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Arab think tanks help change public policyoptions in transition countries

Tuesday, July 2, 2013   (0 Comments)
Posted by: Robin Wehrlin
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Arab think tanks help change public policyoptions in transition countries


Oslo/Amman, 28 June 2013: As seen in the events in the Arab region and beyond  in the past two years, political transitions, if managed properly, may open up unique opportunities for greater public participation in shaping and sustaining accountable and inclusive public policy choices.   Intermediary institutions and mechanisms that may help transform street protests into viable collective action and strategies to legitimize such institutions, from Cairo to Tripoli, from Tunisia to Rabat, are key in this process.   

National policy research centres and think tanks, many of whom are part of civil society,can play a key role in providing the evidence and analysis needed tocontribute to shaping the policy-making agenda in transition contests. Often challenged by legal and financial constraints, a polarized political context, their internal capacities and their networks, however, to what extent are they truly able to contribute? What challenges do they face and what kinds of support can best enable them to contribute? What lessons can be learnt from other countries?Against this background, and part of a larger initiative of dialogues on political transitions, the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and the Foundation for the Future, in cooperation with UNDP’s Regional Centre in Cairo, are organising a regional forum in Amman, Jordan on 2-4 July to discuss how think tanks can use their expertise to contribute further in shaping the new political, social and economic opportunities in the Arab region. 

- National expertise crucial to sustainable change

In Oslo in 2012, the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre (OGC) and the Norwegian Peacebuilding Resource Centre (NOREF) organised the South-South conference "The Political Economy of Transitions: Analysis for Change” to discuss such transitions. At the conference, policy makers, civil society representatives, military leaders, practitioners, researchers and UN staff underlinedthe urgent need to share experiences for knowledge-based policy-making practices on how to better assist policy support centres and institutionalize strategic advice. 

"A critical way to support national policy formulation and generate the needed evidence is greater involvement of civil society and national think tanks”, says Geraldine Fraser-Moleketi, Director of UNDP’s Governance Group. "Learning from other countries is important”, she adds.Heba El-Kholy, Director of UNDP’s OGC, agrees."Independent national policy and research centres areideal partners for supporting innovations,generating better understanding of the local political economy context,strengtheningnational expertise and building consensus on public policy choices”, she adds. Strategic support from the international community to national think tanks is one way to back up the evolution of more evidence public policy reforms that are sustainable, inclusive and accountable. 


Think tanks highlight gender inequality

As seen at the Oslo Transitions Conference, despite difficulties faced by many think tanks in adjusting to the process of change in their environment, the think tanks’ role in promoting in gender equality, for instance, through analysing what blocks or supports women’s empowerment in transitions to democracy, is essential to sustainable change.


The Amman forumwill gather participants from policy-support centres and networks in Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the Palestinian territories and Tunisia and experts and development practitioners from Indonesia, South Africa and Myanmarin addition to women activists, UN representatives and think tanks from the North. 

- Think tanks help fill an important gap

In Jordan, participants will, among other things, discuss the political and legal environment in which think tanks operate, their commitmentto issues of equality and their capacity and ability to generate relevant knowledge.Can the on-going transitions across the Arab world present an opportunity for think tanks in the region to play an essential role in thepost-revolution landscape? What type of technical expertise and support do they need to produce high-quality researchand to partner effectively with the media to disseminate research? 

"We have seen that the shortage of sound and relevant knowledge on critical governance sectors and specific issues weakens the capacity of the state to address essential needs for reform”, explains Nabila Hamza, Director of Foundation for the Future. "Experience shows that policy centres and think tanks are instrumental in filling this knowledge gap and bringing about democratic change, providing that there is enough political will to discuss and act upon this new evidence.” 

The forum ‘Reform-oriented knowledge amid political transitions: The role of think tanks in supporting policy dialogue and consensus building’ held in Amman, 2 – 4 July 2013 is organised by the UNDP Oslo Governance Centre and the Foundation for the Future.



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Javier Fabra-Mata, UNDP/OGC, Oslo:, tel +47 476 74 204

Yara Smadi, UNDP Jordan:, tel +962 (0) 6 5300499

Dima Masri, Foundation for the Future, Jordan:,

tel + 962 (0)6 554 4906 ext 304. 

The Oslo Governance Centre (OGC) is a unit of the Democratic Governance Group (DGG) in the Bureau for Development Policy (BDP) of UNDP. It was established in 2002 as a global centre of excellence designed to provide support to the practical and operational work of UNDP in assisting partner countries in developing more democratic and effective forms of governance for sustainable peace and development, and to contribute to regional and global policy debates and emerging governance issues. In 2012, in response to demand and emerging governance realities, the OGC launched a new stream of work on political transitions. 

The Foundation for the Future is an independent, multi-lateral and not for profit organization, created in 2005 and fully committed to promoting democracy, Human Rights, the Rule of Law and reforms through supporting CSOs’ relevant initiatives in the Broader Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region including Iran, Pakistan and Afghanistan. 


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