Mission, aims & approach
Factsheet - Cordoba Now Program
|Duration:||November 2010 - May 2013|
|Funding and implementing partner:||Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, Political Division IV|
|Field of application:||Regions at risk of violent conflict in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region, in which issues at stake are at the crossroads of social, political and religious dynamics|
Cordoba Now (CN) is a program of research and action aiming at conflict resolution and prevention at the crossroads of the political and the religious spheres. It analyzes political and religious dynamics in North Africa and the Middle East and uses the findings as a basis for tailor-made conflict transformation strategies and initiatives. It bases its work on a network of experts involved in practical initiatives and/or research towards dialog and transformation of conflicts with a religious dimension resp. of conflicts or potentially conflictive situations in which political actors with religious reference are involved.
The CN program was launched in 2010 by the FDFA's Religion-Politics-Conflict sector of activity, the Cordoba Foundation of Geneva and the Religioscope Institute as a response to the general context where the Muslim cultural area and Islam as a referential were at first rank political stakes and increasingly described as breeding ground for radicalism, isolationism and communitarianism. It was established to engage in civilian conflict transformation and prevention enabling in-depth understanding of ongoing dynamics, thorough assessment of the needs and tailor-made conflict transformation initiatives.
Since the creation, the so-called Arab Spring and the new dynamics it created brought important evolutions to the Arab World and with regard to Islam-West perceptions and relations. In these historic political changes characterized by new forms of political action and calls for democracy, it was and is obvious that the role of religiously inspired political actors remains critical, both of 'older' Islamic actors and the recently emerged intellectual and political Muslim elite. As can be seen for example in Egypt, they weigh heavily on the opportunities for peaceful transitions and for building pluralist democracies or, conversely, on a possible increase in local, regional and international tensions.
Goals and Approach:
The overall goal of the CN program is to contribute to the promotion of peace in the MENA region by conducting action-research on political, religious and social dynamics and developing and implementing conflict transformation and prevention initiatives, which – in the current context - may support the smooth and peaceful progress of political transitions. Hereby, the focus lies on increasing the understanding of political key actors with religious reference, of the role of civil society in conflict transformation and the peaceful co-existence of worldviews, plural and inclusive socio-political orders.
Aiming at producing "collectively shared knowledge", the research component is based on a participatory approach insofar the research results - that are finally published, disseminated to involved stakeholders, and promoted in decision-making circles - are built through critical dialog with its subjects. This does not only guarantee the broad acceptability of the results, but creates space for contacts and exchange, allows identifying conflictive situations and entry points for concrete conflict transformation and dialogue initiatives.
The program bases its work on a network of experts involved in practical initiatives and/or research towards dialog and transformation of conflicts or potentially conflictive situations. The network is composed of broad spectrum of experts from the MENA region and the West, who are working jointly and actively associated to projects as resource persons, advisers, facilitators, research coordinators and/or researchers. They are 'experience holders' with local expertise, field knowledge and analytical understanding of the contexts in which they evolve as well as access to actors and constituencies that are at risk of conflict and/or have the potential to mitigate conflicts.
Initiatives of the CN Program:
A major initiative within the CN program is the project ARAB WORLD IN TRANSITION which aims at contributing to smooth processes of change and political transformation in the MENA, based on fundamental values of citizenship, plurality, inclusiveness, freedom and justice. To do so, a series of action-research papers on the rapidly evolving roles of key social, religious and political stakeholders in the transition dynamics are produced. These papers will be disseminated to policy and decision makers, international civil servants, think tanks and academics, and will lead to entry points for initiatives to accompany and support the new actors and the values they embody in the change processes.
Moreover, a FORUM ON NEW POLITICAL CULTURES was organized in Cairo in October 2011, which convened activists, researchers and actors of mobilizations of the so-called Arab Spring from various countries. It offered a unique moment to share concrete experiences, to jointly develop a better understanding of the new political cultures and action yielded by the Arab Spring and the values and principles they illustrate (equality, freedom, justice, dignity, inclusiveness, non ideological and participatory approach, etc.) and to discuss prepare initiatives fostering the adherence to the latter and thus the peaceful change.
Besides the ongoing preparation of new initiatives at local levels, whereof some have the potential for regional replication, TRAININGS AND WORKSHOPS have been developed and held to ensure that the CN network can act as a sounding board in the needed respects (relevance, feasibility, similarities on issues and initiatives) as well as to build a shared ownership.
Basing its work on above-described network and approach, the CN program has developed an innovative way to deal with the increasing complexity of interactions between the political, the social and the religious aspects of modern-time conflicts and conflictive situations. It has an enormous potential to overcome certain gaps in the field of research and conflict transformation, among which the lack of communication between research and political spheres, the difficulty for think tanks to take into account deep social dynamics and to go beyond elite-oriented and events-related analysis, as well as traditional mediation approaches not fully adapted to contexts of conflicts with religious dimensions, and to perceptions on Islam as a political stake both internally and at the international level. The network of researchers and conflict transformation actors has a crucial role to play and brings a strong ethical added value, as it is composed of experts from MENA and Europe, and bases its work on local knowledge (including terminology extracted from the experience and not projected from the outside).
The current context of the so-called Arab Spring shows a series of new and pressing needs to accompany transition processes, and confirms the important scope for action of the CN program.
Contact and further information:
Mrs Florence Laufer
Cordoba Foundation of Geneva
Tel: +41 22 734 10 06 / +41 78 638 30 37