Civil societies and NGOs in the Middle East and North Africa

The cases of Egypt and Tunisia 1

Authored by: Sarah Ben Néfissa

Routledge Handbook of NGOs and International Relations

Print publication date:  April  2019
Online publication date:  April  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138285507
eBook ISBN: 9781315268927
Adobe ISBN:


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For a long time, political and social science academics have wondered whether civil societies existed in Arab countries, mainly because of the longevity of authoritarianism and the characteristics of the States’ founding pacts in this region (Droz-Vincent 2004). Indeed, all over the Arab world, authoritarianism has been embodied in a social State, which puts redistribution and equity as one of its main legitimacy sources, be it in monarchies or in republics (Kienle and Louër 2013). Social rights have been put at the core of the pacts between States and societies. Restricted political and public freedom seemed to be the price to pay for the State’s interventionism on the social level. The fact that political opposition was mainly dominated by Islamist parties has consolidated this perception. The latter have conquered large sectors of benevolent organizations within so-called civil society and sometimes within the middle-class labor unions, as in Egypt.

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