Seventh Regional Meeting of the South Asian Think Tanks held
BRAC Institute of Governance and Development (BIGD) and the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) jointly organized the seventh Regional Meeting of the South Asian Think Tanks based on the theme Remaining Relevant in the Policy World: Sustainability Challenges of Think Tanks. 18 South Asian Think Tanks (SATTs) based in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar came together at the meeting to exchange ideas and learnings, discuss challenges and opportunities, share successes and most importantly to develop a post-Thonk Tank Initiative (TTI) strategy in order to sustain the network as the eight years of TTI support is coming to an end. Besides, donor and private sector representatives, development partners, special guests and other policy stakeholders also attended the meeting.
The three-day long meeting, held on 5-7 February 2018, explored how the support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) to SATTs has strengthened their capacities in terms of generating new knowledge and becoming more effective in policy engagement. The SATTs also discussed how they will continue to pursue policy engagement in the coming days once TTI withdraws its support to them.
Attending as the Guest of Honor, Sir Fazle Hasan Abed, Chairman, BRAC told that Think tanks have a crucial role to play since their primary function is to help governments and policymakers understand, and make informed choices about, issues of significant domestic and international concern and relevance. In carrying out this role, think tanks are often required to negotiate and perform a mediating function between the government and the public that helps to build trust and confidence in public officials.
“Thus, by challenging the conventional wisdom, standard operating procedures and business as usual of bureaucrats and elected officials, think tanks can serve as informed and independent voices in the policy arena. In order to do this well, they must strike a balance between research, analysis and outreach - a task that is becoming increasingly challenging in the present fast-changing national, regional and global environment”, he added.
Prof Rehman Sobhan, Board Chairman of CPD and the chair of the opening session told Think Tanks have a wider responsibility to the society at large. Think tanks independence is critical for credibility and shaping own agendas whether in dealings with governments or funders.
Dr. Sultan Hafeez Rahman, Executive Director of BIGD, in his welcome speech said, Think Tanks have to come up with more innovative ideas. He urged to all TTs that “We all should be very energetic to utilize our resources. Collectively we can do a lot further and we need to collaborate in order to sustain our own strength and development”.
“Our world, our region and our countries are increasingly looking inward, these are dangerous trends. Independent thinking was never more necessary to engage policy makers and influence public opinion to correct these trends.” he added. Dr. Rahman also welcomed the participants of the Myanmar.
While looking for fund Think Tanks need to be very careful in being engaged with private or corporate sector, says Dr. Fahmida Khatun, ED of CPD.
Mr. Andrew Hurst, Program Leader, Think Tank Initiative (TTI) of IDRC summarized the decade long programme experience with the TTI funded southern think tanks.
The three-day long meeting included nine thematic sessions focusing on how the support from IDRC to the SATTs strengthened their capacities to generate new knowledge and becoming more effective in policy engagement. It also focused how the TTs would continue pursuing their policy engagement in the coming days once TTI withdraws its support to them.
The meeting ended with a consensus that the collaboration among the SATTs towards regional development will be continued with the commitment of sharing collective knowledge and resources. All the think tanks unanimously agreed that an association of Southern Think Tanks is needed to give stronger voice to the region.
TTI, a multi-donor programme funded by the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the UK Department for International Development (DFID), and the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), managed by Canada’s IDRC, is dedicated to strengthening the capacity of independent policy research institutions in the developing world.