The Doha International Family Institute (DIFI), a member of Qatar Foundation for Education, Science and Community Development (QF), in collaboration with the Social and Economic Survey Research Institute (SESRI) – a social scientific survey research initiative of Qatar University – will organise the inaugural Annual Conference on Family Research and Policy at the Qatar National Convention Centre (QNCC) next month.

The conference, taking place on 3 and 4 May 2015, will focus on ‘The Arab Family in an Age of Transition: Challenges and Resilience’.

The main objectives of the two-day conference are to focus on research, theory and practices to advance DIFI’s knowledge of the Arab family. In addition, DIFI is keen to highlight the role of the family as a defining force in shaping society, focusing on regional trends, areas of strength and resilience and challenges affecting families in Arab countries. Executive Director of DIFI, Noor Almaiki Al Jehani, said:

The DIFI annual conference seeks to promote research on the family in the Arab world and generate evidence to help develop future policies to promote the wellbeing of families.’

A member of QF, DIFI is a leading international institution in Qatar that supports research, policy and outreach programmes that promote the development of Arab families. With research as its core focus, DIFI supports a wide range of international, regional and local evidence-based studies relating to marriage and family structure, women, fertility and demography, child and family safety, and parenting.

The conference will also examine the role of policy in supporting the family and consider global issues, which impact the Arab family, either positively or negatively, from a multidisciplinary perspective. It will also engage with scholars and practitioners on discussions that analyse mutually beneficial practices within the context of family policy.

Ahead of the conference, the DIFI organising committee has invited young and senior researchers to submit their abstracts through a Call For Papers associated with the event. So far, there has been a remarkable response as more than 400 abstracts have been developed and submitted by researchers from more than 35 countries, with many from the Arab region including, Bahrain, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Iraq, Yemen, Palestine, Syria and Jordan.

The abstracts are diverse in their content and encompass the main themes from the conference, including political, economic, and cultural challenges facing the Arab family in different regions of the Arab world. These include marriage and divorce in the Arab world; responses to challenges in terms of marriage practices (such as Misyar, ‘Urfi, Mut’aa, mixed, marriage of minors, and living together-apart marriages); the causes and consequences of separation and divorce, and the role of state policies on family formation and stability, together with the effect of the absence of such policies.

The overwhelming response to the Call for Papers underlined the importance that scholars attribute to the contemporary challenges facing marriage in the Arab region. It also illustrates DIFI’s belief that ‘open dialogue and investigation into the topic of marriage and divorce is long overdue’, is shared by many researchers and scholars in the Arab region and beyond. The discussion of these challenges and exploration of possible interventions will form an integral part of the conference.

The conference will include panel sessions with guest senior researchers, renowned keynote speakers, and seminars where selected papers will be presented and discussed in parallel panel discussions. DIFI will present a Best Paper Award and a cash prize in recognition of the outstanding contributions in each of the sub-topics that constitute the themes of the conference outlined.

DIFI is closely aligned with QF’s mission to enhance human, social and cultural development in Qatar and across the Arab region, and to address immediate social needs in the community. A member of QF, it has a Special Consultative Status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). The institute is comprised of three divisions; Family Research Division, Family Policy Division and Social Outreach Division. Its body of work includes contributions to the UN Secretary General’s campaign to end violence against women; hosting international and regional seminars in partnership with most UN funds and programmes, including UNDESA, UNFPA, UNAIDS and UNICEF; and the funding and development of a wide range of publications on family in the new millennium.