The Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at the American University of Beirut (AUB) aims to harness the policy-related research of AUB's internationally respected faculty in order to achieve several goals: to raise the quality of public policy-related debate and decision-making in the Arab World and abroad, to enhance the Arab World's input into international affairs, and to enrich the quality of interaction among scholars, officials and civil society actors in the Middle East and abroad.Areas of Focus
In the established tradition of AUB, IFI is a neutral, dynamic, civil, and open space where people representing all viewpoints in society can gather and discuss significant issues of the day, anchored in a long-standing commitment to mutual understanding and high quality research. IFI brings together and showcases in one place -physically and virtually on the web -the research of AUB scholars related to public policy and international affairs.
We act primarily as catalysts and connectors between AUB, other Arab scholars, and the global research and policy community. This includes collaborative work with colleagues around the region and the world, through ongoing and ad hoc partnerships with other universities, stand-alone think tanks, research centers, and institutions in the private and public sectors.
IFI impacts on national and international policy issues through three principal means:
1. Generating high quality, policy-relevant research texts and analyses in formats that are credible to our varied target audience of policy-makers, bureaucrats, the mass media, scholars, business and civil society leaders, and opinion molders throughout society
2. Hosting public conferences, workshops and other gatherings that bring together policy officials, private sector and civil society leaders, scholars, students and the interested public for frank exchanges of views on timely issues, leading to more clarity and possible consensus on critical policies
3. Facilitating or hosting private gatherings that bring together individuals and groups in the fields of policy-making, civil society, the corporate world and scholarship.
IFI targets multiple audiences with very different needs and interests: academic scholars, students, policy-makers, the mass media, civil society, the private sector, and other research centers in the Middle East and the rest of the world.
IFI activities include the following: Conferences, workshops and symposia; visiting fellows (from a few days to a full year); guest lecturers and ongoing thematic lecture series; visiting researchers; panel discussions and debates; research projects that generate studies, papers, scholarly articles, books; a "working papers" series of articles by AUB and visiting scholars; short policy recommendations, analyses and briefs; opinion and analysis articles and interviews for the press; ad hoc white papers on timely issues; faculty and student exchanges, regionally and globally; internships; private meetings among scholars, activists and officials; an active website that pulls together all public policy and international affairs work at AUB.
The expertise at AUB, and the public policy and international affairs mandate of IFI, are very broad. We have decided to focus in our first three years on programs in the following areas:
1. Arab youth-related issues: The Arab world is almost 65% under the age of 30 and will remain so for some time. Youth-related issues cut across most AUB fields of expertise, including public health, gender, demographics, urbanism, political participation, identity, culture, terrorism/extremism, environment, education, economy-business, psychology, sociology, and others.
2. State, society and citizen: This broad program umbrella accommodates many issues that are the focus of AUB research and that will remain relevant for decades to come, including governance, political/economic/social/educational reform, corruption, corporate governance, communal identity issues, ethnicity, religion, tribalism, sustainable statehood, democratization, pluralism, accountability, media and communications, terrorism, history, the rule of law, security sector reform, etc. This program would also generate cross-sectoral research, international interest and support, and significant relevance and impact.
3. Environment and public health: AUB has long been a regional pioneer in various aspects of environment, natural resources, and public health, with much research work being done in these fields in several faculties. The importance of these issues will only increase throughout the region in years to come, and some (e.g., global warming, water) offer important links to international affairs as well as public policy in the region.
4. The Arabs and Asia: Arab-Asian relations will be among the most significant determinants of this region's wellbeing for decades to come, and few people in the Middle East or Asia are focusing on this in a meaningful way. Issues of trade, labor flows, security, terrorism, extremism, investment, identity, religion, environment, arms and WMD proliferations, security, and public health are among the big issues defining the Arab-Asian relationship. We will develop working ties and research projects with colleagues in Turkey and Iran initially, then India, China and Pakistan, later expanding to Japan, the Koreas, Indonesia, Afghanistan and others, including Central Asia and Russia.
5. Resolving conflicts and negotiating peace: AUB is uniquely positioned in the region and the world to be a neutral, respected, open place where people in conflict can meet and talk, whether in public or privately. This program will promote quality, relevant analysis of conflicts and their resolution through faculty research projects, workshops, and an ongoing Peacemakers Lecture Series. Experienced negotiators and peacemakers from around the world, both successful and failed, are invited to share their experiences with students, faculty and the public, via lectures, workshops and meetings on campus.
6. Middle East think tanks and public policy: AUB/IFI aim to enhance their impact on public policy by leading an on-going regional assessment of how think tanks and research centers can impact more emphatically on public policy and international affairs, and how public policy is formulated and implemented in the Arab region. This will include an annual gathering of the top think tanks and research centers from the region, to discuss how they could optimize their impact by collaboratively sharing experiences and resources, and working with partners abroad to achieve faster, sustainable reforms throughout the Middle East.