Round Table Discussion About “The Importance Of Think Tanks To Decision-Making In Egypt, Difficulties Faced”
The Council has joined think tanks around the world to launch an assessment report of these institutions (2014). As a part of the University of Pennsylvania, Civil Society Program, the University launched a report in 2015 with the participation of the United Nations and the World Bank, Think Tanks and NGOs around the world, including ECFA. In this context, the Council organized the round table on 28 January 2016, under the title “The Importance of Think Tanks to Decision-making in Egypt, and Difficulties faced”, which is the theme chosen by the University of Pennsylvania this year. A group of ECFA members attended the discussion and took part in it which primarily tackled the following:
First: The main characteristics of think tanks are:
• Independent of government influence.
• Not influenced by any official or government restrictions.
• Through their members, experienced experts, and former decision-makers, think tanks can provide direct and honest advice away from any government restriction, especially as this is urgently needed in particular in countries with weak political parties.
Second: Challenges facing think tanks: In this regard the debate addressed the following issues:
1. Financial support: financial resources are very important to the work of think tanks, especially as most of them have funding problems. Some research centers in the world receive donations from organizations and individuals. In general, think tanks need financial resources for research and training.
2. Training and Capacity Building: One of the challenges facing think tanks is the scarcity of private and experienced researchers who have adequate knowledge and experience. Most Egyptian research centers suffer from poor training for their members.
3. Poor communication both among the think tanks themselves or between them and the media and decision-makers, which does not allow an exchange of information or of success stories.
4. Relations with decision-makers are one of the most important challenges facing think tanks. For instance, ECFA members who exceed 300 member, include former ambassadors, academics, military personnel, a number of former decision makers and others.
5. Lack of cooperation between think tanks: For example, ECFA, has had an important role in the establishment of some kind of coordination between the Arab think tanks in the Arab region, especially in the field of nuclear non-proliferation. The Board established the “Arab Forum,” which includes 35 think tanks in the region with the aim of making the Middle East Nuclear Weapons and other Weapons of Mass Destruction Free Zone.
At the end of the seminar, ECFA members highlighted some ideas, chief among which are:
• Establishing an Africa forum to addresses the concerns and challenges facing the countries of the continent, as a priority for 2016.
• Think tanks need to pay particular attention to holding training courses and research and to resort to youth.
• Use all social media to propagate the activities of think tanks locally, regionally and internationally.