Shiraka: supporting democratic transition in the Arab region

From 2012 to the end of 2015 the Netherlands supported democratic change in the Arab region through its Matra South programme. The transition to democracy is a lengthy process which involves both steps forward and setbacks. This is why the Netherlands chose to maintain its support in 2016, this time under the auspices of the Shiraka programme. The central focus of the programme, which is named after the Arabic word for ‘partnership’, is the changing relationship between citizens and government.

Programme goals

Shiraka aims to bring about lasting change in the Arab region, which will ultimately result in:

  • societies that accept cultural and religious differences;
  • states that respect the rule of law and protect individuals, minorities and human rights;
  • economic growth and employment.

Shiraka countries

Shiraka encompasses the entire Arab region, with the exception of the Netherlands’ partners Yemen and the Palestinian Territories. The type of support given depends on:

  • the prospects for democratic transition;
  • opportunities for cooperation.

This means that the Netherlands does not roll out every aspect of the programme in every country. The key elements of the programme for each country are outlined in the following overview.


Shiraka enables the Netherlands to help the Arab region by:

  • supporting local civil society initiatives, such as programmes promoting trade union rights and freedom of the press;
  • building the capacity of political organisation by facilitating cooperation between Dutch and local political parties;
  • working with governments, for example on human rights;
  • training officials and young diplomats.

Further information and contact details

You can find more information about Shiraka in the policy response to the evaluation of Matra South and in the letter to the House of Representatives of 15 November 2016. For questions about Shiraka, please contact:

  • North Africa and Middle East Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs 
    Telephone: +31 (0)70 348 6164 

    Ministry of Foreign Affairs
    Postbus 20061 
    2500 EB Den Haag

Ministry responsible