With the recent establishment of a Program of Good Governance and Political Reform in the Arab World, Stanford has been placed on the map for contemporary Middle East studies.
The Freeman Spogli Institute's Center on Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) recently announced the establishment of the program, which comes as a gift from the Foundation for Reform and Development in the Middle East (FDRDME).
"The pledge of it came a few months ago, and we received the gift a few weeks ago," said CDDRL Director Larry Diamond, who will supervise the program. "It emerged as a result of a conversation that we had with the foundation out of mutual interest that they had and we had regarding a new generation of work being done in democratic reform in the Arab world."
Having the funding in place now allows the program to move forward with specific activities. "We're working to hire a full-time scholar-manager," Diamond said. "After we do, then we can move onto more concrete program development."
Diamond expects the program will sponsor visiting scholars at CDDRL, coordinate seminars and events promoting education of the Arab world, and conduct research. Diamond also stressed the aim of bringing together scholars and experts from Arab countries and Western scholars
"We want to advise understanding of conditions in specific countries undergoing democratic change," Diamond said. "We want to build a network of scholars and thinkers and practitioners from the region, who are working in region, who are thinking about those issues, and link them up with scholars at Stanford and elsewhere in the U.S. Our goal is to foster better understanding of economic, social, political and strategic conditions in the region that are either obstructing political reform or instead helping to catalyze it.
"We'll want to be collaborating with institutions in the U.S. and institutions in the Arab world," he added.
Stanford joins a group of American universities and institutions who, in the wake of the Middle East's increased relevance to American affairs, are focusing more on Middle East studies and forming relationships with universities in the region. Numerous American universities are putting an increased focus upon such studies, and others are actually setting up shop in the Middle East — Carnegie Mellon opened a campus in Doha, Qatar in 2004, and New York University is set to open a campus in the United Arab Emirates in 2010.
Along with Diamond, CDDRL Deputy Director Kathryn Stoner-Weiss, FDRDME Director Olivier Roy, CDDRL visiting scholar from Morocco Hicham Ben Abdallah and soon-to-be CDDRL postdoctoral fellow Sean Yom will also participate in the new program.