primer

The Iran Primer

In 2010, USIP and the Woodrow Wilson Center launched “The Iran Primer”—an original book and regularly updated website—to provide resources and education about Iran, which has been one of the thorniest foreign policy issues for the United States since 1979. The website continues to cover Iran’s domestic politics and foreign relations, the economy, the military, its nuclear and missile programs, and U.S. policy. The project’s goal is to help develop a better understanding of the challenges Iran poses and reduce the likelihood of violent conflict. Featuring book chapters and articles by more than 80 leading experts from 20 think tanks, eight universities, and six U.S. administrations, it has become the world’s most comprehensive source for data and analysis on the Islamic Republic of Iran.

Alliance of Tunisian Facilitators (ATF)

Alliance of Tunisian Facilitators (ATF)

Despite the degree of stability that Tunisia has achieved since its 2011 revolution, there are still obstacles to democratic consolidation, as well as unaddressed issues that threaten social and political stability—such as growing economic disparities, deepening mistrust between civil society and the government, weak local governments, and the difficult process of achieving meaningful institutional reforms.

Democracy & Governance; Fragility & Resilience; Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Violent Extremism; Youth

Community-Based Dialogues for Reconciliation in Libya

Community-Based Dialogues for Reconciliation in Libya

Through the Community-Based Dialogues for Reconciliation project in Libya, USIP has built the capacity of local leaders in conflict analysis, transitional justice, and dialogue facilitation. USIP is now mentoring these individuals, who are from three conflict-affected areas in Libya—Sebha, Ubari, and Nalut-Siyaan—through the process of implementing community dialogues. The goal of this project, which is funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, is to build trust between these fractured communities, ultimately resulting in increased social cohesion and longterm, sustainable reconciliation and peace. The project began in October 2018 and will conclude in April 2021.

Mediation, Negotiation & Dialogue; Reconciliation

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Featured Publications

How to Pull Lebanon out of its Torturous Fall

How to Pull Lebanon out of its Torturous Fall

Thursday, August 5, 2021

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun

A year after the horrific Beirut port explosion on August 4, 2020, the legal pursuit of justice and accountability is proving pointless. Little to no progress has been made, due to how deeply embedded corruption is in the country’s political and business structures. The upcoming legislative elections next year could be an opportunity to set the country on a reform track — but only if they are managed by an independent body under international supervision.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Fragility & Resilience

The Living Legacy of the Arab Uprisings

The Living Legacy of the Arab Uprisings

Tuesday, August 3, 2021

By: Ellen Laipson; Mona Yacoubian

A decade after the popular uprisings that dramatically swept the Arab world in 2011, the debate continues about their impact, meaning and ultimate value in understanding contemporary Arab politics and culture. When Egypt reverted to strongman rule with Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi's coup in 2013, and as the civil wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen dragged on with no sign of resolution in recent years, many concluded that the “Arab Spring” was an ephemeral and failed experiment in political change. The dramatic democratic backsliding in Tunisia, where President Kais Saied suspended parliament and dismissed the prime minister in what many critics and observers have described as a coup, could only add to that conclusion, as Tunisia was often considered the Arab Spring's only "success story."

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

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