Photo: Frode Løvlie

Muwatin, the Palestinian Institute for the Study of Democracy, Ramallah/Palestine, and the Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI), Bergen/Norway, have had a formal co-operation agreement since 1995, funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (Norad).

Main goals:

  • Strengthen research co-operation between CMI and Muwatin
  • Encourage joint research and publication
  • Enhance long-term financial sustainability of Muwatin
  • Begin step-wise transition to a new funding profile for CMI and Muwatin


The cooperation has made it possible for Muwatin to continue to be a Palestinian resource centre on democratic theory and practice, as well as to ensure Norwegian research based knowledge on Palestinian affairs. This current phase ends in 2013. The project will continue to produce high quality research with through collaborative research projects. Funds have been earmarked for a PhD-scholarship to strengthen staff competence and research contacts between CMI and Muwatin. Focus will be on studying contemporary developments in Palestinian society and politics following Hamas’ electoral victory (2006), international boycott of the new Hamas-government and subsequent fall-out between Hamas and Fatah.

Research under the agreement has from the start closely tallied political developments in Palestine. The CMI-Muwatin agreement was inaugurated during a period of unprecedented optimism for a political solution to the Palestine conflict and acceptance of a “two-state solution” as envisaged in the Oslo Accords (1993). As the Oslo Accords gradually lost political momentum, the political initiative and popular support shifted from secular nationalism towards the Islamist alternative espoused by Hamas, the most prominent Islamist movement to emerge after the first intifada (1987). Research under the CMI-Muwatin agreement studied these shifts that saw Hamas emerge as a potential rival of Fatah and the emergence of a “two party system” in Palestine. The ensuing conflict between Fatah and Hamas has seen growing internecine violence erupt between warring factions and Gaza and the West Bank effectively ruled by rival administrations. Attempts to revive the ailing peace process and the Road Map such as the latest conference in Annapolis (USA) have likewise been dismal. The deteriorating security situation in the Palestinian Territories has been matched by increasing incursions, power-cuts and attacks by the Israeli Army that eventually spilled over into neighbouring Egypt with the breaking of the Gaza “barrier”.


Transition to democracy (“Good governance”)

Media and politics in the contemporary Arab world

Project chairs: Lena Jayyusi (Muwatin), Anne Sofie Roald (CMI)

This is a regional media research project pursued through a selected team of researchers. The project will include audience/reception studies, as well as studies of texts/discursive practices, and networks and institutions. The research questions/themes will focus on some of the central issues of the public discourse (“Palestine”, “Iraq”, “Islam and the West”) and some of the most significant Arab media networks (Al Jazeera, Al Manar, Al Arabiyya) as well as the more interactive media forms and practices (media blogs, user groups and internet sites and networks). The latter are included to study the character and dynamics of mediated social and political contestations in the Arab world today and, consequently, to provide some basis for assessment of their potential for change.

Political Islam and democratisation

Project chairs: May Jayyusi (Muwatin), Are Knudsen (CMI)

One of the main challenges facing democratic transformations is how to mobilise ordinary people, the citizenry, for the struggle for democracy; that is, how to give them a tangible stake in such a transformation. The sheer poverty in the content and practice of citizenship in the region where people are “subject to power” but citizens only by grace of the regimes, remain one of the major problems facing any popular mass mobilisation of the people. Articulating demands for justice, working among their mass constituencies and providing them with a network of services that the state has abandoned, are some of the sources of strength of the various Islamist movements and it is for this reason many observers believe that the Islamist movements and parties can be the carriers of social and democratic change in the region.

A team of local and non-local researchers and scholars will be brought together for a workshop in Ramallah. In the third year we propose to hold a major conference to present new and established research on these issues. The proceedings of the conference will be published in book form with an international publisher.

Palestinian political development 

Project chairs: George Giacaman (Muwatin) and Are Knudsen (CMI)

In this project we aim to study the obstacles to and opportunities for political solutions to the stalled peace process in Palestine in general and the internal division between Fatah and Hamas in particular. This includes studies of the internal political processes (Hamas and Fatah), the problem of internecine conflict, the potential for third-party mediation and the use of political and economic incentives to end violence. The project is intended to run for three years (2008–10). A more detailed project document will be produced during the first phase of the project (2008) in the form of a concept paper. This will be used to identify a team of local and non-local researchers and scholars that will be brought together for a workshop in Ramallah in spring 2009. The papers from the workshop will be published as a special issue of a refereed journal (Journal of Palestine Studies).