Consultancies and NGO-based research in the Arab East: challenges arising from the new donor agendas

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Sari Hanafi


Since the Washington consensus in 1989 and its recommendations for the support of civil society, theinternational community has contributed to the creation and subsidizing of research in centres outsidenational universities. The production of social-scientific knowledge in the Arab East (Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, the Palestinian territory and the Syrian Arab Republic) cannot be understood without reference tothe genesis of social sciences in this region since the colonial era and the political economy of the aid system.


The growth of the number of research centres in the Arab East is related to the proliferation of NGOs. Within this area, almost 122 centres involved in research activities emerged in the context of the political transition in the Palestinian territory and Lebanon and the economic transition of Egypt and Jordan. This abundance of NGOs is not specific to this region, but is also found in any developing country where the international community provides aid for promoting local civil society.


The most salient issue in the changes discussed above is the kind of funding available to research. The scarcity of public funds, the lack of financial support from the (sometimes) wealthy local community and the exclusive reliance on foreign funding hinder the research centres’ ability to accomplish long-term planning and to hire suitable personnel. The atomization of research sites makes them vulnerable to attacks by political and security authorities as well as by different political and religious groups.