In the fifth #IpevLive conversation “Seizing the Opportunities Created by the Pandemic”, that took place on June 15, 2021, Kamel Doraï from the Institut Français du Proche-Orient, Jens Kromann Kristensen from the World bank and Amr Adly from the American University in Cairo reviewed with Journalist Hal Plotkin common problems and concerns across the MENA region that create momentum for new stakeholder alliances and collective approaches to the popular goal of reducing and eliminating violence and drew attention to research projects that can accelerate a shared understanding of new opportunities in the MENA region.

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Kamel Doraï observed that the pandemic has shed light on specific issues which were not at the top of the political agenda. He mentioned the issues of migration and refugees and how the pandemic has affected refugee camps in the region, especially in Lebanon. He argued that lockdown affected refugee camps and that in that specific context, people relied a lot on the informal economy to survive, which has intensified because of the pandemic. “It is a way of resilience, a way of adapting”, he said. 

On the other hand, Jens Kromann Kristensen discussed the necessity to re-build institutions in order to solve the issue of violence in the region. According to him, the governments that have implemented appropriate measures and delivered the right services have come out strengthened from the crisis whereas countries and governments which have not been transparent about the pandemic have come out weakened. 

According to Amr Adly, the Covid 19 crisis pandemic has strengthened autocratic regimes all over the world. “The lockdown was used to de-mobilize many countries such as Lebanon and Algeria,” he said. He also noticed that the pandemic has brought more structural issues to the agenda. He put the stress on how the job market was affected by the pandemic, the rise in precarity and violence on many fronts. He insisted on the importance of focusing on short term issues  in the MENA region such as the resolution of armed conflicts

When it comes to the field of research, Kamel Doraï and Jens Kromann Kristensen argued that the issue of data is a key issue that needs to be solved. Jens Kromann Kristensen mentioned the “data desert” MENA experts have been confronted with, whereas Kamel Doraï highlighted the difficulty to go into the field during the pandemic.  “We have to find new ways to access data and to collect reliable data. This is very challenging”, he said. Amr Adly noticed that people who study the MENA region are too often isolated. He concluded that It is too early to analyze how governments have managed the crisis and how they have been affected but noticed that crises are moments of institutional change.