9 Int'l J. Not-for-Profit L. 3 (2006-2007)
Civil Society in the Arab Region: Its Necessary Role and the Obstacles to Fulfillment

handle is hein.journals/ijnpl9 and id is 87 raw text is: 

International Journal of Not-for-Profit Law / vol. 9, no. 2 April 2007/3


THE   MIDDLE EAST: SENIOR RESEARCH FELLOW PAPERS

                  Civil   Society in the Arab Region:
    Its  Necessary Role and the Obstacles to Fulfillment

                                 Ziad  Abdel  Samad'



Preface
       Civil society in the Arab region today is weak. Can this weakness be attributed to
badly formulated laws governing the civil society sector, or is it due to structural flaws in
Arab civil society organizations (CSOs)? If it is the latter, have these flaws resulted in
poor strategies and insufficient capacities to respond to the challenges facing the region?
       A  culture of charity prevails in Arab societies, in part because charitable giving to
the poor is one of the five pillars of Islam. Charitable giving is placed at the same level as
the other four pillars: faith, prayer, fasting for self-purification during Ramadan, and, for
those who  are able, pilgrimage to Mecca. Given the social importance of charitable
donation, why is civil society as weak as it is in Arab countries?
       This article seeks to explore the reasons that civil society in the Arab region has
not fulfilled its potential. It analyzes the objective barriers limiting CSOs' abilities to
increase their impact and improve their roles in society.
       The  culturally embedded value of charitable giving may not suffice to create a
thriving CSO  sector, just as lack of development in the region is not the only reason for
the sector's weakness. This article considers other objective barriers limiting CSOs'
abilities to increase their impact and improve society. These other factors may be
external, such as lack of democracy, inadequate legal framework, or other restrictions
imposed  by the ruling regimes. Similarly, there may be relevant restrictions stemming
from cultural and social realities. Or there may be internal limitations that result from
poor organizational vision, policies, and strategies, as well as from the lack of human and
financial resources, sustainable or reliable funding, and access to information.

       1 Ziad Abdel Samad is Executive Director of the Arab NGO Network for Development (ANND).
Mr. Abdel Samad was a Middle East Senior Research Fellow during summer 2006 at the International
Center for Not-for-Profit Law (ICNL). This article was edited by ICNL staff.
       This research was mainly supported by the International Center for Not-for-Profit Law. While the
author was a fellow in Washington, DC, President Douglas Rutzen and Program Director Catherine Shea
provided extensive support. A special thanks to Kareem Elbayar, Civil Society Legal Intern at ICNL, who
served as a research assistant during the period of my work at the ICNL offices, and to Office Manager
Sylvia Staggs for her logistical support. Thanks also to Wafa Yassir, to Ziad Majed, to Natasha Shawarib
who provided great support. I would also like to thank Program Manager Kinda Mohamadieh, Program
Coordinator Cynthia Abi Rashed and Executive Secretary Hanan Younis of the Arab NGO Network for
Development. They helped in conducting the survey and analyzing the data. Finally, special thanks to all
our colleagues from the twenty-five NGOs that completed the questionnaires and sent them back on time.

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