The development and conflict literature has noted links, generally, between economic development and stability/peace. However, there are few resources that focus specifically on this connection in the Middle East. This is, in part, because there are many other dimensions to stability/peace in the region beyond economics, such as continuing violent conflicts and occupation, authoritarian governments, patronage networks, Islamist groups, gender inequality and dominance of the oil sector. Furthermore, studies on terrorism and the profile of terrorists show that supporters of such acts are often among the more economically well-off. What motivates their attitudes and actions can be better explained by their disapproval of the broader political and economic status quo of the region.
Nonetheless, some Middle East researchers find that there is no need for Middle East exceptionalism. Rather, instability in the region can be explained by general conflict theory – and domestic economic conditions are a good predictor of the presence or absence of stability. High rates of unemployment, and the resistance of governments to institutional reform to provide for greater employment, are key factors contributing to potential political and social unrest. This is a vital concern in the MENA region – where the labour force has been growing in vast numbers and will continue to grow into the end of the next decade.