Mediterranean Forum

A Euro-Arab Initiative for democracy, inclusive secularism and human rights

The key aim of this project is to strengthen dialogue and common research
between Europe and North Africa for promoting and researching on democratic
culture, cooperation aimed at forming and strengthening the human
and intellectual resources of freedom, critical thinking, tolerance and pluralism
from inside both the European and the Arab tradition. A Euro-Arab,
‘Mediterranean’, initiative for research and dialogue is highly needed in a
geopolitical situation characterized, on the one hand, by an unprecedented
lack of security, peace and democracy in the MENA region, and, on the other
hand, by an enduring lack of knowledge, coherent political strategies and
adequate foreign policy tools on the European side.

Analysing how the European history became able to master political conflicts
like those between liberal and clerical forces, between democratic and
communist or fascist parties, or how Europe managed to overcome the huge
contradictions of the transitions from totalitarian regimes to democracies is
a powerful tool to help understanding the present situation of many Arab
countries and the path towards their possible liberal and democratic future.
At the same time a closer knowledge of the pattern of democratic energies
developed before, during and after the so-called Arab spring is a condition
for Europe to build a new fruitful Mediterranean cooperation in several areas
of policy: economy, immigration, minority rights, constitutional culture, research
projects, relationship between religion and polity, civil education.

This project is aimed at developing intellectual resources in order to spread
_ the political culture of pluralism and democracy through the Euro-Arab
partnership
_ the methods of dialogue and comparison among different historical democratic
experiences with some essential features in common: reciprocal legitimating
of political adversaries, the reduction of the area of conflict, the spirit
of moderation and self-restraint in use of power, the rule of law, the pursuit of
respect of human rights
_ the culture of dialogue, freedom, cultural and religious pluralism, social justice
_ the study of the reformist tradition, of pluralism and critical thinking inside
the history of Arab and Muslim thought

The “Mediterranean Forum” project will employ the expertise accumulated by
Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations during the last years in order to create an
international organized team of scholars and researchers who can work on a
common path to help young generations to pursue the above mentioned ends.

Starting point: Tunisia
Reset-Dialogues on Civilizations organized two preliminary conferences in
Rome (3 December 2014) and in Tunis (28 January 2015) with European,
Tunisian and American scholars, on the topic “Democratic Transitions: Comparing
Experiences” in order to prepare for the Mediterranean Forum project
with Arab and European partners. Speakers have discussed the current
challenges of Tunisia’s democratic transition as well as the concept of political
‘compromise’ and reciprocal legitimation in politics, when democracy is
threatened by radicalization and violence.

Why Tunisia? The successful democratic transition of Tunisia after the collapse
of the Ben Ali regime is a unique case among today’s post-Arab spring
countries, and a case in which the culture and politics of compromise among
different actors – especially between seculars and Islamists – have prevented
the radicalization of social and religious tensions, resulting in an inclusive
Constitution, a mutual recognition of opponent parties, and free and fair elections.
This unique and precious experience has a great potential and could
work as an example in different environments, above all in the Arab societies.
Thus, the Tunisian case must be better understood everywhere – from
Europe to other Arab countries – in order to mobilize support and build
knowledge of the conditions that allow a democratic regime to be created
and consolidated.

The Tunisian Exception: a first conference within the framework of the Mediterranean Forum project was organized on November 2015 in Rome in collaboration with LUISS Guido Carli-Department of Political Sciences and LUISS
Guido Carli School of Government on “The Tunisian Exception. A Nobel
for the Future of Democracy in the Arab World”. The conference aimed at
capturing the attention of the Italian and European public opinion on Tunisia’s
fundamental experience in the wake of the Nobel Peace Prize that has highlighted
the capacity of the Tunisian society and politics to overcome the critical
moments of the past years with a crucial agreement among secular and
religious political movement and thanks to the very important role played by
an active and resolute civil society. The conference explored the specific
reasons and features of Tunisia’s ‘success story’ and the role that Europe
and the international community play with regards to Tunisia’s exceptional
although still fragile democratic transition.

Among the participants
Francesca M. Corrao (LUISS), Rafik Abdessalam (Former Minister of Foreign
Affairs, Ennahda Party, Tunisia) Bochra Belhaj Hmida (M.P. and Member
of the Executive Committee of Nidaa Tounes Party, Tunisia), Emma
Bonino (Former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Italy), Mohamed Haddad (Observatoire
arabe des religions et des libertés, Tunisia), Slaheddine Jourchi (Intellectual
and Human Rights Activist, Tunisia), Ferida Labidi (M.P. and Former
Member of the Constituent Assembly of Tunisia and the President of its
Commission for Rights and Freedom), Sergio Fabbrini (LUISS School
of Government), Ridha Tlili (University of Tunis and President, Ahmed Tlili
Foundation for Democratic Culture, Tunisia), Mohamed Jouili (Observatoire
National de la Jeunesse, Tunisia), Mohamed Tahar Jouini (UGTT Trade
Union, Tunisia), Fabio Petito (University of Sussex), Imen Ben Mohammed
(Member of The People’s Representatives Assembly, Tunisia)

State building in Libya: a second conference was organized in Tunis on
September 30th 2016 in cooperation with the Observatoire Arabe des Religions
et des Libertés, and the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the
Atlantic Council on the topic “State-building in Libya. Integrating Diversities,
Traditions, Citizenship” to open a debate on a real state building process
that could point the way to the consolidation of the rule of law within Libya’s
borders. The conference offered an exceptional occasion to explore, from a
social, political and juridical perspective, the obstacles to a real state building
process and the developments that could lead to positive outcomes.

Among the participants
Massimo Campanini (University of Trento), Federico Cresti (University of
Catania, Italy), Hosham Dawod (Centre d’études interdisciplinaires des
faits religieux, CNRS), Moncef Djaziri (University of Lausanne, Switzerland),
Courtney Erwin (Van Vollenhoven Institute for Law, Governance and Development,
Leiden Law School), Mohamed Haddad (Observatoire Arabe
des Religions et des Libertés and University of Manouba), Abdelkader
Kadura (Constitutionalist, Benghazi University, Poitiers University), Wolfgang
Kraus (Vienna University), Wolfram Lacher (German Institute for International
and Security Affairs), Fadeel Lamen (Chairman, Libyan National Dialogue
Commission). A book based on the proceedings of the Conference will be
edited by Margherita Picchi (University of Naples) and published in 2017.

Organization of the project: workshops and research
Through a multi-disciplinary approach that includes philosophy, sociology,
modern history, theology, Arab and Islamic studies, law, the project will organize
several regular Research Workshops in Arab countries and in Europe,
Seminars and Public Conferences with renowned scholars from around
the world. These initiatives, supported by specific Research Assignments to
senior and younger scholars will lead to high-quality publications in English,
French and Arabic on the one hand. On the other hand, Reset DOC’s aim is
to build a permanent intellectual community and forum capable of producing
knowledge, academic and intellectual exchanges and new research.

Arab intellectuals to be involved
Yadh Ben Achour, Vice-President, Comité des droits de l’Homme
des Nations Unies, Former President, Haute Instance de la Révolution, Tunisia
Abdou Filali-Ansary, The Aga Khan University Institute for the Study
of Muslim Civilizations, Marocco
Ferhat Horchani, Dean, Faculty of Law, University of Tunis, Tunisia
Slaheddine Jourchi, Politician and activist, Tunisia
Mohammed Salah Kherigi, Vice-President of the Tunisian Ligue
for Human Rights, Tunisia
Kamel Labidi, Ex President of the Haute autorité indépendante
de la communication audiovisuelle, Tunisia
Ridha Tlili, Professor of History, University of Tunis, Tunisia

Personalities from other countries to be involved
Mustafa Akyol, Writer and journalist, Turkey
Giuliano Amato, judge of the Constitutional Court of Italy
Abdullahi An-Na’im, Emory University, USA
Seyla Benhabib, Yale University
Emma Bonino, founder of NPWJ, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy
Nilüfer Göle, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris
Jonathan Laurence, Boston College, USA
Fabio Petito, University of Sussex, Uk
Alfred Stepan, Columbia University, USA

Members of committee of guarantee
Abdou Filali-Ansary, Aga Khan University, Uk
Mohammed Haddad, Observatoire arabe des religions et des libertés
Yadh Ben Achour, Vice-President, Comité des droits de l’Homme des
Nations unies, Former President, Haute Instance de la Révolution, Tunisia
Emma Bonino, founder of NPWJ, former Minister of Foreign Affairs of Italy