Hivos Middle East & North Africa

Middle East & North Africa

Internet Governance in the MENA Region


“Internet governance” refers to the laws, policies, practices, processes, norms, and technical standards that apply to the management of the Internet. It also refers to the stakeholders who engage at the local and international level in Internet policy, including government, the private sector, academia, civil society, and the technical community. In some parts of the world, civic actors actively participate in Internet governance debates and processes to ensure that human rights remain firmly on the agenda. Historically, there have been too few civil society representatives from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) in the discussion.

Launched in 2012, iGmena focuses on safeguarding Internet freedoms in the MENA region. The programme aims to ensure that the freedoms of thought and expression are protected online, digital rights and access to information are codified in legislation and policy across the MENA region, and trains civic actors from the region in order to improve their knowledge on Internet governance and Internet policy.

iGmena builds the capacity of stakeholders in the MENA region to advance human rights, including freedom of expression and freedom of information, in national and regional discussions about the operation and regulation of the Internet. In partnership with local nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), iGmena trains civic actors to become Internet governance leaders, maps legislation and policy relevant to the Internet, sponsors civil society participation in the global policy dialogue, organises roundtable discussions about Internet policy, produces educational materials that support advocacy, and conducts outreach to raise awareness about human rights as they apply to Internet users. The programme is made possible through a grant from the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs Human Rights Fund.

Building capacity in Internet Governance

iGmena’s courses on Internet governance are unique because they are specifically tailored to civic actors in the Middle East and North Africa with content and case studies that address current issues in the region. Since iGmena was launched in 2012, the programme has trained more than 350 civic actors from across the region to influence Internet policy outcomes and be more engaged in their local communities. Working with its partners of NGOs and other organizations, iGmena has delivered on-site trainings in Tunisia (2013) and Lebanon (2014), and four online courses in collaboration with DiploFoundation. 

Over the past two years, iGmena provided financial and logistical support to members of civil society to attend major international Internet governance meetings, including the Arab Internet Governance Forums in Algiers (2013) and Beirut (2014), and the global Internet Governance Forum in Istanbul (2014). iGmena fellowships significantly increased civil society representation from the region at these meetings.

Creating space for dialogue

iGmena supports Internet policy dialogue outside of formal Internet governance settings through on-site and online roundtable discussions. In 2014, one of iGmena’s NGO partners, 7iber, hosted nine roundtable conversations in Jordan on laws and policies affecting the Internet, drawing a total of 180 participants. More roundtables  have been conducted since.

In April 2015, iGmena launched the Internet Policy Analyst (IPA) on devoted to original weekly writing by civic actors from the MENA region. Authors share original reporting and analysis in English and Arabic with a focus on Internet policy, governance, and related human rights issues. The initiative is designed to meet the increasing demand for expertise on Internet governance and policy in the MENA region.

Providing advocacy tools

The Internet Legislation Atlas is an initiative to share and analyze laws governing the Internet for seven countries: Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Tunisia, and Syria. The Atlas is a web-based resource that examines the extent to which existing laws meet internationally recognized human rights standards, and it is presented in an engaging and usable format.

With iGmena’s Click Rights campaign, it seeks to promote understanding about digital rights using online tools. The campaign includes colorful infographics promoting digital rights in a way that is makes them easy to endorse and share over social media. It was featured on 15 websites, and has been translated into Arabic, Kurdish, and Farsi.