Media vital catalyst between policy-making, research: expert

May 26th, 2008 - 9:15 pm ICT by admin  

By Aroonim Bhuyan
Dubai, May 26 (IANS) The media can play the role of an important catalyst between policy-makers and researchers on developmental issues, according to Rami George Khouri, head of a Beirut-based think-tank. “The media along with civil society can be an important catalyst between public policy-makers and researchers,” Khouri, who is also a journalist, said in the course of a luncheon address in a workshop on Bridging Policy and Research here Monday.

The two-day workshop is organized by the Global Development Network (GDN) and the Dubai School of Government (DSG) to look at the issue of bridging public policy decisions in developing nations with some of the research conducted on them.

Khouri, director of the Issam Fares Institute of Public Policy and International Affairs (IFIPPIA) at the American University in Beirut and editor-at-large of the Beirut-based Daily Star newspaper, said that the role of the public in policy making decisions has assumed prime importance.

“Putting the public in the policy making process is a top priority and the media can play an important role in terms of sharing research information,” he said.

“At the same time, we at think tanks should also look at how to rope in the media so that information can reach the policy makers,” he said.

At a later stage, he said government bodies, educational institutes and international organizations like the UN and UNDP could be involved in policy making process.

On the issue of researchers lacking access to policy makers, he said: “Too many people think that getting access to the central figure in authority is the way to have things done. You (researchers) can approach a president’s wife, a mayor’s wife or even the head of intelligence in a country who can also have your work done effectively.”

Coming to the policy making process in the Middle East, Khouri, a Palestinian-Jordanian and US citizen, said: “This is the largest non-democratic region in the world with no sign of change visible at all. Policy makers of the region have no accountability. As there is no public involvement in policy making, mediocrity has crept into the public policy-making process.”

Citing education as an example, he said, “The education system in the Arab world doesn’t really meet the labour market needs of the region.”

Khouri added it was high time some mechanism was put into place in the region to have the public play a role in the policy making process.

“Though policy makers here may be mediocre, we do have some exceptional researchers in the region. I am not saying that all researchers in the region are doing excellent work, but we do have some exceptional research work being done in the region,” he said.

Commenting on the work of IFIPPIA, the think tank he heads, he said the institute had identified certain issues for research that are of immense relevance to the Middle East.

“We have identified the following areas for our research: climate change and water, youth related issues, the Palestinian refugee situation, the role of the public and think tanks in policy making, food policies and the process of urbanization that is taking place at a fast pace across the region.”

Speaking at the workshop, GDN executive president Gobind Nankani said, “The most important expected output from this workshop is the reaching of an agreement to initiate a regular forum for dialogue and policy research which will be announced soon. We will also work on sharing the workshops outputs with decision makers and policy makers of the region.”

DSG dean Tarik Yousef said the workshop “should result in real accomplishments on the research and policy levels by helping to identify and fill gaps that exist currently”.

GDN is a worldwide network of research and policy institutes working to provide relevant perspectives to the development challenges across the world. DSG is a research and teaching institution focusing on public policy in the Arab world.

Established in 2004 under the patronage of Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates and Ruler of Dubai, Sheikh Mohammed Bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in cooperation with the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, DSG aims to promote good governance through enhancing the region’s capacity for effective public policy.

Over 40 influential policy makers and researchers from across the Arab world, Asia, Africa, the Caribbean and Latin America among others, are attending the workshop.

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