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Ishac Diwan

Ishac Diwan

Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative




Ishac Diwan is a Visiting Scholar at the Belfer Center's Middle East Initiative and Chaire d'Excellence Monde Arabe at Paris Sciences et Lettres. He received his PhD in economics from the University of California at Berkeley. He taught international finance at NYU's Business School from 1984-87. In 1987, he joined the World Bank's Research Complex, where he focused on international finance, trade, and macroeconomics. In 1992, with the coming of the Oslo Agreements, he joined the World Bank’s Middle East Department, first as the country economist for the West Bank and Gaza and later as a regional economist. He contributed to the creation of the prime network of economists in the Middle East, the Economic Research Forum, and of a regional policy forum, the Mediterranean Development Forum.

In 1996, he joined the World Bank Institute and led the Economic Policy group (1996-2002), creating the Attacking Poverty Program and contributing to the initiation of the Global Development Network. Diwan lived in Addis Abeba (2002-07) and Accra (2007-11), as the Bank's Country Director for Ethiopia and Sudan first, and then for Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Burkina Faso, and Guinea. He led several ambitious initiatives, such as Ethiopia's Productive Safety Net, Ethiopia's Protection of Basic Services Program, and in West Africa, initiatives to support commercial agriculture, natural resources development, and jobs for the youth. He taught Public Policy at the Kennedy School of Government and was Director for Africa and the Middle East at the Growth Lab of the Center for International Development from 2011-2014.



By Date



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July 13, 2016

"The Silent Arab Majority Must Speak Up"

Op-Ed, Project Syndicate

By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative

"Since the United Nations Development Program began work on the Arab Human Development Reports (AHDR) in 2001, the situation in many Arab countries has gone from bad to worse. In fact, today the region cannot even come together to publish a new report. This is unfortunate, because finding a new shared vision for Arab people, especially Arab youth, is a prerequisite for ever achieving peace and prosperity in the Middle East and North Africa."




April 11, 2016

The Emancipation Gap in Arab Education

Op-Ed, Project Syndicate

By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative

Discussion of education in the Arab world has focused only rarely on the role of schooling in changing social and political mores. This is unfortunate, because educated citizens of Arab countries tend to be much less emancipated politically and socially, on average, than their peers in other parts of the world. If Arab societies are ever to become more open and economically dynamic, their education systems will have to embrace and promote values appropriate to that goal.



Getty Images/Fethi Belaid

March 4, 2016

"Economic Growth After the Arab Spring"

Op-Ed, Project Syndicate

By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative

"Five years after the Arab Spring uprisings began, Egypt, Jordan, Morocco, and Tunisia have achieved reasonable levels of political stability. Yet economic growth remains tepid, and the International Monetary Fund does not expect the pace of expansion to exceed 1.5% per capita this year. Given the region’s large catch-up potential and young workforces, one must ask why this is so..."



March 17, 2015

A Political Economy of the Middle East


By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative and Melani Cammett, Faculty Affiliate, Middle East Initiative

A Political Economy of the Middle East is the most comprehensive analysis of developments in the political economy of the region over the past several decades, examining the interaction of economic development processes, state systems and policies, and social actors in the Middle East.



February 2015

"Lebanon in the Syria Quagmire"


By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative and Youssef Chaitani, United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia

Lebanon’s sectarian governance system has been over 150 years in the making. But the Syrian fire next door, which has taken an increasing sectarian nature, is likely to burn for a long time. With such dire prospects, what is the fate of Lebanon’s governance system? Will it lead the country inexorably towards civil strife?



November 19, 2014

Podcast: "The Changing Mindset of Arab Youth from the Prism of Opinion Surveys" with Ishac Diwan


By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative

An audio recording from Ishac Diwan, Distinguished Chair in Arab World Studies at Paris Sciences et Lettres, Visiting Researcher at Universite Dauphine and Paris School of Economics, and MEI Research Affiliate.

On November 19, 2014 at MEI, Professor Diwan presented his findings from analysis of the sixth wave of the World Values Survey, focusing on the Arab World and specifically on Arab Youth.



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June 12, 2014

"Democracy and division in the Arab world"


By Mohamad M. Al-Ississ, Kuwait Foundation Visiting Scholar (Spring 2014), Middle East Initiative and Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative

"Tensions in Iraq may be dominating the headlines, but there are complex patterns of division and polarization across the Arab region. When the World Economic Forum polled experts and leaders on the world’s most significant challenges for the Outlook on the Global Agenda 2014 (now available in Arabic), rising societal tensions and polarization in the Middle East and North Africa came out top."



Creative Commons

December 3, 2013

"The Missing Conversation: How to Build a Moral Capitalism in the Arab Region"

Op-Ed, World Bank Blog

By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative

"The Arab transition countries, Tunisia, Egypt, Yemen, and Libya, are grappling with complex issues relating to personal values, the extent of freedom of speech, individual rights,  family matters, that all orbit around deep issues of identity and the respective roles of the individual, the state and society. These social conversations are constructive in that they reflect a rich pluralism of views in societies where conformity was the rule under dictatorship. But unfortunately, these dialogues are polarizing society, leading to violence and threatening chaos and a possible return to authoritarianism."




July 17, 2013

"Egypt's Revolutionary Reset"

Op-Ed, Project Syndicate

By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative and Hedi Larbi, Associate, Middle East Initiative

"Whether or not Egypt’s first-ever democratically elected president, Mohamed Morsi, was pushed aside by a military coup may be debatable, but it is undeniable that the June 30 protest that triggered his ouster was the largest mass movement in Egypt’s history. It was also glaring testimony to the failure of the first phase of Egypt’s revolution."



Wikimedia Commons

June 26, 2013

"Tunisia's Islamic Wild Card"

Op-Ed, Project Syndicate

By Ishac Diwan, Visiting Scholar, Middle East Initiative and Hedi Larbi, Associate, Middle East Initiative

"More than two years after the start of Tunisia’s Jasmine Revolution, there is still doubt about whether Ennahda can oversee the completion of a transition to democracy. Indeed, since winning Tunisia’s first free election in 2011, Ennahda has been unable to choose definitively whether to support a pluralistic or an Islamist state. This ambivalence has led to a high level of polarization between liberals and Islamists--and to political violence."

Events Calendar

We host a busy schedule of events throughout the fall, winter and spring. Past guests include: UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, former Vice President Al Gore, and former Soviet Union President Mikhail Gorbachev.