A Signal for Peace and Reconciliation in the Arab World – the First Arab Forum for Equality in Amman

Article by Alexander Dill, Director of the Basel Institute of Commons and Economics, mail: dill@commons.ch

Inequality is not only an economic challenge but also a social and cultural one. Numerous conflicts result from feelings of inferiority or superiority; conflicts that are contrasted with equality before God in Islam and equality before the law in the legal system.
As many as ten ministers and numerous civil society representatives and policymakers from the 20 Arab countries participated in the First Arab Forum for Equality in Amman, Jordan.

UN Under-Secretary General Dr. Rola Dashti welcomes Alexander Dill in Amman










In her introductory speech, Rola Dashti, Executive Secretary (of what may be easier called the „Arab UN“ in Beirut, Lebanon), the Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UNESCWA), Dr. Dashti expressed concern that wealth is increasingly unequally distributed and cited youth unemployment, the highest in the world in the Arab region, as a common challenge. She told the audience how she once played football on the streets as a young girl and founded the first women’s football team in her home country of Kuwait. An example of the tenacity with which young people conquer their place in society.

About half of the participants of the event, organized by the Director for Gender Justice, Population and Inclusive Development, Dr. Mehrinaz El Awady – including the ministers – were women. Disabled people from Libya and Egypt (see image), among others, also made clear how important inclusion is for a harmonious society.

Yemen’s Minister of Social Affairs and Labor, H.E. Dr. Muhammad Saeed Al-Zauri with Alexander Dill

Yemen’s Minister of Social Affairs and Labour, Dr. Muhammad Saeed Al-Zauri, explained the challenge of reaching people in regions that are not within the government’s sphere of influence or are not accessible for social aid due to acts of war.


Refugees from Syria described their situation and their desire to return to their Syrian homes such as Da’raa, Homs and Aleppo, which they have already left for over ten years (see picture with Alexander Dill).

Selfie with young Syrian refugees seeking for peaceful future

The Palestinian Minister for Social Development, Dr Ahmed Majdalani, deplored the enormous unemployment rate in the occupied territories, the main cause of which was the limited economic development due to the occupation.

Faiza Shaheen, Co-organizer of the event, the Pathfinders, identified several economies that are in fact based on gifts and donations. Even more, refugees are mostly dependent on foreign help. According to Egypt’s Minister for National Solidarity, Dr. Nevine Kabbaj, Egypt is hosting 5.6 million refugees. Ayman Almuflih, Minister of Social Development in Jordan, declared to host 56 Nationalities, mostly from Syria and Iraq. Such as in Lebanon, almost half of the population has a refugee background.


Alexander Dill with participants from Libya and Egypt.

So fighting inequality by reducing the number of refugees in the Arab World would at the same time enhance reconciliation and economic recovery. Most refugees are not allowed to work in their host countries.  In their hometowns, there is a need to rebuild the economy and society. Families and neighbors are separated.

The new indicator of the Arab Social Capital Monitor, the social inclusion of minorities in their local environment, allows reaching even regions of conflict. In the town of Homs, known worldwide for the destruction in the Syrian War, 8 out of 10 points were given for the new indicator. Similar scores are made in Beirut, Amman, and Palestine. A participant from Mosul, Iraq, even gave 9 points for social inclusion while scoring trust with only 3 and the willingness to co-finance public goods by taxes with one point only. In war-torn Aden, Yemen, one participant gave almost the lowest score. But he gave hospitality seven points.

These first results may indicate, that the longing for peace and reconciliation in many Arab regions is a growing mood. Could it be that after two years of Corona, after the dispute over combating climate change, and now also the outbreak of the Ukraine war, it is precisely in the Arab world that the unifying factor is coming to the Arab people?

The First Arab Forum for Equality could pave the way for a lasting solution to the refugee issue – and thus to the tensions in the Middle East.
It is then no longer just about the „right government“ and its legitimacy, but about the future chances of millions of young Arabs who have no future chances without an end to the conflicts.






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