Development actors in the MENA region have been the subject of scholarly attention for some years. This report prioritises literature from 2000 onwards. Much of the recent literature seems to focus on the role of Islamic organisations. Many analysts highlight the large number of these that are already operational in many countries of the region, mostly providing services to some of the poorest communities. Some argue that these organisations enjoy greater levels of credibility because of their Islamic credentials. However, others claim that their exclusivism, and unwillingness to work with secular organisations hampers the goals of effectiveness and true participation. These commentators question the extent to which Islamic organisations are instruments of Islamist political movements, and whether they constitute a real force for economic and political change.
The role of NGOs is also widely discussed. The literature highlights that in recent years the focus of NGOs in the region has evolved from traditional service delivery to more advocacy based activities, emphasising issue of empowerment, accountability, and human rights. These newer activities have had mixed success, mainly due to the continuing restrictiveness of government policy. However, it is widely agreed that civil society and non-government organisations have an important role to play in responding to developing social issues the region.