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A Vibrant Public Sphere: A Key to Arab Democracy?

  • Belabbes Benkredda

Belabbes Benkredda is an award-winning social innovator, open debate advocate and the founder of the Munathara Initiative, the Arab world’s only online and television debate forum open to anyone. He studied International Relations and Philosophy of Law in Frankfurt, and holds an MA in Middle East Politics from Exeter University. His career took him to the German Foreign Office, the League of Arab States and the Council for Arab-British Understanding. Since moving to Dubai in 2005, he has been a consultant specialized on public diplomacy in the Arab world, a frequent television commentator, and op-ed columnist for the region’s largest English daily. Inspired by the communicative action theory he was taught as an undergraduate philosophy student in Frankfurt, Belabbes founded the Dubai Debates in January 2011 with the vision to crowd-source new opinion leaders online. After a crackdown on NGOs in 2012 he indefinitely suspended Dubai Debates and created the Munathara Initiative as a successor organization in Tunis. In 2013, he was recognized in Washington, DC with the NDI Democracy Award for his work in fostering citizen participation in the Arab public sphere. Today, Munathara operates in 12 Arab countries, organizes a monthly prime time debate with youth broadcast on several Arab TV channels, and counts a community of some 70,000 Arab youth on its online debate platform.

This is event was sponsored by the Program on Arab Reform and Democracy at Stanford University's Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) and the Markaz: Resource Center.