Round table Discussion on “Why Think Tanks Matter”
At the invitation of Professor James McGann, Coordinator of the Research Centers at the University of Pennsylvania in the United States of America (USA); the Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs (ECFA) called for a panel discussion on think tanks and their role in the light of global developments on Thursday, January 31st, 2019. This was accompanied by the convening of more than 150 other panels in many cities around the world. The topic of the discussion was derived from the main title “Why Think Tanks Matter”. This panel discussion was moderated by Ambassador/ Dr. Mounir Zahran. A number of Council’s Members participated in that panel discussion, namely, Ambassador El-Sayed Amin Shalaby, Ambassador Hussein Al-Kamel, Ambassador Rakha Ahmad Hassan, Ambassador Mohamed El-Ashmawy, Ambassador Dr.Mohamed Badr El-Din Zayed, Ambassador Dr.Hassan Al-Haiawan, Ambassador Heba Ragheb Awad, as well as Dr.Eman Ragab, member of the Council and an expert at Al-Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies, Mr.Ahmad Abu Shady, Journalist, and Mr.Ragaei Fayed, Head of the Egyptian Center for Kurdish Studies and Research.
This panel discussion made clear numerous problems which face think tanks such as the lack of financial resources, reduction in human resources level, bureaucracy, difficulty in accessing and influencing the decision maker, inability to get in touch with other think tanks, and the underutilization of knowledge society and future studies. Many doubts were raised, as well, regarding Egyptian think tanks relations to the executive bodies or to what becomes crystallized through the decision making process in the state, to what extent will the interaction be between them, and to which degree will the outputs and recommendations of such think tanks be utilized.
Some of the participants proposed, as a recommendation, the necessity for activating and maximizing cooperation among the various think tanks in all world continents to constitute the so-called continental cooperation which is based on the activation of relations among the think tanks of each continent in order to achieve the common good of all humanity, and to solve the various problems that face its prosperity and progress. Three key regional issues have been emphasized upon as well, namely; establishment of a “Middle East Strategic Alliance (MESA)” in order to confront Iran, the Syrian crisis, and the nuclear issue in the Middle East. The attendees pointed out at not following the US agenda to establish this alliance, while others emphasized that the announcement of US withdrawal from Syria was in favor of the settlement of the crisis, then they stressed on the necessity to pursue the establishment of a free zone from nuclear weapons and from weapons of mass destruction (WMD’s) in the Middle East, they condemned the allegations made by the major powers, possessing these weapons, that they keep them for the sake of deterrence; an issue that may constitute a hazard to entire humanity. In addition to primarily violating the principles contained in the Second article of the UN Charter. Furthermore, the participants recommended the necessity to work on utilization of Egyptian think tanks as representing a distinct tool of the soft power in Egypt, and the necessity of enjoying the independence they need to fulfill their desired tasks best, in addition to their involvement and participation in achieving peace and sustainable development through a major network of relations among themselves.