Author Archives: Peako Jenkins

Defining Syria’s Future

Creating a Brighter Future for Syrian Youth from CIPE on Vimeo.

This International Youth Day, Syrian youth face a bleak situation. During more than four years of conflict in their country, more than 12,000 children have been killed. Approximately 2 million are living as refugees, and 7.5 million are in need of humanitarian aid.

Syria now has one of the lowest education rates in the world. A 2015 Save the Children report estimates that 2.8 million Syrian children are not attending school and a quarter of school buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Many youth must forego education and work to help their families survive. Yet what often gets lost in this picture is the resilience shown by many young Syrians and their determination to play a role in building a better Syria.

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A Way Forward for a Viable Syria

From left to right: Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Ayman Tabba, Ellen Laipson, and Geneive Abdo discussing the role of private sector and civil society democrats in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

From left to right: Abdulwahab Alkebsi, Ayman Tabba, Ellen Laipson, and Geneive Abdo discussing the role of private sector and civil society democrats in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

“We hear a lot about Syria— we hear the narrative of the Syrian government, we hear the narrative of ISIS, we hear the narrative of some of the opposition groups, but we don’t usually hear from the private sector, about what’s going on.”  

With this introduction, CIPE Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa Abdulwahab Alkebsi opened a panel discussion on May 21 co-hosted by CIPE and the Stimson Center entitled “A Way Forward for a Viable Syria: An Insider Perspective from the Private Sector and Civil Society.” The panel featured Chairman on CIPE partner, the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) Ayman Tabbaa, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Stimon Center Ellen Laipson, and Middle East Fellow at the Stimson Center Geneive Abdo. The panelists discussed the role of democrats from the private sector and civil society in reshaping Syria and countering extremism.

Tabbaa spoke of SEF’s role as the first independent economic think tank in Syria working to change the trajectory of the conflict and rebuild a better Syria for the future. “We have to go back to the roots of this conflict,” he told the audience. Under the regime of Bashar Al Assad, citizens are oppressed and disenfranchised— they lack opportunity for meaningful political and economic participation. But after four years of war, people are wondering what it means to be a Syrian anymore. It is crucial, in this context, to redefine the social contract and the relationship between the citizen and state. As a think tank, SEF is playing a leading role in doing so.

“…after four years of war, people are wondering what it means to be a Syrian anymore.”

Syrians are looking for democratic alternatives to the forces tearing the country apart. Every day we see news about atrocities and violence in Syria. Much of the media focuses on sectarian violence and ISIS-created mayhem. But, even with the chaos and human suffering, Tabbaa offered signs of hope through examples of SEF’s work during the conflict.

He spoke about the recent memorandum of understanding (MOU) that SEF signed with the Ministry in Local Administration of the Syrian Interim Government (SIG). SEF has a network of liaisons inside Syria who provide the SIG and Local Councils with economic data, analysis, and recommendations. Providing this on-the-ground information to decision-makers supports improvement of local governance and enhances the democratic legitimacy of the Councils

Another SEF project helps Syrian youth develop solutions to the challenges in their communities through civic education. SEF has provided 600 young Syrian high school graduates with training in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills. The course offers an alternative to the regime’s propaganda and the empty promises of extremist ideology.

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Creating a New Educational Paradigm for a War-Ravaged Country


Making a difference in an environment like Syria is not an easy task. Decades of authoritarian rule have quashed civic life and discouraged young Syrians from aspiring to leadership in their society. On top of that repressive history are now four years of brutal war.

You hear the numbers. Over 200,000 killed. 3.2 million refugees. 6.5 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). An economy that will require at least a decade of reconstruction. You hear the horror stories. The regime drops barrel bombs on densely populated civilian areas. Dissidents are tortured as they languish in jail. Women are forced into sexual slavery by extremist fighters. Children cannot attend school because their classrooms are destroyed or they must find work in order to help feed their family.

To win back a generation at risk of being lost to this war, CIPE is working with its partner the Syrian Economic Forum (SEF) to create new educational paradigm for Syria. With private sector leadership and solutions, SEF is running a CIPE-supported course for recent Syrian high school graduates who have been displaced by the conflict in the border town of Kilis, Turkey (now home to more Syrians than Turks). The course provides an immersion in entrepreneurship, leadership, and civic skills and is being considered for broader application by authorities in the moderate opposition.

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Ghana: A Trendsetter for Resource-Rich Emerging Markets?

In four out of six petroleum agreements recently approved by Ghana’s Parliament, the government required oil and gas producers to certify compliance with the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), UK Bribery Act, and OECD Anti-Bribery Convention. At an event in June sponsored by the Ghana government, the FCPA was referred to as model legislation for fighting abuses in the oil and gas industry. This new standard highlights the importance of anti-corruption compliance for companies and businesses seeking to do business in global markets.

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Citizens Work Together to Fight Corruption in Lebanon


A lab technician went to the office of a public official to renew her work contract with a municipal laboratory in northern Lebanon. Several days after submitting her request, the official’s secretary invited her to come to his office. Hoping to finally receive his signature on her contract renewal, the young woman arrived at the office only to find that he wanted to get her alone behind closed doors, where he allegedly proceeded to make verbal and physical sexual advances on her.

She fled the scene and tried to see if she could get her contract renewed through another government department, which only referred her back to the same official. Having no other alternative, the young woman went back to the official’s office in January 2014, but this time she was prepared with a hidden camera to capture his behavior on video.

In the mountains of Chouf, residents of Brih and neighboring villages were displaced during the 1975-1990 Lebanese civil war. Their lands were subsequently occupied by other families and, rather than evacuating the lands and returning them to their original owners, the Ministry of Displaced Persons in Lebanon ran a program to offer compensation to the displaced.

But in 2014, although other villages had been paid, the former people of Brih still had not received their compensation. When they submitted a complaint to the Ministry, it claimed that the payment had been issued. But with residents presenting evidence that they had never received compensation, the question arose: where had the funds gone?

These are the types of cases that Lebanese citizens report to the Lebanese Advocacy and Legal Advice Center (LALAC), an initiative launched by the Lebanese Transparency Association (LTA) as part of its program with CIPE to combat corruption in Lebanon. Through LALAC, citizens can report corruption by calling the LALAC hotline, writing a letter or e-mail, or visiting one of three centers in person. LALAC provides clients with legal advice on the process of vindicating their rights (short of providing representation in court) and tracks the progress of their cases.

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Enriching the Future: Creating Opportunities for Youth in the Middle East

Doha Forum Picture

Through high-level discussions of democracy, development, and free trade, the 2014 Doha Forum held from May 12 to 14 sought to find solutions to key economic challenges facing the Middle East through international collaboration and entrepreneurship. Among those key challenges is job creation.

Co-hosted by Qatar and UCLA’s Center for Middle East Development, the theme of this year’s forum was “Enriching the Middle East’s Economic Future.” CIPE’s Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Abdulwahab Alkebsi and a group of CIPE’s partners participated in the forum.

With 30 percent of the Middle East’s population between the ages of 15 and 29, creating employment opportunities for young people remains a top economic priority for the region. CIPE and its partner organizations highlighted the many ways in which the private sector can address this challenge and enrich the Middle East’s economic future.

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The Power of Chocolate

Watch an interview with Lina Hundaileh (video in Arabic, summary in English).

Watch an interview with Lina Hundaileh (video in Arabic, summary in English).

Jordan ranks among the lowest countries in the world on the World Economic Forum’s measurement of women’s economic empowerment. This lack of economic empowerment tends to correspond to decreased political empowerment, with reduced levels of activities such as voting.

Although women represent over half of university graduates in Jordan, they constitute a paltry 16 percent of the workforce. More than 26 percent of Jordanian women with bachelor’s degrees remain unemployed, compared to just 9.1 percent of male graduates. However, women are finding ways to overcome barriers to their economic participation by starting their own businesses. The Jordan Times reported in February that 38% of all Jordanian entrepreneurs are women, exceeding the international average of women’s participation in the field.

Lina Hundaileh epitomizes this entrepreneurial spirit. After the German company where she worked closed down their Jordan office, Lina decided to create her own job by opening a chocolate factory. She was not deterred by her lack of experience in running a business or making chocolate. It did not faze her when others laughed at her plan. She was determined to succeed and did not view failure as an option. And she loved chocolate.

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