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Middle East I: Promoting social cohesion and interaction through the notion of citizenship (June 2016)

Executive Summary

The Cordoba Foundation of Geneva (CFG), in partnership with the Religion-politics-conflict (RPC) Desk of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs’ (FDFA) Human Security Division (HSD), conducted this first Middle East Platform as part of the Middle East programme whose aim is to promote peaceful coexistence between groups with different worldviews by reinforcing non-violent conflict transformation mechanisms.

The main assumption of this programme is that intra-Muslim tensions need to be addressed urgently for the sake of peaceful coexistence in the Middle East. These tensions are considered major obstacles to non-violent conflict transformation in several zones of conflict in the Middle East as well as to peaceful continuation of political transitions with a democratic and citizenship-based perspective.

Five countries were represented (Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia and Yemen). Delegations of peace practitioners from these countries had the opportunity to discuss the different contexts of each country, their different experiences, as well as transversal issues raised by these tensions. The dialogues focused on living together within a national space and were based on the principles of citizenship and respect for pluralism.

The objective of this meeting was to discuss concrete engagement in practical joint initiatives to promote an inclusive citizenship and a sense of common interest in an inclusive society. The delegations were able to work in country-based groups and present a road map for different initiatives to be implemented in their respective countries. More specifically, two initiatives have been selected in Lebanon, one dealing with detainees and the other one with collaboration between charities. As the situation in Bahrain is very tense, an exploratory mission might be needed as a first step. In Saudi Arabia, a WhatsApp group was created directly after the meeting and the participants exchange regularly on the situation. They are exploring the feasibility of different initiatives, including peace tourism.

During the workshop, the participants emphasised their desire to work fast, and to work efficiently, and also voiced their desire for coordination assistance from the Cordoba Foundation of Geneva and from the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, particularly because of the acceptance of these two actors in Middle Eastern countries.

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