To better understand why Middle Eastern states continue to languish at the bottom of world rankings on gender equality, this study presents critical discourse analysis of state and civil society organizations’ implementation of the Participative Democratic Model of gender mainstreaming. A requirement of the 1995 United Nations Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, the Participative Democratic Model entails state–civil society engagement to embed gender equality concerns in every stage of the policy process. It is in this context that the original contribution of the article is twofold. In methodological terms, it is argued that contemporary analysis of mainstreaming needs to examine the formative phase of policy implementation and the discourse between state elites and civil society organizations. This is integral to effective agenda-setting and coordinated action—and thus to securing successful gender-equality outcomes. In empirical terms, the study findings show how presently, across the Middle East, there are marked contrasts in state and civil society policy framing and issue prioritization. The resulting disjuncture is a hitherto under-examined pathology preventing the realization of the normative vision of gender equality in the region.
Published: January 2016