Special Issue "The Fragility-Grievances-Conflict Triangle in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA)"

A special issue of Social Sciences (ISSN 2076-0760).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 September 2021) | Viewed by 15755

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A printed edition of this Special Issue is available here.

Special Issue Editors

Prof. Dr. Timo Kivimaki
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
1. Department of Politics, Languages and International Studies, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK
2. Senior Non-Resident Fellow, Sejong Institute, Seongnam 06579, Korea
Interests: conflicts; conflict resolution; conflict escalation; war; peace research; military interventions; state fragility and its effect on conflict, organised violence
Dr. Rana Jawad
E-Mail Website
Guest Editor
Department of Social & Policy Sciences, University of Bath, Bath BA2 7AY, UK
Interests: development policy in the MENA region; welfare theory and ethics

Special Issue Information

Dear colleagues,

This Special Issue looks at the conceptual, theoretical and causal/constitutive interaction between state fragility and conflict as well as between state fragility and lack of human development. It will focus on the MENA region, paying particular attention to the role of social policies and the political contexts that underpins them.

An introductory article of the Special Issue will show that state fragility in the MENA region predicts developmental grievances and violence as it does in the rest of the world. However, the MENA region is unique as its problems have become more internationalised and the region is intervened militarily by outsiders more than other regions. Conflict and developmental grievances in the MENA region are much more related to problems of political legitimacy than in the rest of the world. The impact of economic reliance on commodity and raw material trade is also much more complicated in the MENA region than in the rest of the world. This Special Issue will consist of articles focused on different aspects of these generic or MENA-specific factors in the fragility–grievance–conflict triangle.

The call for papers to this Special Issue aims at attracting theoretical and empirical studies that focus on the complex relationship between, on one hand, states’ institutional capacity and resources (including the felt social, economic and political injustices and lack of public services in the MENA) and, on the other, grievances and conflict. The aim is also to attract papers that focus on policies to remedy the social and political problems of the MENA region related to the triangle of fragility, grievance and conflict.

Prof. Dr. Timo Kivimaki
Dr. Rana Jawad
Guest Editors

Manuscript Submission Information

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Keywords

  • State fragility
  • Conflict
  • Human development
  • Social protection
  • Grievances
  • State Fragility Index
  • Human Development Index
  • Battle Deaths
  • Social policy
  • Social justice

Published Papers (10 papers)

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Editorial

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Editorial
The Fragility–Grievances–Conflict Triangle in the MENA Region: Conclusions of the Special Issue
Soc. Sci. 2022, 11(3), 92; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11030092 - 22 Feb 2022
Viewed by 806
Abstract
Several problems related to violence, grievances and states’ lack of legitimacy and capacity to manage economic, social and political issues are clustered together as a lump of misery in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) [...] Full article

Research

Jump to: Editorial

Article
Subsidy Reform and the Transformation of Social Contracts: The Cases of Egypt, Iran and Morocco
Soc. Sci. 2022, 11(2), 85; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11020085 - 21 Feb 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1432
Abstract
After independence, subsidies have been a cornerstone of the social contracts in the Middle East and North Africa. Governments spent heavily to reduce poverty and strengthen their legitimacy. Yet, subsidies became financially unsustainable and donors pressed for reforms. This article assesses reform processes [...] Read more.
After independence, subsidies have been a cornerstone of the social contracts in the Middle East and North Africa. Governments spent heavily to reduce poverty and strengthen their legitimacy. Yet, subsidies became financially unsustainable and donors pressed for reforms. This article assesses reform processes in Morocco, Egypt and Iran between 2010 and 2017, thus before sanctions against Iran were further tightened and before the COVID-19 pandemic. We show that even though the three countries had similar approaches to subsidisation, they have used distinct strategies to reduce subsidies and minimise social unrest—with the effect that their respective social contracts developed differently. Morocco tried to preserve its social contract as much as possible; it removed most subsidies, explained the need for reform, engaged in societal dialogue and implemented some compensatory measures, preserving most of its prevailing social contract. Egypt, in contrast, dismantled subsidy schemes more radically, without systematic information and consultation campaigns and offered limited compensation. By using repression and a narrative of collective security, the government transformed the social contract from a provision to a protection pact. Iran replaced subsidies with a more cost-efficient and egalitarian quasi-universal cash transfer scheme, paving the way to a more inclusive social contract. We conclude that the approach that governments used to reform subsidies transformed social contracts in fundamentally different ways and we hypothesize on the degree of intentionality of these differences. Full article
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Article
Political Fragility and the Timing of Conflict Mediation
Soc. Sci. 2022, 11(2), 76; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci11020076 - 15 Feb 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 680
Abstract
In recent years, much of the public discourse regarding conflict in the Middle East has pondered the possibility of military intervention, but far less attention has been paid to the optimal mechanisms for conflict mediation. There remains considerable confusion in the study of [...] Read more.
In recent years, much of the public discourse regarding conflict in the Middle East has pondered the possibility of military intervention, but far less attention has been paid to the optimal mechanisms for conflict mediation. There remains considerable confusion in the study of conflict resolution about how to locate the right time, or ‘ripe moment’ for this type of third-party involvement. This is a crucial area of policy relevant research. When attempting to model ripeness, most of the literature has relied on expected utility models of decision-making and found that crucial but nebulous factors that are important in the MENA region, such as conflicting parties’ psychology, religious and political beliefs, as well as grievances compounded over time, cannot easily be incorporated into the framework. This paper offers a plausibility probe to highlight the potential of an augmented approach. Using Poliheuristic (PH) Theory that reflects the non-compensatory nature of political risk, it creates a litmus test for third-party mediation based not on what conflicting parties aim to achieve, but what outcomes and processes they must avoid. The result is a relatively simple identification of ‘bad’ timing, as well as theory-informed mechanisms designed to help practitioners generate better conditions for mediation. This probe contributes to our understanding of the relationship between political fragility and conflict in the MENA region by indicating how political fragility might be conceptualized as a process that can be mapped and perhaps interrupted. Full article
Article
Service Delivery, State Legitimacy and Conflict in Arab Countries: Exploring the Key Linkages Using a Social Policy Perspective
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(12), 481; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10120481 - 16 Dec 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 973
Abstract
This paper addresses the question of how service delivery (SD) affects state legitimacy (SL) and conflict (C) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, drawing particularly on frameworks that move beyond a state-centric approach. Focusing on the majority-Arab countries of MENA, [...] Read more.
This paper addresses the question of how service delivery (SD) affects state legitimacy (SL) and conflict (C) in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, drawing particularly on frameworks that move beyond a state-centric approach. Focusing on the majority-Arab countries of MENA, the paper aims to: (1) offer a preliminary explanation of the distinctiveness of this region in light of some of the main findings of the introductory paper by the lead guest editor Timo Kivimäki and (2) explore the potential of a social policy perspective in explaining the relationship between SD, SL and C. This is achieved by combining research insights acquired through extensive qualitative social policy research in the MENA region with a re-reading of the existing literature on SD, SL and C. To support a comprehensive re-examination of the issues at hand, the paper also draws on the 5th Wave of the Arab Barometer micro-level survey (ABS) on Arab citizen perceptions of socio-economic conditions in their countries and macro-level social welfare expenditure data from the World Bank World Development Indicators (WDI). By bringing insights from the social policy literature on the MENA region into conversation with broader research on the relationship between SD, SL and C, we identify several distinctive features of service delivery in the MENA context and examine their implications for state legitimacy and conflict. Full article
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Article
State Fragility, Social Contracts and the Role of Social Protection: Perspectives from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Region
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(12), 447; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10120447 - 23 Nov 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1006
Abstract
Social contracts and state fragility represent two sides of one coin. The former concept highlights that governments need to deliver three “Ps”—protection, provision, and political participation—to be acceptable for societies, whereas the latter argues that states can fail due [...] Read more.
Social contracts and state fragility represent two sides of one coin. The former concept highlights that governments need to deliver three “Ps”—protection, provision, and political participation—to be acceptable for societies, whereas the latter argues that states can fail due to lack of authority (inhibiting protection), capacity (inhibiting provision), or legitimacy. Defunct social contracts often lead to popular unrest. Using empirical evidence from the Middle East and North Africa, we demonstrate how different notions of state fragility lead to different kinds of grievances and how they can be remedied by measures of social protection. Social protection is always a key element of government provision and hence a cornerstone of all social contracts. It can most easily counteract grievances that were triggered by decreasing provision (e.g., after subsidy reforms in Iran and Morocco) but also partially substitute for deficient protection (e.g., by the Palestinian National Authority, in pre-2011 Yemen) or participation (information campaign accompanying Moroccan subsidy cut; participatory set-ups for cash-for-work programmes in Jordan). It can even help maintain a minimum of state–society relations in states defunct in all three Ps (e.g., Yemen). Hence, social protection can be a powerful instrument to reduce state fragility and mend social contracts. Yet, to be effective, it needs to address grievances in an inclusive, rule-based, and non-discriminatory way. In addition, to gain legitimacy, governments should assume responsibility over social protection instead of outsourcing it to foreign donors. Full article
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Article
The (Semi) State’s Fragility: Hamas, Clannism, and Legitimacy
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(11), 437; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10110437 - 18 Nov 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1230
Abstract
This article shall ask how Hamas, as a non-state actor, negotiated legitimacy with the clans in a fragmented and factionalized tribal society in the Gaza Strip from 2007–2011. An important factor that shapes the extent of power of rebels and non-state actors in [...] Read more.
This article shall ask how Hamas, as a non-state actor, negotiated legitimacy with the clans in a fragmented and factionalized tribal society in the Gaza Strip from 2007–2011. An important factor that shapes the extent of power of rebels and non-state actors in limited statehood areas (LSA) pertains to the negotiation of power these rebels develop with clans in certain areas or times. Rebel governance is a complex and multidimensional concept shaped by the pre-existing particularity of the rebel, its identity, level of factionalism, the former structure of administration, and the extant political institutions. This paper will discuss Hamas as a contemporary case of rebel governance in war and post-war times, which has resulted in a special case of fragile governance. Based on ethnographic research on Hamas and insights from political theories of identity and governance, this paper suggest that tribal factionalism led to violence and played a major role in shaping the governance structure and mechanisms through political affiliation, informal judicial mechanisms, and as a part of the social network which resists government authority. This paper shall propose that Hamas used two paths of negotiations with clans: a coercive power (violent), and by mobilizing individuals of these clans and families as part of the informal judicial system (U’rf). This research aims to contribute to the understanding of rebel governance in general, and Hamas in particular, showing how struggle over legitimacy is shaped and negotiated, and why Hamas could be considered a special case in the study of rebel governance. Full article
Article
Fragmentation and Grievances as Fuel for Violent Extremism: The Case of Abu Musa’ab Al-Zarqawi
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(10), 375; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10100375 - 07 Oct 2021
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 1279
Abstract
Violent extremism naturally benefits from any state of fragmentation. This article focuses on Iraq in a period of a staggering rise in terrorist attacks that started with “operation Iraqi Freedom.” The rhetoric of Abu Musa’ab Al-Zarqawi is used as a case study. Analyzing [...] Read more.
Violent extremism naturally benefits from any state of fragmentation. This article focuses on Iraq in a period of a staggering rise in terrorist attacks that started with “operation Iraqi Freedom.” The rhetoric of Abu Musa’ab Al-Zarqawi is used as a case study. Analyzing his statements between 2003 and 2006 shows his weaponization of the concepts of out-groups and threat; it is shown to have a temporaneous association between the escalating violence and successful mobilization. This highlights the saliency of these concepts, the crucial role of Iraq’s Sunni Arabs’ grievances, and the resulting societal fragmentations, which all play in Zarqawi’s efforts to mobilize his in-group. The use of Social Identity Theory and Integrated Threat Theory outlines Zarqawi’s rhetorical strategies in portraying his enemies, and therefore, exposes the rhetorical justifications behind his violent extremism. Results show, temporally, prominent implementation of out-group/threat in the rhetoric, the different out-groups in question, and the types of threats portrayed. In addition, this article concretely shows the effect of the allied forces/Iraqi government’s policies in fortifying Zarqawi’s rhetoric by way of adopting hostile and discriminatory measures against Sunni Arabs. This article also shows an undeniable dialectical relationship between societal fragmentation/grievances and violent-extremist rhetoric and returns the question to policy makers. Full article
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Article
Determinants of the Arab Spring Protests in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya: What Have We Learned?
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(8), 282; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10080282 - 23 Jul 2021
Cited by 5 | Viewed by 3208
Abstract
This paper provides empirical evidence on the determinants of protest participation in Arab Spring countries that witnessed major uprisings and in which social unrest was most pronounced. Namely, this paper investigates the latter in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya using a micro-level data survey, [...] Read more.
This paper provides empirical evidence on the determinants of protest participation in Arab Spring countries that witnessed major uprisings and in which social unrest was most pronounced. Namely, this paper investigates the latter in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya using a micro-level data survey, the Arab Transformation Survey (2015). The findings of our probit regression analysis reveal that gender, trust in government, corruption concern, and social media usage have influenced the individual’s perception of protest activism. We find evidence that the role of economic factors was inconsistent, whereas political grievances were more clearly related to the motive to participate in the uprisings. We then control for country-specific effects whereby results show that citizens in each country showed different characteristics of participation. The findings of this research would set the ground for governments to better assess the health of their societies and be a model of governance in the Middle East. Full article
Article
Social Security Enrollment as an Indicator of State Fragility and Legitimacy: A Field Experiment in Maghreb Countries
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(7), 266; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10070266 - 09 Jul 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1759
Abstract
State legitimacy and effectiveness can be observed in the state’s approach to delivering welfare to citizens, thus mitigating social grievances and avoiding conflicts. Social security systems in the Maghreb countries are relatively similar in their architecture and aim to provide social insurance to [...] Read more.
State legitimacy and effectiveness can be observed in the state’s approach to delivering welfare to citizens, thus mitigating social grievances and avoiding conflicts. Social security systems in the Maghreb countries are relatively similar in their architecture and aim to provide social insurance to all the workers in the labor market. However, they suffer from the same main problem: a low rate of enrollment of workers. Many workers (employees and self-employed) work informally without any social security coverage. The issue of whether informal jobs are chosen voluntarily by workers or as a strategy of last resort is controversial. Many authors recognize that the informal sector is heterogeneous and assume that it is made up of (1) workers who voluntarily choose it, and (2) others who are pushed into it because of entry barriers to the formal sector. The former assumption tells us much about state legitimacy/attractiveness, and the latter is used to inform state effectiveness in delivering welfare. Using the Sahwa survey and discrete choice models, this article confirms the heterogeneity of the informal labor market in three Maghreb countries: Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia. Furthermore, this article highlights the profiles of workers who voluntarily choose informality, an aspect that is missing from previous studies. Finally, this article proposes policy recommendations in order to extend social security to informal workers and to include them in the formal labor market. Full article
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Article
The Fragility-Grievances-Conflict Triangle in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA): An Exploration of the Correlative Associations
Soc. Sci. 2021, 10(4), 120; https://doi.org/10.3390/socsci10040120 - 27 Mar 2021
Cited by 8 | Viewed by 2061
Abstract
The intention of this special issue of Social Sciences is to study state fragility and its relationship with conflict and grievances in the post-Cold War Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This article will lay the foundation for such a study by offering [...] Read more.
The intention of this special issue of Social Sciences is to study state fragility and its relationship with conflict and grievances in the post-Cold War Middle East and North Africa (MENA). This article will lay the foundation for such a study by offering a conceptual foundation, data and the identification of the correlative associations that are specific to the MENA region. This article suggests that the relationship between political legitimacy, factionalism of the state, and conflict needs special, MENA-specific emphasis, as this relationship seems more prominently different in the MENA region, compared to the rest of the world. While in the rest of the world, different aspects of state fragility all relate to grievances and conflict dynamics, in the MENA region political factionalism has a disproportionate role in the explanation of conflict grievances and violence. Moreover, the role of oil dependence, and the impact of external intervention requires attention of specialists of the region. Full article
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