Capacity development challenges in the Arab states

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Authors

Seteney Shami and Moushira Elgeziri

Abstract

Current challenges in the Arab region require a concerted and wide mobilization of resources aswell as the thoughtful identification of capacity-building modalities to respond to various needs.Major capacity-building targets ought to include the enabling of learning and the exchange ofexperiences within the region and the coordination of scientific and research policy across theregion, as well as focused interventions for specific needs in different localities.

Assumptions

he Arab Human Development Report (UNDP, 2009) describes the Arab region as suffering from a ‘knowledge deficit’. This is true but is also too broad a criticism, subsuming a number of complex deficiencies at the individual, institutional and systemic levels. The challenges are too big for small and fragmented regional research programmes to redress. They require a concerted and wide mobilization of resources as well as the thoughtful identification of capacity-building modalities to respond to various needs. Addressing the development of capacity regionwide means taking into account the huge disparities between the size and quality of the social science communities of the countries in the Arab region. It must also heed disparities in financial resources and allocations to social science education and research. Major capacity- building targets ought to include the enabling of learning and the exchange of experiences within the region and the coordination of scientific and research policy across the region, as well as focused interventions for specific needs in different localities.

Conclusions

Finally, Arab elites and states generally share a distrust of research and a desire to manipulate it. An important challenge is to build trust with policy-makers, especially those who might positively influence research policy and resources for higher education, while at the same time maintaining the independence and integrity of research and freeing researchers from the control of Arab governments. It is also crucial for the public to understand the social sciences’ role in analysing their problems and improving their lives. If they fail to identify themselves with the public interest and public good, the social sciences in the Arab region risk reinforcing the image of research as an unnecessary luxury.

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