Stabilization and human development in a disordered Middle East and North Africa

Lessons from a joint Brookings-World Bank project

Syrian children smile after a heavy snowstorm at Al Zaatari refugee camp in the Jordanian city of Mafraq, near the border with Syria, January  8, 2015. Syrian refugees in Jordan's main Zaatari refugee camp appealed for help on Thursday after a regional storm buffeted the Middle East with blizzards, rain and strong winds. The temperatures, which usually average 13 Celsius (55.4 Fahrenheit ) this time of the year have plunged to 2 to zero Celsius (35.6-32 Fahrenheit), Jordan Meteorological Department (JMD) said on Tuesday. REUTERS/Muhammad Hamed (JORDAN - Tags: ENVIRONMENT CONFLICT)


The Brookings Institution and the World Bank engaged in a two-year partnership to study stabilization and post-conflict development approaches in the region. Political upheaval and conflict have engulfed much of the Middle East and North Africa, especially since the uprisings of 2011 and subsequent regime crackdowns, leaving an urgent need to outline priorities for donor states and international organizations working in the region.

This paper evaluates past approaches to stabilization and post-conflict development in the region, analyzing the conceptual and institutional obstacles that have sometimes hindered their effective formulation and implementation. It also highlights ongoing trends in these fields — such as the increasing understanding of the need for military and civilian actors to cooperate closely at all levels of these efforts, as the roles of each are interdependent — and encourages their continuation. It considers four innovative approaches to Middle Eastern and North African conflict contexts — aiming for “good enough” governance, going “small, local, and slow,” employing a venture capital model, and co-opting existing governance structures — exploring their relative strengths and weaknesses in various contexts. It then proposes two tools — conflict mapping and dialogue — that can effectively aid international efforts in most contexts.