Dr. Elie Abouaoun is the director of Middle East and North Africa Programs, based in USIP's Regional Hub in Tunis, Tunisia. Dr. Abouaoun joined USIP after serving as the executive director of the Arab Human Rights Fund. Prior to this, he was the acting country director and program manager of the Danish Refugee Council in Iraq. Elie spent time working as the program coordinator for Ockenden International – Iraq, and before this, within the Lebanese NGO Arcenciel, he was the director of external relations.

Dr. Abouaoun served as a senior trainer and consultant for various international organizations since 1996, including the Council of Europe since 2000. In 2001, he was appointed a member of the Reference Group, established by the Directorate of Education-Council of Europe, to supervise the drafting of COMPASS, a manual for human rights education. He later supervised the manual's adaptation and translation into Arabic to be distributed throughout the Arab region in 2003.

Dr. Abouaoun is a visiting lecturer at Notre Dame University-Lebanon and Saint Joseph University-Lebanon on the subjects of human rights, civil society, advocacy and citizenship. He regularly contributes to publications throughout the MENA region and the United States, while serving on the board of directors for several regional organizations. 

Dr. Abouaoun holds a Master of Business Administration and Management and is a Doctor of Dental Surgery.

Publications By Elie

The Beirut Blast Has Yet to Spark Political Reform

The Beirut Blast Has Yet to Spark Political Reform

Thursday, October 15, 2020

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun; Osama Gharizi

Over two months later, there are still more questions than answers regarding the Beirut explosion that killed over 200 people and damaged large swaths of Lebanon’s capital city. Meanwhile, the fallout from the explosion has forced the resignation of Lebanon’s government, which had already been under fire after months of protests over corruption and a deteriorating economy. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Osama Gharizi look at where the blast investigation stands, what’s holding up the formation of a new government, and what a new outbreak of COVID-19 means for Lebanon.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance; Global Health

Iraq One Year After its Seismic Protests Began

Iraq One Year After its Seismic Protests Began

Thursday, October 15, 2020

By: Sarhang Hamasaeed; Dr. Elie Abouaoun

Iraqis hit the streets in unprecedented numbers last October, calling for political and economic reforms, greater job opportunities for youth, and better government services. In the year since, the country has been rocked by a number of developments, including growing U.S.-Iran tensions playing out on Iraqi soil, the COVID pandemic, and increasing citizen disenchantment with the country’s political system and its sectarian foundation. USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed and Elie Abouaoun look at where Iraq’s protest movement stands today, the economic impact of COVID, the prime minister’s call for early elections, and U.S.-Iraq relations.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

After Beirut Blast, What’s Next for Lebanon’s Broken Political System?

After Beirut Blast, What’s Next for Lebanon’s Broken Political System?

Friday, August 7, 2020

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun; Mona Yacoubian

A massive explosion ripped through the Port of Beirut on August 4, sending shockwaves through the Lebanese capital, killing approximately 200, injuring thousands, and leaving upwards of 300,000 homeless. This comes with Lebanon already on the brink of economic collapse, struggling to address a COVID outbreak, and as the trust gap between citizens and the state is wider than ever. Although in the immediate aftermath of the explosion some suggested Lebanon had been attacked, the cause of the explosion is likely much more banal: government negligence resulted in thousands of pounds of explosive chemical material to be improperly stored in the port for years. USIP’s Elie Abouaoun and Mona Yacoubian examine what this means for Lebanon’s beleaguered political system, the long-term implications for the country, and how the international community has responded so far.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Democracy & Governance

Threat to Kakai Community Poses Broader Challenges for Iraq’s Democracy

Threat to Kakai Community Poses Broader Challenges for Iraq’s Democracy

Monday, July 27, 2020

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun; Yousif Kalian

Amid the global pandemic, ISIS and the havoc it still wreaks have largely fallen out of the headlines. Nonetheless, the terrorist group’s genocidal march against Iraqi minorities has continued. In Iraq’s eastern Diyala province, ISIS has targeted the Kakai minority with multiple, vicious attacks. The plight of the Kakai community in Iraq is a microcosm of the larger existential challenges Iraq faces. Ethnic and sectarian divides have been a flashpoint for conflict and division for decades. For Iraq to move past the wreckage of ISIS, prevent the terrorist group’s resurgence, and advance its struggling democracy, the Kakai must not only be protected but woven more meaningfully into the diverse tapestry that is Iraq—and the United States has the opportunity to help.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Reconciliation; Human Rights

The Implications of the Assassination of Husham al-Hashimi

The Implications of the Assassination of Husham al-Hashimi

Thursday, July 16, 2020

By: Dr. Elie Abouaoun

The assassination of our colleague and friend Husham al-Hashimi by unidentified gunmen in Iraq comes as a shock to those who knew him, and to those who did not. Not because assassinations in Iraq are unfamiliar, but rather for other reasons, the most important being Husham’s personality, his experience, ethics, and dedication to the cause of peace in his country; also because of the optimism felt by many after Mustafa al-Kadhimi took over as prime minister and the measures he undertook.

Type: Analysis and Commentary

Violent Extremism

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