The Daily Star, 2018-08-18
BEIT MERY, Lebanon: As electricity outages and waste problems roil Lebanon, a new think tank is set to look for solutions to some of the country's most intractable problems.
The Elias Moukheiber Institute for Lebanon was launched Friday at the Al-Bustan Hotel in Beit Mery.
The institute, named for a prominent Metn lawyer, aims to be “the go-to place in Lebanon to design, develop and dialogue about solutions to the country's true challenges,” according to its vision statement.
Its first year, EMIL will focus on Lebanon’s neutrality in the region, Syrian refugee returns and administrative decentralization, according to Ziad Mikati, its vice president.
The think tank joins the ranks of policy institutes that have been gaining recognition in recent years, which include the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, the Carnegie Middle East Center as well as the American University of Beirut's Issam Fares Institute.
With so many actors in the game, overlaps are bound to occur. Decentralization, for instance, has been a central policy focus for LCPS.
But EMIL looks to cooperate with others and build on their research. “It's not a competition; we do not have the spirit of competition,” said Lina Moukheiber, the president of EMIL and the sister of its namesake.
The new institute’s success will largely depend on how it’s able to effect policy, according to Rami Khouri, a professor of journalism at AUB and the founder and former director of the IFI.
“The real question is can they do the necessary work that can have an impact on the region?” he said.
Khouri led a multiyear process to study how think tanks work in the region. “We spent years trying to understand how these kinds of institutions work,” he said. “The problem in the Arab world ... is that the public policy mechanisms are very imprecise, very personalized, very inconsistent.”
Basically, you can come up with great ideas, but how do you get them implemented?
Moukheiber’s answer: Leverage their connections.
“The whole idea is to lobby the MPs and the ministers in the government,” she said, adding: “We have enough contacts to do this.”
But don’t expect results immediately, Moukheiber said.
The institute, which is thus far funded by the Moukheiber family, is just now gearing up, she said.