Emerging Civil Society Actors Build Consensus on Nonviolent Methods to Support Democratic Transitions in MENA:

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From the 1st to the 3rd of November, the city of Tunis will host an international conference entitled, “the Democratic Transition in the MENA Region: From Revolution to Active Citizenship, Nonviolence, and Regional Solidarity.”

This conference will bring together key civil society players in post-revolutionary MENA to participate in a dialogue in order to define a regional strategy to support non-violent activism and democratic transition. Social leaders hailing from Morocco, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Tunisia, Lebanon, Palestine, Iraq, Jordan, Bahrain, and Yemen will all share their experiences with the European experts in attendance.

Participants will address the following questions throughout the course of the three-day event: how can we achieve real dialogue and inclusive democracy between people with different political and social ideologies? Where does the freedom of expression intersect with the limits placed to uphold cultural diversity? What does it mean to apply non-violent methods when the opposition uses violent methods?

Through the discussion of these questions, the conference hopes to create a space for Arabs and European civil society to share their experiences and build a joint regional strategy to support the transition from authoritarianism, non-representative regimes, and occupation, to a true inclusive democracy that respects human rights and social justice. This inclusive democracy will also be home to a civil society that allows different ideologies to exist in common spaces of understanding. Finally, the meeting will seek to amplify support for non-violence and to use the exchange of experiences to broaden the horizons of the participants.

The conference will discuss the evolution of citizens’ democratic movements, civic participation and nonviolent struggles in MENA countries and why the movements in Libya and Syria turned to military, armed struggles. In Europe too, new actors are emerging and using some of the tools learned from the Arab Spring, including physically occupying public spaces and fighting against police repression. The meeting will strengthen real solidarity and partnership between nonviolent civil society actors in both regions, identify the key challenges to inclusive democracy and social justice, consolidate local civil society principles and objectives, and exchange examples of successful strategies to strengthen the impact and effectiveness of nonviolent movements.

The Foundation for the Future (FFF), Training and Research Institute in Romania (PATRIR) and the International Institute for Nonviolent Action (NOVACT), are jointly organizing this conference with the support of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs and the Anna Lindh Foundation. Several other Mediterranean and European organizations have formed a coalition in support the event and its objectives, including the Peace Operations Department of PeaceAction, iWatch, the Nonviolence Network in the Arab Countries (NNAC), the Popular Struggle Coordination Committee (PSCC), IKV Pax Christi, Beyond Reform and Development (BRD), the Permanent Peace Movement (PPM), Un Ponte Per (UPP), and Solidarity Interational (SI).

Join Our Social Debate

For those unable to attend the conference in person, a number of virtual tools will be made available. There is already an open event hosted on Facebook as well as a Twitter hashtag called #MENADialogue. The online debate will begin on October 24th at 12pm (UCT +3) and will allow all interested in the topic to reflect upon the concept of nonviolence and enrich the debate prior to the November event.

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