Summary of the session “The role and importance of Think Tanks in light of the current global changes”
The Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs held a discussion session on the Think Tanks and their role in the light of the current global changes on Tuesday 30th January 2018 at 11:00 am. The seminar was chaired by Ambassador Mounir Zahran, Chairman of the Board and attended by Ambassadors Ezzat Saad, Executive Director, Salah Halima, Rakha Ahmed Hassan, Hussein Al Kamel, Hassoun Hassouna, Adel Al Salousi, Dr. Hazem Attia, Dr. Mohsen Tawfiq, Professors Atef Al Ghamri, Rajaei Fayed, Director of the Egyptian Center for Kurdish Studies and Research in Cairo, and Adel El-Hamli representing the Egyptian Center for Policy Studies.
The meeting discussed the following topics and concluded with a number of recommendations, as follows:
First: Regional Think Tanks and the challenges they face:
Egyptian think tanks have three affiliations; African, Mediterranean and Arab. Of course, these centers are an integral part of the surrounding environment and are not isolated from their crises or problems. Indeed, there are many intellectual centers in Africa, the Arab and Mediterranean region, and are spread in many countries including South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Zimbabwe, Ghana, Senegal, Tunisia, UAE, Italy and Spain.
With focus on the intellectual centers in Africa and the south and east of the Mediterranean basin, although some of them are distinguished both in the research side or conferences and communication with decision makers, but most of them in fact suffer from several challenges:
Lack of financial resources: Financing is a fundamental part of the issue, a criterion for the success of the Think Tanks or not. Several Think Tanks have been closed due to the lack of funding. This explains the difference between what is happening in Western and developed countries from the existence of permanent, individual and external funding, and even from the same governmental institutions. In Egypt and the Arab countries, it is the main problem; the decline in individual funding and the lack of institutional funding; and the existence of caveats and fears that external financing is doubtful and has special objectives … etc.
The state’s view of the Think Tanks or the nature of the relationship between the two parties: In fact, the outlook and relationship are mostly negative; the state views these centers as “shops” to gain profit, and therefore do not benefit from them in anything. In terms of impact and influence between the two parties, it is difficult to communicate with, and influence, decision-makers. On the other hand, the services provided by think tanks such as studies, research and advises, are more than the government offers, and the latter rarely ask the centers to do anything.
Weak communication among Think Tanks and even within government departments; there is a state of inability to achieve this communication, both at the civil society level or the government level; each Think Tank has units dealing with all political, economic, security, etc., but not communication between them to achieve the integration of visions among themselves on the same topics and come up with recommendations and results complement each other.
Some of the Think Tanks face a major problem in promoting their activities because of the lack of publications or lack of adequate communication with foreign bodies, including embassies, located in its territory.
There is a state of public distrust in the role played by Think Tanks or awareness, because of the lack of popular culture of such Think Tanks.
Low level of human resources working in regional think tanks.
The spread of bureaucracy in the units of think tanks.
Not benefiting from the knowledge society and future studies.
Second: Regional security issues and challenges:
The meeting emphasized that the region is facing a great deal of challenges that must be addressed to achieve peace and stability. Among them illegal immigration, terrorism, extremism, and territorial disputes. At the top of the challenges. The session discussed the regional and international implications of the US decision recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.
In this context, the meeting stressed the illegality of the unfair declaration in which the American president recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and the transfer of the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to it, without paying due regard for the Palestinian demands and condemning Israel for its actions for the past decades. It was further emphasized that this declaration was contrary to the resolutions of international legitimacy and by that the United States was losing its role as a principal and impartial sponsor of the peace process between Israel and the Palestinians. This Declaration.
In reference to the Kurdish issue, it was stressed that it is a sensitive issue, and as a ticking bomb that will inevitably explode, and was sparked by the referendum of independence held by Iraqi Kurdistan, which failed. Kurds in Syria, Turkey and Iran have been left with the dream of creating an independent state, since the unjust divisions established by the major powers at the end of the First World War. This issue will dominate the interest in a post-Saddam era, which attract many international actors, and establish long-term stability in the region.
Similarly, the crises facing Yemen, Libya and the Gulf House lead to the spread and consolidation of division in the region, thus greatly influencing their interests in the various regions of the world, as well as making them vulnerable to increasing external interference in their wealth.
There is no doubt that it represents a great threat to the national security of Egypt. It is no wonder that there is growing concern about it, especially in the light of the procrastination shown by the Ethiopian side and supported by the Sudanese side.
The discussion focused on the security challenges still linked to terrorism and extremism, despite the partial decline in Syria and Iraq. The remainders of these armed groups are going to Libya, and their loyalists in Africa continue their subversive and commit terrorist acts against innocent people based on their extremist interpretations of the texts of Koran.
Finally, the session tackled the issue of illegal migration as an important issue that should be resolved through cooperation of governments and Think Tanks located on the Mediterranean arena.
Regional Think Tanks, without hesitation, should not slow down the continuous and effective communication between each other in order to produce joint recommendations that contribute to resolving these urgent issues, in cooperation with governments, agencies and organizations concerned, leading ultimately to peace, stability and prosperity in the region.
Intensify contact with American and Arab think tanks and establish regular dialogues on regional and international issues of interest to both sides.
Arrange a joint dialogue among the Egyptian think tanks to establish a gathering for them.
Increasing communication and cooperation between Egyptian thought centers and thought centers at the regional level, especially in Africa, the South and the Eastern Mediterranean.
Supporting communication and cooperation with the Egyptian Agency for Partnership for Development to increase its activities in Africa through the participation of experts of the Egyptian Council in these activities.
Recommending the Council’s accession to the Network of African Thought Centers and the establishment of a higher council for these Think Tanks under the auspices of the Arab League.
6 – The establishment of centers of thought in the work of special issues or patrols are submitted to foreign embassies in order to maximize their ability to communications and finance.
7 – To strengthen the human resources working in thought Think Tanks; by recruiting young and newly graduated researchers to benefit from them, as well as attracting experts to join the membership of Think Tanks to benefit from their opinions and experiences to enrich the discussions in these Think Tanks.
The need to provide a database containing the production of all regional intellectual centers.
9 – Trying to overcome the stereotype of regional Think Tanks; to enhance the role of these Think Tanks and their importance in popular culture. One of the ways to try to take advantage of the subject of absorbing people’s ideas by inviting individuals to attend seminars and give them the opportunity to speak freely and absorb their ideas and try to make the most of them.
The session also recommended the following:
1 – Establishment of a national observatory in Egypt to monitor the movements of terrorist organizations to be able to identify and respond to sabotage operations as early as possible, through the use of the Egyptian Center for Social Studies and Criminal.
To continue to push for economic and social development, to raise the standard of living, and to develop the educational process in order to avoid chances for terrorist organizations to recruit young people, taking advantage of their conditions and conditions of life.
The necessary balance must be struck between the fight against terrorism and respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. In this regard, the interaction between civil society organizations, especially those concerned with human rights and the state apparatus, it is essential to draw up an integrated and harmonious system between the two sides to respect state institutions and enforce relevant international laws, conventions and covenants.
Coordination among different countries at the regional level for the exchange of information and the continuous updating of data on terrorist organizations, their activities and sources of funding.
Coordinate with the Western Think Tanks to warn the US administration against continuing to pursue its approach on the Arab-Israeli conflict, and to stand up to it and not to be neutral on one side at the expense of another, and the need to review the US decision to move the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem for the sake of security in the Middle East and North Africa.