1963-2013 - 50 years of Research for Social Change

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Back | Programme Area: Social Policy and Development

Social Policy in Late Industrializers: Social Policy and Development Outcomes in the Middle East and North Africa

  • Project from: 2002 to 2004


Social Policy in a Development Context is a project exploring social policy that is developmental, democratic and socially inclusive. This project has evolved into nine separate but interrelated projects (see Social Policy in a Development Context link, under "Related Information"). A policy framework that is both developmental and socially inclusive is not merely a theoretical possibility—it has been accomplished, with varying degrees of success, historically. This is the focus of the five region-centred comparative projects, which delve into historical trajectories of social policy and "late development" in diverse regional settings.

This project, within Social Policy in a Development Context, externally co-ordinated jointly by Massoud Karshenas and Valentine Moghadam, focuses specifically on the political economy of social policy in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA).

In this region, social policies have often been seen as handouts from the state rather than entitlements that accrue to tax-paying and gainfully employed citizens. Furthermore, the beneficiaries have tended to be groups with access to, and influential in the preservation of, the power of authoritarian states. This project examines the political background of such a paradigm as social policy. In particular, it asks to what extent social policy has played a role in nation-building efforts, and mobilization of political support for the regime in power.

In the post-oil-boom period since the 1980s, the welfare system in the MENA region has been challenged in two ways. First, the IMF and the World Bank have demanded that governments carry out neoliberal-inspired reforms of social policy. Second, emerging civil society actors have increasingly demanded citizenship rights. These challenges warrant examining the possibility of introducing social policies contributing to the developmental, democratic and socially inclusive imperatives sought in this project. How inclusive have the social policies in the region been, and what have been the political economy underpinnings of social policy and its outcome? The project also examines to what extent social policies have impinged upon economic development in the MENA region.

The project covers six MENA countries: Algeria, Egypt, Iran, Morocco, Tunisia and Turkey.

A team of scholars and researchers with proven expertise on the region are conducting the research. Their draft reports were discussed at a workshop in London on 19-20 June, 2003, which was attended by 12 people, including members of the research team as well as representatives from UNRISD and SOAS.

Papers will be finalized, based on comments received from members of the research team and during the workshop. Some of the research findings will be published as UNRISD Programme Papers and form the basis of an edited volume. UNRISD will also publish a brief that highlights the main policy-relevant research findings of the project.