Foreign Policy Research Institute A Nation Must Think Before it Acts Contemporary Challenges Facing North Africa

Contemporary Challenges Facing North Africa

  • November 30, 2011
Bruce Maddy-Weitzman

Associate Scholar, FPRI

Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies

Audra K. Grant

RAND Corporation

Peter J. Schraeder

Loyola University Chicago

William Lawrence

International Crisis Group's North Africa Project

Tally Helfont


Coordinator of FPRI's Program on the Middle East

North Africa, a region that has been recently thrust back into the spotlight, is facing profound political, economic, social, and security challenges. The recent toppling of the presidents of Tunisia and Egypt, the ongoing violence in Libya, and the spreading protests throughout the Middle East, pose a direct threat to regime stability, calling into question the legitimacy of some while strengthening the legitimacy of others. Struggling with rising poverty, health care deficiencies, and unemployment, North Africa is in great need of human resource development and a stronger private sector. Finally, the rise of political Islam and more importantly the proliferation of al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) feature among the primary concerns of the region and bear serious implications for Africa, the greater Middle East, and beyond. This conference will bring together recognized academic and analytical expertise in order to examine these challenges and their implications for U.S. foreign policy.

Bruce Maddy-Weitzman is Senior Research Fellow at the Moshe Dayan Center for Middle Eastern and African Studies at Tel Aviv University and editor of its Tel Aviv Notes, an update on Middle Eastern developments. He is the author of The Crystallization of the Arab State System, 1945-1954 (1993), Palestinian and Israeli Intellectuals in the Shadow of Oslo and Intifadat al-Aqsa (2002), and articles on regional Arab politics and Maghreb affairs; coeditor of Religious Radicalism in the Greater Middle East (1997), editor (1995-2000) of the Center’s annual yearbook, Middle East Contemporary Survey; Co-editor of The Camp David Summit- What Went Wrong? (2005); and co-editor of The Maghrib in the New Century: Identity, Religion and Politics (Univ. of Florida Press, 2007). His new book is titled, The Berber Identity Movement and the Challenge to North African States (University of Texas Press, May 2011).

Audra K. Grant is a political scientist at the RAND Corporation, whose current research is on climate change and displacement in Morocco, Algeria, Egypt, Yemen, and Syria and on Moroccan youth. In 2008, Grant was an advisor to MNF-I Strategic Operations-Baghdad on elections in Iraq, while based in the country. Prior to joining RAND in 2004, she was an intelligence analyst at the U.S. Department of State/Bureau of Intelligence, where she focused on implementing and analyzing public opinion research in the MENA region and political analysis. She has conducted research and analysis on trends in political Islam in the MENA; democratization; and U.S. foreign policy. For these efforts, Dr. Grant received the Franklin Award for expanding Department of State/Office of Public Opinion’s Middle East research program after 9/11. She has lived and conducted extensive research in North Africa and has traveled throughout much of the MENA region. Dr. Grant was awarded a PhD in Political Science from the University of Wisconsin (Comparative Politics-Middle East). She is proficient in classical Arabic, and fluent in German and Italian.

Peter J. Schraeder is a professor and graduate program director in the Department of Political Science at Loyola University Chicago. His research interests include comparative foreign policy theory, United States and European foreign policies toward Africa and the Middle East, African politics and foreign policy (including North Africa), and intervention in world politics and international democracy promotion. His scholarship is published in African Affairs, The Journal of Modern African Studies, The Journal of Politics, Political Science Quarterly, Middle East Journal, Politique Africaine, and World Politics. He is the author or editor of ten books and is currently working on two new books, African Foreign Policy: Democratization and its Impacts and The Cross, the Crescent and the Ballot Box: Catholic and Islamic Perspectives on International Democracy Promotion.

William Lawrence directs the International Crisis Group’s North Africa Project. Previously, he served as a U.S. State Department Senior Advisor for Global Engagement, co-creating and implementing the U.S. Science Envoy Program, the Global Innovation Through Science and Technology Program, and the Islamic World Science Partnerships Program and co-chairing the U.S.-Egypt Science and Technology Development Fund. He served as the State Department’s officer in charge of Tunisian and Libyan Affairs and helped negotiate the first bilateral agreement between the U.S. and Libya in decades. He has taught at Georgetown, Tufts, and Cadi Ayyad universities and as the Goldman Sachs Visiting Professor at Johns Hopkins University. He has a PhD from the Fletcher School covering North African History, Politics, and Culture; Political Analysis, Economic Development; and Islamic Law and Social Change. A former Peace Corps Volunteer, Fulbright Scholar, and Film and Music Producer, he co-produced 14 albums of North African music.

Tally Helfont is a research fellow and the Coordinator of FPRI’s Program on the Middle East. Her current research focuses on the Levant, regional balance of power, and radical ideologies therein. Ms. Helfont has instructed training courses on behalf of K3 Enterprises in Civil Information Management to U.S. Military Civil Affairs Units and Human Terrain Teams assigned to Iraq and Afghanistan. She is the author of the FPRI monograph, The Palestinian Islamic Jihad’s U.S. Cell [1988-95]: the Ideological Foundations of Its Propaganda Strategy as well as numerous FPRI E-NOTES. She earned an M.A. from Tel Aviv University in Middle East Studies and is proficient at various levels in Hebrew, Arabic, and French.

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