The Arab Regional Office of the Open Society Foundations operates within six programmatic areas that provide financial and technical support to individuals and organizations.
Rights & Governance
We support proactive and innovative projects, including monitoring, documentation, and advocacy efforts to further diversity, equality, nondiscrimination, and access to justice alongside other basic civil and political rights. show more In particular, the Arab Regional Office supports the rights of minorities such as refugees, migrant workers, and other indigent groups. Other activities aim to strengthen the rule of law, build the capacity of lawyers and legal professionals, further anticorruption initiatives, and increase civic engagement in government accountability.
Geographically, a major focus has been supporting human rights organizations and other civil society actors that monitor human rights violations in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict and promote accountability and adherence to international human rights law. In Egypt, the office has supported groups that monitor and document the human rights violations and campaign for improving individual liberties and advocate for legal reforms. In Lebanon and Jordan, the office supports equality and nondiscrimination for minorities and indigent groups such as Iraqi and Palestinian refugees and migrant workers.
Media & Information
We support projects across the Arab region that promote free and independent media and the open exchange of information. show more Projects have included developing independent community radio in Jordan and Iraq; regional trainings on investigative journalism, media research, and professionalism; fostering favorable environments for free and responsible media; championing freedom of expression and progressive media policy; defending the rights of journalists; and establishing strong, independent professional organizations.
The office also supports efforts to provide more balanced and nuanced media coverage of the Arab region that take into account human rights—in particular in the Occupied Palestinian Territories—and foster innovative Internet-based media with an emphasis on citizen media projects that promote open society values, transparency, and active citizenship.
Gender rights advocacy and research in support of women's engagement in public life as well as improving policy formulation and implementation are a primary focus for the Open Society Foundations. Activities include addressing violence against women and the impact of conflict upon women in countries such as Iraq, Lebanon, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories and increasing parental involvement in early childhood education in Nazareth.
Knowledge & Education
We support projects that focus on youth engagement as active citizens in building an open society and promoting early education. show more Activities include fostering public discourse and cooperation among youth by involving young people in new media, debate clubs, and youth networking and supporting educational development for academics, students, and professionals through graduate scholarships, fellowships, and internships.
Since 2004, more than 40 Palestinian lawyers have received fellowships to complete a Master of Laws in the United States as well as substantial support to a unique dual degree program between New York–based Bard College and Al-Quds university in the West Bank.
Arts & Culture
We promote cultural and artistic creativity as an activity that reflects open society values and positively influences public attitudes. Significant financial and technical assistance has been provided to the Arab Fund for Arts and Culture, a regional fund which offers individual and institutional grants for initiatives in the fields of film, literature, and the performing and visual arts. The Arab Regional Office has also supported independent theater and film festivals in the region.
The approach of the Open Society Foundations is to respond to and reinforce Arab leadership in the transitions underway in the region. show more Our experience in helping establish the principles and practices of open society around the world has taught us to defer to local knowledge and to appreciate the courage of those who have suffered under repressive, authoritarian rule for generations. The Foundations have always looked to people and organizations in a given country to lead the way in fostering change, and we are committed to helping Arab civil society have a meaningful role in the public sphere, by acting as watchdog over government.
The ongoing uprising in the Arab world provides the region with an unprecedented opportunity. The successful peaceful protests in both Tunisia and Egypt for dignity, freedom, and social justice have launched a new phase of deep democratic transition. The process will be a long and painful and those committed to open society principles must be dedicated and perseverant in order to maintain the momentum.
Our support is directed at the priorities identified and pursued by local organizations and thought leaders. In addition to expanding the reach of civil society, the Foundations will give priority in the coming period to newly organized groups that are often overlooked, to ensure their voices are heard, namely, those that are socially and geographically unprivileged.
The Foundations provide support to grantees within a framework of transparency, accountability, and noninterference in the programming of the organizations to ensure those on the ground determine the needs and priorities of their constituencies and maintain ownership over their work. Organizational good governance, capacity to undertake programs and relevance and accountability to constituencies are the only criteria that guide our decisions to provide support.