Many countries across the Middle East have in recent years been suffering from devastating armed conflicts, and much of the political dynamics of the region can be understood as reactions to ongoing conflicts, or anticipation of future conflicts. Impacts of conflict, however, do not stop with the signing of a peace agreement. Although post-conflict recovery is frequently treated as a matter of urgency and aimed at addressing immediate needs, decisions in the reconstruction phase will significantly affect future developments. Armed conflict leads to ruptures with the previous status quo and often irreversible changes at different levels. Longer term implications therefore need to be taken into account, both for neighbouring countries and for areas recovering from war.
Assumptions that refugee populations will be able to return as soon as agreements have been reached are mostly unrealistic. Post-conflict recovery strategies may set the scene for new conflicts, by aggravating ethnic, religious or social tensions, creating perceptions of injustice, hampering prospects of economic development, compromising the natural environment, or engendering mechanisms of corruption and dependence on foreign actors. Inadequate governance compromises legitimacy, engagement and faith in a better future.
Expectations and visions of the future play a crucial role in post-conflict dynamics. There is therefore an urgent need to develop powerful future-oriented and participatory methodologies in the field.
The Centre for Middle Eastern Studies at Lund University works with a number of research areas connected to post-conflict futures in the Middle East, including the role of diasporas in the processes, access to health and livelihoods, post-conflict development strategies for rebuilding societies sustainably and scenario methodology as a way to create a shared frame of reference for stakeholders to discuss various pathways.