Research and Policy-making in the Arab World Program

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About

​Mission of the Pro​gram

The goal of the program on Research and Policy-making in the Arab World at IFI is to contribute to the understanding of public policy-making in the region, and ultimately improving this process through initiating policy-relevant research and promoting a culture of evidence informed decision-making. It aims at bridging an existing knowledge gap in policy-making by documenting experiences, replicating successful ones, and assessing and improving weak ones. The program focuses on studying the development of public policies in Arab countries and the role of non-state actors in public policy-making. The program also aims at engaging with policy-makers in national and regional dialogues and debates on the development of policies in the countries of the region, as well as responding to contemporary and pressing policy issues. Its uniqueness lies in being an indigenous effort by a policy research institute in the Arab world, collectively with other institutes in the region, to understand and improve how research is influencing policy-making.

Areas of Focus, Goal and Objectives of the Program

The program aims at providing an understanding of the evidence informed policy and decision-making process in countries of the Arab world as well as the role of non-state actors in this complex process. This will be addressed through initiating policy-relevant research, increasing and deepening knowledge production in and about the Arab region, and creating a space for exchange of ideas among researchers, civil society actors and policy-makers. In order to achieve this goal, the program will focus on three objectives that will address two major areas as follows:

Objec​​​​​​tives:


  1. Document the process of developing public policies in the Arab world through policy-tracing studies that examine different sectors such as (but not limited to) health, education, youth, labor and other public policies, such as social policies. 
  2. Link the development of research at AUB and beyond to inform policy-making by providing a platform for the exchange of ideas and expertise through workshops, dialogues, and other models that allow for the exchange of ideas, expertise and experiences. 
  3. Identify the non-state actors involved in the development of public policies in countries of the Arab world and map their role and existing networks in this process, convening actors (when needed) to collect information and work collectively towards agenda setting.


Areas of Focus:

Area #1: Policy-Tracing in the Arab World

This area will address the study of the development of policies in countries of the Arab world. It builds upon the assumption that evidence-informed decisions can strengthen institutionalized systems within a country by improving policy-making and providing accountability for public decisions. Despite the abundance of research on the process of public policy-making in a number of countries across the world, there remains a lack of data and understanding of this same process in the countries of the Arab world. This program, through its policy-tracing studies, aims to provide in-depth insights on the public policy-making process in the MENA region, identifying the factors that influence policy-making and assessing to what extent evidence is used in this process. These studies will also shed light on the accountability mechanisms employed by the different states for ensuring a transparent and just process. Understanding the policy-making context and influences over this process, in addition to drawing on past policies and experiences, will allow designing context-specific strategies toward more evidence-informed policies. Therefore, the program will examine different sectors such as (but not limited to) health, education, labor and social policies in Lebanon and beyond to provide policy analysis case-studies that will form the foundation for establishing models and designing specific strategies that facilitate and promote evidence-informed policy-making catering to the different political contexts of the region.

Area #2: Understanding the Role of Non-State Actors in Policy-making in the Arab World

This area of the program will focus on studying the role of non-state actors in policy-making in countries of the region. Non-state actors, among which are think tanks and civil society organizations, have had legal status and formal roles in legislative efforts and public policy-making processes in a number of countries across the world. These actors have emergent as key stakeholders in the public domain relatively recently in the Arab world, slowly and steadily gaining power. The program has engaged in the study of think tanks in the region since 2010 with a particular emphasis on examining the role of these stakeholders and their impact on the policy-making process. This area of the program will look into the involvement of non-state actors in different stages of the policy-making process, with differentiation in the nature of the actors and social and political contexts. As such, it will also look at the advocacy efforts that the non-state actors initiate and put forth as part of the lobbying for policy change. Therefore, the program will examine how these stakeholders provide an avenue to foster the exchange of ideas and to confer legitimation on social and public policy matters that are decided at the government level. It will further work towards convening non-state actors (when needed) to work collectively towards agenda setting and advocacy.

Main Contact

Projects

​​​​On-going IFI Research

Mapping Education Policies for Syrian Refugees in Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey Joint project with the Refugee Research and Policy in the Arab World 
The Syrian refugee crisis has become one of the most challenging contemporary global humanitarian crises. Not only has the multi-year conflict resulted in the tremendous loss of lives and livelihoods for Syrians, it has also led to the creation of a generation of lost and traumatized refugee children in dire need of education throughout their prolonged displacement. Around 3.1 million children and youth inside Syria and in neighboring countries are of school age. Education has become one of the largest issues impacting Syrian refugees in Lebanon, Turkey and Jordan. Furthermore, it has emerged as a priority for a number of international organizations and local NGOs. The study will map the policies and practices that influence the access of Syrian refugees to primary education in three host countries in the MENA region: Lebanon, Jordan and Turkey. It will also present the varied modes of education available for these students in each of the host countries listed, and investigate the intersection (if any) between the roles of each of the NGOs, INGOs, and local government stakeholders in mitigating the emergent crisis of education. Study findings will provide a better understanding of the policy context of the education of Syrian refugees in each of the host countries, providing policymakers with a comparative lens to look at the current status and possible policy recommendations for a possible response. Findings will also provide a sense of understanding of the potential for harmonization of policy across countries in the region facing a common crisis. 

Hana A. El-Ghali and Nadine Ghalayini, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB

One of the emerging concerns for the Education sector is the quality of education. As more universities began offering the opportunity to pursue a higher education in the country, the quality of education offered began to vary across institutions. Therefore, there is a need to provide certain standards to assure that the education provided to students in Lebanon adheres to quality standards that enables the students to compete in the labor market. In the proposed study on the development of the policy on quality assurance (QA) in higher education institutions in Lebanon, we will look at the process of developing the law/policy for creating a national QA agency for higher education in Lebanon, and whether or not evidence-based research played a role in informing the discussions of the policy. 


Supporting a Participatory Policy making Process in the MENA Region 
Hana A. El-Ghali, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB

This project is collaboration between the Westminster Foundation for Development (WFD), the Issam Fares Institute (IFI), and the National School of Government. The project aims to enhance a participatory and transparent policy-making process in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This will be accomplished through developing suitable guidelines and benchmarks on how to develop a policy, understanding the role of the parliament in overseeing its implementation, and linking policy makers to policy institutes. IFI will develop a set of guidelines for policy-making from inception to monitoring, drawing on international and regional experiences. These guidelines will be grouped in a handbook that will be tested through a series of workshops and focus group discussions with stakeholders and modified to ensure that it is ‘fit for purpose’. IFI will also be examining research-informed policy-making in the context of the Lebanese Parliament by observing the decision making process within Parliamentary Committees and surveying Members of the Parliament in order to gain an in depth understanding of their perceptions of the use of research in the making of public policy in the country. 


National case studies on health policy-making in the Middle East
Fadi El Jardali, Health Management & Policy, Faculty of Health Sciences, AUB
The Eastern Mediterranean Region is still suffering of limited uptake of research evidence by policymakers. This is partially the result of the complex policy-making environment. In-depth studies on health policy-making process would provide better understanding of this process and therefore designing specific Knowledge Translation strategies that can best be matched to particular policy making processes and the political context Using the Lebanese Voluntary Health Insurance of the National Social Security Fund as a case study, this retrospective policy analysis exercise aims at generating insights about how policies are being made and what influences policymaking and the use of evidence in this process. This study is likely to matter in light of the changes that are unfolding in some Arab countries and the looming opportunities for policy reforms. Also, the study would provide lessons to other countries, particularly low and middle income countries.



Rami G. Khouri and Hana A. El-Ghali, Jana Chamaa, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB

The CAPRI project was launched in fall 2010 as part of the RAPP program particularly aimed at studying the research and policy links related to Policy Research Institutes (PRIs). 

Completed​​ IFI Research

The RAPP program conducted a 3-month case study on Lebanon's forest fire policy, tracing the policy-formulation process that lead to the National Strategy for Forest Fire Management—this policy represents a successful example of how a civil society organization specialized in reforestation activities can influence policy-making through research and advocacy. IFI collected data in two phases: a review of relevant documents, and elite interviews conducted with primary policy-makers, including officials from the Ministry of Environment, Ministry of Agriculture, Ministry of Interior and the Ministry of Defense. The study found that the policy-formulation process was achieved by the forestry association's strong lobbying efforts and its grasp of an entry point into policy-making. 

  • The Economics of Tobacco in Lebanon: An Estimation of the Social Costs of Tobacco Consumption
Lebanon has one of the highest smoking rates worldwide. With young teenagers smoking water-pipe and cigarettes at the age of 13, Lebanon has yet to set a policy on tobacco control. Work inefficiency and environmental costs are not the only problems the Lebanese people face as a result of high smoking rates; they also face the vast number of diseases that come with it. This IFI-funded research paper written by AUB's Dr. Jad Chaaban, Dr. Nisreen Salti, and Miss Nadia Naamani is the first study in Lebanon to take a comprehensive look into the organization of tobacco and all major tobacco-related markets, and shows the millions of dollars in losses Lebanon faces as a result of tobacco consumption.
Research, Advocacy and Public Policy-making
The Economics of Tobacco in Lebanon:
An Estimation of the Social Costs of Tobacco Consumption

As part of the AUB Tobacco Research Control Group (AUB-TCRG), this IFI-funded research paper was written by AUB's Dr. Jad Chaaban, Dr. Nisreen Salti, and Miss Nadia Naamani​, and is the first study in Lebanon to take a comprehensive look into the organization of tobacco and all major tobacco-related markets, and shows the millions of dollars in losses Lebanon faces as a result of tobacco consumption.

Read the Full Report [English only - Arabic translation to come soon]
Read the Executive Summary: Arabic​ | English | French
Bulleted summary of the report's key findings: Arabic | English
10 Myths About the Lebanese Tobacco Market: Arabic | English | French​



Related Material
Center for Research on Population and Health (CRPH), 

IFI's RAPP program - April 2010, Research and Policy Memo # 1
Dr Rima Nakkash, AUB-Tobacco Control Research Group, Faculty of Health Sciences

Contact Information
The Economics of Tobacco in Lebanon: An Estimation of the Social Costs of Tobacco Consumption

Dr. Jad Chaaban, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, AUB
Miss Nadia Naamani, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, AUB
Dr. Nisreen Salti, Department of Economics, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, AUB
AUB-Tobacco Control Research Group (AUB-TCRG)
Dr Rima Nakkash, Faculty of Health Sciences, AUB



Hiba Khodr and Daniel Reiche, Political Studies and Public Administration, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, AUB 


Jad Chaaban, Department of Agricultural Sciences, Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, AUB 


Research, Advocacy and Public Policy-making

Consortium of Arab Policy Research Institutes (CAPRI) Project

Rami G. Khouri, and Hana A. El-Ghali, Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, AUB 

The CAPRI project was launched in fall 2010 as part of the RAPP program particularly aimed at studying the research and policy links related to Policy Research Institutes (PRIs). The term PRI is used in the place of "think tank" because the latter term is a Western concept that does not fully incorporate the range of institutions with policy impact in the Arab world. In order to better understand PRIs' research and policy links, it is essential to examine PRIs' role and impact. This requires the conceptual disaggregation of PRIs as institutes on the one hand, and PRIs within the policy-making process on the other.

The research questions guiding this project are:

  1. What is the role of PRIs in the policy-making process in the Arab world?
  2. How can PRIs impact local, regional and global policy-making?
  3. How can PRIs best collaborate?

The CAPRI Project completed Phase I in May 2011. The initial phase involved the mapping of PRIs in the Arab world. In addition, interviews, meetings, and seminars were conducted with PRI directors as well as academics and experts on Arab policy-making. A database was also developed that captures the "landscape" of PRIs in the Arab world. Finally, preliminary analysis of the interviews, meetings proceedings, and database was generated. Phase II of the CAPRI project was launched in January 2012 with a workshop targeted at tackling the practical and strategic issues raised by PRIs during Phase I. A series of similar workshops have followed. The research team is also currently engaged in an in depth analysis of the data generated during the initial phase.

Workshop Report

Technical Workshop

Monograph
A Preliminary Overview of Policy Research Institutes in the Arab World -- A Compilation and Synthesis Report​ as part of RAPP's Consortium of Arab Policy Research Institutes (CAPRI) project.​


Publications