The large scale democratic transitions that were anticipated by many at the height of the revolutions in the Middle East and Northern Africa (MENA) region during the ‘Arab Spring’ largely failed to materialize.
However, academics and independent research centers played an important role in making research available to democracy actors.
Thus the Fund for Academic Cooperation and Exchange between Denmark and the Arab World (FACE) was set up by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Denmark in the period from June 2015 to December 2017 as a pilot initiative.
Supporting independent academia to democratise
FACE was to support and build capacity of independent Arab academia.
The objectives of FACE was i) to promote critical and independent academia that supports reform and democratisation processes; and ii) to contribute to dialogue and cooperation between Danish and Arab academia.
NIRAS and University of Copenhagen successfully set up and managed all aspects of the FACE secretariat and administered a fund of DKK 11m for academic partnership projects in the MENA region.
Human rights and good governance
FACE has supported 13 projects. The projects funded have constituted a highly diverse portfolio within human rights, and good governance, gender equality, knowledge-based societies and economic growth and job creation.
Examples of project results include:
- Sharing of recommendations on integration practices for Syrian refugee minors to more than 40 members of the Education Sector working group in Lebanon.
- An exhibition on contemporary women in MENA countries, covered by 15 articles and TV reportages thus bringing gender into the public debate.
- Plans and best practice recommendations for civil society organisation safe use of information and communication technologies in Morocco and Tunisia.
- Establishment of 13 new, formalized partnerships between 28 Danish and MENA academic institutions.
- Conduction of five conferences and 36 workshops and seminars. A total of approximately 875 Danish and Arab researchers and students participated.