The Danish MFA launches new initiative to support human rights in the Middle East and North Africa

The new phase of the Danish-Arab Partnership Programme was launched on September 9 and will run for five years. IMS will work together with partners in the region to strengthen independent media and ensure the safety of journalists and young media activists.

There have been a lot of difficulties and setbacks in the Middle East and North Africa in recent years: The wars in Syria, Libya and Yemen are still raging and several authoritarian regimes have bolstered their powers. Lebanon and Egypt have been hit by massive economic crises. Even in Tunisia – where a lot of democratic progress has been made since the uprisings in 2011 – President Kais Saied is continuously limiting civic space and human rights.

Because of the many forces cracking down on the basic rights of the Arab populations, strengthening civil society in the region is as important as ever. IMS is a part of a new initiative, launched 9 September, where a consortium of Danish and Arab civil society organisations will work to support human rights and free media in the Middle East and North Africa.

The initiative is a continuation of the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Danish Arab-Partnership Programme (DAPP), which has existed since the early 2000s. The new phase of DAPP will have a special focus on empowering the youth.

“There is a mental change in the mindset among the youth today. There is a new generation out there who has learned from the Arab uprisings. They have not given up hope and they are more organised than before,” says Michael Irving Jensen, head of IMS’ Middle East and North Africa department.

IMS will focus on supporting new digital media outlets that have the potential to reach young audiences and engage civil society. IMS is also working intensely with promoting women journalists and combating gender stereotypes in media.

A bulwark against authoritarianism

The new consortium under DAPP is led by DIGNITY and includes IMS, the Danish Institute for Human Rights and KVINFO. The consortium is supported by subcontractors, including the Tunisian organisation Munathara, the Jordanian al-Ahl, the international organisations EuroMed Rights and the Euro-Mediterranean Foundation of Support to Human Rights Defenders, as well as the Danish organisations DannerLGBT+ Denmark and Sex & Samfund.

The four organisations in the consortium have worked with partners in the MENA region for years. They have seen first-hand that strong civil society organisations and activists can make impressive gains when it comes to issues such as women’s rights, political representation, sexual and reproduction health, free media, investigative journalism, prevention of torture and institutional and judicial abilities to uphold human rights.

In other words, they can function as a bulwark against the slide towards further authoritarianism in the region.

“Our partners in the Middle East and North Africa who – with our support – have spearheaded the work for basic human rights should be proud of the progress and results that they have created. And the list is long, even though there are obviously areas where these hard-won gains have been rolled back,” say the four consortium organisations in this joint statement (in Danish) published by the Danish media outlet Altinget.