Beginning in 1997, the MENA Development Forum (MDF) is dedicated to empowering civil society to participate in shaping public policy; improving the outreach and dialogue on economic and social policy issues in MENA; improving the extent and quality of research on economic and social policy issues; and creating vibrant networks of development actors in the region. The MDF partnership is comprised of Middle East and North Africa Region (MENA) think tanks, the United Nations Development Programme, and the World Bank Institute.
The partnership operates by supporting policy dialogue activities lead by MDF partners that culminate in a large high-level Forum held approximately every two to three years. A crucial component of the MDF partnership is the Forum because it provides a rare opportunity for MENA experts, high-level government officials, and civil society representatives to meet and engage in a dialogue to help shape the region's development agenda. MDF provides a venue for open debate on new issues and breaks down internal and country barriers through participant dialogue during the Forum.
In general, MDF supports the preparation of papers and the publications of a number of books on issues discussed during the Forum. Also, MDF helps encourage and highlight the creation of networks and initiatives: Network of Lawyers Reforming NGOs Initiative; Network of Women Evaluators; MENANET (network of social funds); the Poverty Analysis Initiative ; and Youth Initiatives.