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.
The Amman office supports a diverse group of local civil society organizations, research centers, universities, and media organizations across Egypt, Morocco, Palestine, Tunisia, and Syria.
The Tunis office’s work is focused on work in five areas: rights and governance, women’s rights, higher education, media and information, and arts and culture.
By the Numbers
Expenditures by Year
Open Society–Middle East and North Africa works to defend human rights and promote democratic governance across the region.
Open Society’s work has always been grounded in the free exchange of ideas—either in the world of policy, or in the world of art and culture. Across the Middle East and North Africa region, we support the development of institutions and think tanks that can incubate ideas for positive change. We also support independent cultural institutions that use art to ask questions and to challenge boundaries that may be otherwise tightly controlled.
We are among the numerous international supporters of human rights and law groups across the region that defend freedom of expression, challenge discrimination, and call for accountability for government abuses. Our efforts to push back against authoritarianism include supporting groups abroad that speak out for freedoms denied them in their home countries.
Online civic space remains constrained across much of the region by government censorship and surveillance, while flows of sometimes toxic disinformation are largely unchecked. In addition, there is a deficit of regional capacity to address pressing issues that will shape the region’s digital future. We are working to build regional capacity to strengthen the ability of independent groups to advocate for an internet protected from the excesses of state and corporate power.
We have worked closely with the Open Society Justice Initiative to support regional and national groups pushing for accountability for atrocity crimes in the region, including those committed in Syria and Yemen, as well as the ongoing work by the International Criminal Court prosecutor on situations in Iraq/United Kingdom, Libya, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories.
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.
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Justice for Victims of the Beirut Blast
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Q&A: Harnessing the Power of Documentary Storytelling
Orwa Nyrabia, artistic director of the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, talks to Open Society about his experiences in Syria as a child and during the war, and its impact on his worldview and creative path