COMMENTARY

We publish analysis and commentary to keep readers informed of development issues at the local and regional levels in the MENA region.   The insights featured in this section are developed by our experts pre and post joining LUGARIT, dating back to the 2000s.

Date:  9 July 2024

An article explores the Syrian Constitutional debate, highlighting the tension between identity and citizenship. It argues that both principles are essential for a cohesive state, discussing religious and linguistic diversity, and illustrating how respecting identity and guaranteeing equal rights can coexist within a constitutional framework.

Read more  >

Date:  2 July 2024

An article presents a framework to analyze the drivers behind the transition from highly centralized to decentralized governance, focusing on power balances, legitimacy, economic challenges, peripheral uprisings, and external factors, illustrating through global case studies the complexity and context-dependence of effective decentralization.

Read more  >

Date:  25 June 2024

The Syrian refugee crisis is a complex issue entangled in political, economic, and social challenges. With no immediate solution in sight, stakeholders either lack the will or capability to address the crisis. Political agreements and localized solutions are crucial to improving conditions and facilitating refugee return.

Read more  >

Date:  20 June 2024

An article discusses the challenges of "reconciliation" in Syria, critiqued as synonymous with surrender. It advocates for an inclusive, Syrian-led dialogue addressing justice and integration issues, essential for preventing further fragmentation and fostering national unity under the complexities of current political and social divisions.

Read more  >

Date:  04 June 2024

The Brussels conference marked a shift towards early recovery in Syria, focusing on empowering communities and revitalizing the local economy. This approach requires leveraging local resources, changing donor mindsets, and fostering new local leadership. Effective early recovery hinges on balancing humanitarian aid, political reforms, and practical, inclusive solutions for long-term stability.

Read more  >

Date:  25 May 2024

An op-ed argues for reconciliation in the Arab region, both within states and with external neighbors, to end internal conflicts and begin true reform for stability. It critiques the prolonged conflicts fueled by political naivety, external influences, and lack of mature political dialogue. The piece calls for embracing community recovery, rule of law, and democratization through dialogue and reconciliation, rather than awaiting external intervention or victory in conflicts.

Read more  >

Date:  21 May 2024

An article explores how to enhance Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) processes during the early recovery of war-torn countries. It emphasizes the need for transparency, inclusivity, and sustainability, advocating for TPME to evolve from evaluators to partners in development, ensuring aid effectiveness and meaningful community engagement

Read more  >

Date:  06 May 2024

An op-ed discusses the underrepresentation of Syrian identity in music and language, calling for recognition and celebration of Syria's unique cultural heritage to strengthen and affirm its national identity.

Read more  >

Date:  16 April 2024

An article outlines ethical principles for "early recovery" in Syria, debunking misconceptions about its novelty and political neutrality, emphasizing the need for national unity, economic integration, community-led initiatives, and decentralized implementation to ensure sustainable recovery and support political reconciliation.

Read more  >

Date:  2 April 2024

An article examines the role of urban centrality in economic accumulation and its impact on urban-rural divides, highlighting how these dynamics contribute to civil unrest and complicate post-conflict recovery. It advocates for decentralized governance and economic inclusivity to bridge these divides and foster sustainable peace and development.

Read more  >

Date:  26 March 2024

Decentralization in the MENA region emerges as a crucial pathway for addressing systemic issues of marginalization and uneven development exposed by the Arab Spring. It offers a framework for enhancing local governance, fostering stability, and reconciling divided societies by decentralizing power, thereby laying the groundwork for sustainable peace and development.

Read more  >

Date:  19 March 2024

An article examines the unintended humanitarian impacts of sanctions and the phenomenon of overcompliance, highlighting the challenges it poses to non-sanctioned entities, particularly in conflict zones like Syria. It emphasizes the need for a nuanced approach to mitigate these impacts, advocating for clearer guidance and dialogue between sanctioning bodies and affected stakeholders.

Read more  >

Date:  05 March 2024

An article explores the impact of gender dynamics on societies at war to derive a deeper understanding of how the Women, Peace, and Security (WPS) Agenda can reflect its focus on women to shape a more nuanced analysis of conflict drivers. Analyzing territories from a gender lens, it argues for a more nuanced approach to peace negotiations to address the complex dynamics of conflict.

Read more  >

Date:  27 February 2024

An article discusses the shift towards integrating humanitarian aid, development, and peacebuilding (the triple nexus approach) to improve early recovery in conflict zones. It highlights the need for innovative financial instruments and strategies that support community resilience, sustainable development, and peace, based on lessons from the limitations of traditional humanitarian aid.

Read more  >

Date:  20 February 2024

An article critiques the traditional approach to heritage preservation as disconnected from modern societal needs, arguing for a more inclusive and dynamic model. We highlight an approach to blend heritage with daily community life and economic incentives to ensure it remains relevant and preserved within the fabric of modern urban life.

Read more  >

Date:  13 February 2024

An article discusses the imminent youth bulge in the Arab region, pointing to past unrest and highlighting the complex interplay of factors like governance, economic crises, and demographic shifts. It stresses the urgency for regional actors to de-escalate conflicts, foster economic-security cooperation, and improve governance to mitigate future crises. 

Read more  >

Date: November 2022

We present to the Civil Society Support Room (CSSR) - at the Office of the UN Special Envoy for Syria - on Syria's administrative evolution from the Ottoman era to present, highlighting key events, legal changes, and the interplay of internal and external factors shaping its journey towards decentralization.

Read more  >

Date: 11 March 2020

How can Europe improve its approach to Syria?  Three paradigm shifts are needed: supporting decentralization within Syria, modifying European funding strategies, and redefining benchmarks for transformation.  A shift from short-term solutions to long-term, sustainable support is crucial for addressing Syria's escalating crisis and averting broader regional instability.

Read more  >

Date: 18 February 2020 

At the PRIO seminar in Oslo "Shifting Paradigms: Moving Forward in Syria," Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj explores deep economic structures, the transformation of the political economy, and possible realistic perspectives to enhance peace efforts in Syria.

Read more  >

Date: 28 January 2020 

In Episode 18 of Jointly Venturing, Scott Leckie and Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj discuss the Middle East's crises, including conflict, poverty, climate change, and potential famine. They emphasize the urgency of regional solutions and explore how world citizenship concepts could lead to a more stable and prosperous future for the region.

Read more  >

Date: 11 November 2019

An op-ed discussing the complex challenges facing Syrian refugees returning home. It highlights the extensive destruction of housing and infrastructure, economic devastation, governance and security issues, and the plight of internally displaced persons. It calls for comprehensive international cooperation and sustainable development to rebuild Syria and support refugee resettlement.

Read more  >

Date: 30 October 2019

As a member of the Syrian Constitutional Committee, Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj speaks in the first opening session reflecting on the devastation of the Syrian war, emphasizing the need for unity, pluralism, and equal rights. He focuses on recognizing diverse representation, building a strong, law-abiding state, ensuring societal participation in governance, fair political economy and local development. Mr. Hallaj urges collective responsibility to stop the war and draft a constitution that lays the foundation for peace and a better life, recognizing the urgency as lives continue to be lost.

Read more  >

Date: July 2019

An op-ed critiques the idealization of Japan by some Arab reformers, examining Japan's complex transformation post-World War II. It contrasts Japan's successful modernization and national identity formation with the Ottomans, highlighting Japan's adaptation, war-time experiences, and post-war rebuilding into a peaceful, economically robust nation.

Read more  >

Date: 22 November 2018

The Middle East faces a 'perfect storm' of socio-political and economic challenges post-Arab Spring, with a looming youth bulge, inadequate infrastructure, and environmental issues. Conflicts like in Syria exacerbate the situation, necessitating collaborative political strategies and careful reconstruction efforts to prevent further instability and economic hardship in the region.

Read more  >

Date: 10 November 2017

A presentation examines the evolution of property rights and land management in Syria, from the Ottoman era to the Syrian war. It highlights changes in legal frameworks, the impact of the French mandate, postcolonial state policies, and the consequences of the Syrian conflict on urban landscapes and property dynamics.

Read more  >

Date: 29 June 2017 

Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj's lecture at IUAV University of Venice focused on the reconstruction challenges in Syrian cities. It highlighted economic disparities, governance issues, housing sector dynamics, and the cost of rebuilding. Emphasizing the need for balanced strategies, the lecture delved into political, economic, and infrastructural aspects of post-conflict reconstruction.

Read more  >

Date: 20 March 2017 

An article discusses the evolving role of Syrian civil society in Geneva peace talks, highlighting their transition from government-controlled entities to active participants in humanitarian aid and human rights advocacy. It addresses the challenges they face, including internal divisions and representation issues, underscoring their growing significance in the peace process.

Read more  >

Date: 16 June 2016 

A lecture at the University of Stuttgart examines Aleppo's historical, political, and socio-economic transformations, emphasizing the city's shifting role due to colonial interventions and internal dynamics, and advocating for localized, context-sensitive approaches in post-conflict reconstruction, highlighting the importance of civil society and informal networks.

Read more  >

Date: 24 March 2016

The Ash Center hosted a conversation with Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj to discuss the challenges of the Syria peace talks in Geneva, emphasizing how local governance, war economy, and new geographic realities shape diplomacy. He highlighted the need for understanding local dynamics and a bottom-up approach to support the fragile Geneva talks.

Read more  >

Date: 10 March 2016

Omar Abdulaziz Hallaj discusses the complex nature of the Middle Eastern conflict, emphasizing the multifaceted rise of ISIS in Syria. He highlights the need for a new governance model beyond the traditional nation-state system, urging Europe and the international community to engage realistically and ethically for long-term stability and prosperity.

Read more  >

Date: 21 April 2015 

An article examines the historical and socio-political dynamics in Syria, highlighting the evolution of national identity and societal aspirations. It critiques the legacy of colonialism, internal power structures, and advocates for inclusive dialogue to establish a balanced, representative national framework, focusing on local democratization and reform.

Read more  >

Date: 18 November 2014

An interview highlighting the detrimental impact of identity politics and external funding on Middle Eastern societies, advocating for stronger intra-regional connections and a move away from oversimplified narratives. It underscores the necessity for comprehensive strategies in conflict resolution, emphasizing the limited effectiveness of humanitarian aid alone in fostering long-term peace and development.

Read more  >

Date: 25 September 2014

In the Syrian civil war, media oversimplifies the conflict, neglecting the role of civil society in peace-building. Syrians from various backgrounds are countering hate and division through local initiatives, education, and relief efforts. These grassroots movements, despite risks and disconnection from formal peace processes, challenge the prevailing narratives of violence.

Read more  >

Date: 7 March 2014

A lecture explores the shift from traditional to modern property systems in the Levant, focusing on cadastral reforms' impact on property understanding and state building. The lecture discusses how these changes affected ownership, legal frameworks, and societal structures, highlighting current challenges and the future of state building amid regional turmoil.

Read more  >

Date: 27 February 2014

A paper explores the transformation of Aleppo's urban landscape, highlighting the impact of Ottoman reforms, French colonialism, and post-colonial statehood. It emphasizes how political, economic, and social shifts have continually reshaped the city, focusing on the interplay between state power, local identities, and urban planning in shaping Aleppo's history and development.

Read more  >

Date: 19 February 2013

An op-ed critiques Syria's urban-rural development imbalance. Highlighting the decline in rural agriculture's contribution to GDP and ineffective government policies, the piece advocates for comprehensive rural development programs focusing on community empowerment, modern agriculture, and balanced urban-rural growth to address the economic and social disparities.

Read more  >

Date: September 2012

An op-ed examines the complex relationship between democracy, state formation, and identity in the Arab world. It highlights the historical development of European democracies and contrasts this with the formation of states in the Arab world, emphasizing the challenges of political identity and the impact of colonialism. The piece concludes by contemplating the future of democracy in the Arab region, stressing the need for inclusive and representative governance.

Read more  >

Date: 16 July 2012

An op-ed discusses the critical interplay between ethics and democracy, particularly in the Arab context. It emphasizes that a moral foundation is essential for democracy, critiques the reduction of democracy to majority rule, and advocates for reevaluating moral values to support democratic growth, balancing individual and societal freedoms, and promoting active citizenship.

Read more  >

Date: June 2012

An op-ed outlines ten principles essential for establishing democracy, especially in Arab nations. These principles emphasize the rule of the people, equal rights, separation of powers, periodic elections, responsibilities accompanying rights, transparency, electoral integrity, consensus building, and viewing democracy as a continual process. The piece stresses dialogue and consensus for democratic transformation.

Read more  >

Date: 01 February 2012

An op-ed criticizes the deep-rooted medieval masculine values in Syrian society, highlighting the negative impact on women's rights. The piece emphasizes the need for genuine political discourse and legal reforms to ensure true democracy and freedom in Syria, advocating for women's rights beyond their portrayal as victims.

Read more  >

Date: 23 January 2012

An op-ed examines modern tribalism in social groups, focusing on sports and politics. It discusses how group affiliations, fueled by a need for identity, can lead to unified, often biased discourses. The piece warns against the escalation into hate speech, advocating for more inclusive, dialogue-oriented approaches, especially in conflict situations like in Syria.

Read more  >

Date: December 2011

A paper discusses the crucial role of civil society and decentralization in Syria's local development. It emphasizes the need for administrative reforms, local community involvement, and the empowerment of local administrations and civil organizations to ensure the effective distribution of economic growth benefits throughout Syrian society.

Read more  >

Date: 2009

A talk advocates for a modernity that integrates tradition, emphasizing innovation and learning while valuing heritage. It challenges binary views of modernity and tradition, proposing a balanced, dynamic approach to development and cultural preservation.

Read more  >

Date: January 2009

An article discusses the preservation of Zabid, Yemen, highlighting conflicts between heritage conservation and community needs. The Project for the Development of Historic Cities of Yemen innovatively involved locals in restoration, aligning economic revitalization with heritage preservation, thereby empowering the community while safeguarding Zabid's architectural legacy.

Read more  >

Date: September 2006

A lecture explores the challenges in preserving Shibam, a World Heritage Site in Yemen, focusing on balancing international preservation standards, local traditions, and socio-economic impacts on residents. It addresses the debate over demarcation, management difficulties, and the importance of maintaining the resident community for the site's historical integrity.

Read more  >