The TNGO Initiative is proud to announce a new collaborative relationship with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs (IFI) at American University in Beirut, Lebanon. Drawing on the example of the TNGO Initiative Interview Study, IFI researchers are adapting and extending the US TNGO study to Arab NGO leaders across Lebanon, Syria and potentially the wider Middle East region. Given its strong capabilities and reputation in the region, IFI will take the lead role in the effort, with the TNGO Initiative providing advisory assistance with research design and implementation. IFI's study will closely mirror the TNGO Interview Project, enabling in-depth, large-N comparative study between US and Arab NGOs.
While NGOs have become important advocates for environmental and human rights issues across the Middle East, relatively little is known empirically about how they succeed in influencing public policy, and under what circumstances. This new collaborative relationship will explore these issues as an important component of IFI's Research, Advocacy and Public Policy Program (RAPP), which seeks to understand how civil society organizations like NGOs, think tanks and research centers can improve public policy across the Middle East region.
The IFI team is lead by Rami Khouri, IFI Director, journalist and editor at large of Lebanon's popular Daily Star newspaper, and Lana Salman who has coordinated the RAPP program since its inception two years ago, and will include well-known AUB scholars as principle investigators.
"The joint research we have initiated with the Moynihan Institute at the Maxwell School at Syracuse University represents and exciting and important stage in the development of our programs at IFI because of the combination of collaborative and comparative research that comprises the heart of the work. We feel this kind of project epitomizes how Arab and American and other foreign research universities should work together, both to share their expertise in methodology and other aspects of research and to jointly analyze public policy issues of mutual interest to both societies.
The specific issue of how and whether NGOs in the Arab world influence policy making fits into our larger interest in understanding the two poles of the public policy world: how policy making institutions operate and make decisions, and how others in society (NGOs, think tanks, international agencies, the private sector) use research, knowledge and advocacy to influence the policy making process. The political environment in the Arab region is unique because it the only collectively non-democratic region in the world, where government decisions are made in a largely nontransparent and minimally consultative manner. This makes it even more useful to conduct research that can help us understand the entry points whereby NGOs and interested other actors use research and advocacy to influence the policy making process.
We are delighted to partner with the Moynihan Institute at the Maxwell School in this project, which is part of a growing relationship between AUB and Syracuse University. We hope the knowledge we generate is useful for driving a more rational and constructive policy making in the Arab Region and the USA alike, and we look forward also to assessing in the future the impact of this research in various sectors." -- Rami G. Khouri
"In preparation for our joint workshop held last week, IFI held consultation meetings with NGO leaders, policy makers, academics and donors, and summarized what has been published about NGOs in the Arab world in peer reviewed journals. One of the main conclusions from the literature review, which was also echoed during the consultation meetings, is that few researchers from the region have written about NGOs in international peer reviewed journals. This project will constitute a platform for local researchers from Lebanon and the region to write about NGOs and policy change in their own context, contributing to indigenous knowledge production, much needed in the Arab world." -- Lana Salman.
A link to IFI's RAPP program can be found here.