Middle East and North Africa
The Open Society Foundations’ work in the Middle East and North Africa seeks to promote democratic governance and to protect human rights amid entrenched regional conflicts and political restrictions.
Offices and Foundations
The Amman office is home to the Middle East and North Africa Program.
The Tunis office serves as a satellite for the Middle East and North Africa Program, which is based in Amman, Jordan.
By the Numbers
Expenditures by Year
The Open Society Foundations gave our first grants in the Middle East to groups in Israel and Palestine in 2002, as George Soros expanded his philanthropic efforts into the region. In 2006, our first regional office opened in the Jordanian capital, Amman, followed by a second office in Tunisia in 2014.
Throughout the Middle East and North Africa, our network, under the direction of our Middle East and North Africa Program, works to defend human rights and promote democratic governance.
Our initial response to the COVID-19 crisis has included emergency funding to protect Syrian and Palestinian refugees living in crowded camps in Lebanon, as well as their host communities, and supporting relief and protection efforts in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. We have also provided $500,000 to efforts to raise informed public awareness of the risks posed by the virus and of the need for social distancing, while also fighting disinformation that threatens to undermine the regional response. Open Society has also joined other foundations in a region-wide effort to support arts and cultural groups to survive the economic impact of confinement policies that have devastated the arts world.
Our efforts to respond to the mass displacement of people caused by war in Syria include investments by the Economic Justice Program to support employment opportunities, for refugees and the host communities. The Middle East and North Africa Program has also supported community facilitators for refugees to help others negotiate bureaucratic barriers and challenges. Our Higher Education Support Program and Scholarship Programs have been supporting efforts to enable displaced students and academics to continue their work and complete their studies.
The Open Society Foundations support the Al Quds Bard College in East Jerusalem, focused in particular on the Master of Arts program in teaching and critical thinking. The Foundations also work with Birzeit University in Ramallah to support a doctoral program in social sciences, unique in the region, and courses at its Women’s Studies Institute, one of the first academic institutions in the Middle East to focus on the study of gender.
As part of our efforts to promote independent media around the world, we have supported local start-ups such as Inkyfada in Tunisia and Jumhuriyya in Syria that provide quality public interest journalism within their communities. We also support organizations such as Arab Reporters for Investigative Journalism, which provide investigative journalism trainings.
We are among the numerous international supporters of leading Israeli and Palestinian human rights and law groups—including Adalah, al-Haq, al-Mizan, and B’tselem—that have repeatedly used the courts and law to challenge discrimination and call for accountability for abuses. Since 2003, Open Society’s Palestinian Rule of Law Awards program has provided scholarships for more than 60 law students from the West Bank and Gaza to study in the United States and Central European University.
Our Open Society Justice Initiative and Human Rights Initiative support regional and national groups pushing for accountability for atrocity crimes in the region, including regarding the situation in Syria, as well as the ongoing work by the International Criminal Court prosecutor on situations in Iraq/United Kingdom, Libya, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
Arts, Culture in Lebanon
Art in a Time of Turmoil: The View from Lebanon
A year ago this August, Beirut was rocked by a deadly explosion, compounding political strife and the toll of COVID-19. How local culture and arts groups’ show of solidarity helped to nourish a devastated nation.
A Passage to Justice
Based on interviews with influential civil society groups in Yemen, this report demonstrates that a Yemeni-led recovery will require engagement with, and respect for, the community’s diverse views and experiences.
An Iraq for All Iraqis
Protests in Iraq over corruption and joblessness are about more than the current’s failures. They are the expression of a rising generation’s desire to move beyond a spoils system based on ethnicity and sect.