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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 18 November 2018

New think tank to add Emirati voice to international debate

An independent Emirati research institute is hoping to serve as a bridge between research and policy in the UAE.
Dr Ahmed Al Hamli, chairman and founder of Trends, believes governments, policy-makers and the public need research and analysis that is delivered with an Emirati accent and reflects the perspectives of the Arab world, not those of the West. Christopher Pike / The National
Dr Ahmed Al Hamli, chairman and founder of Trends, believes governments, policy-makers and the public need research and analysis that is delivered with an Emirati accent and reflects the perspectives of the Arab world, not those of the West. Christopher Pike / The National

ABU DHABI // An independent Emirati institute hopes to serve as a bridge between research and policy in the UAE.

The concept of think tanks is new in the UAE, said the founder of Trends, Research and Advisory, Dr Ahmed Al Hamli.

“Science needs to be open for everybody. It can’t be kept away from people. We need to provide and bring science to people.

“It’s a new think tank. It’s a fully independent research institute, and our clients are governments and non-government organisations dealing with aspects such as terrorism, human rights, education, economy, international relations, military and security in general,” the Emirati former professor added.

The first event hosted by Trends was on the security of the GCC, in December 2014.

Last week, Trends hosted a seminar that examined the mind of a radicalised young Muslim man.

“This religion has been hijacked. It’s not the government’s issue only, it’s our issue as well. We are starting to help governments seek advice on how to combat terrorism,” said Dr Al Hamli.

“The resource of terrorism is extremist ideas and now we need to combat these with other ideas. Governments cannot provide ideas. They have procedures and law enforcement. We need to step in with the government and try to combat ideas with ideas and reason with reason.”

Trends is hosting an event on May 28 and 29, at London’s King’s College with the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, on jihadist insurgency.

“These jihadist movements are challenging governments directly. We’re also looking at the element of jihad, the idea of using a religious doctrine for a national war. We’re bringing different experts for the two-day event,” said Dr Richard Burchill, the director of research and engagement at Trends.

Trends also hope to provide a wealth of information through a digital library.

“We produce information, polls and briefs that we think the government is interested in. We publish articles on our website just to raise awareness to increase research in the field for the public. It’s not closed and locked for the client. It is for the public,” said Dr Burchill.

Philanthropy can have a major effect on policy and debate, he said.

“Investing in research is difficult because investors want returns. When you are investing in research it’s more about philanthropy. You’re actually saying that ideas are important and discussion about ideas is even more important. I want people to be out there talking about it. You can’t determine the outcome. You can’t determine the conclusions but you want to see the discussion. You want to see the debate.”

Dr Burchill also highlighted some of the challenges in the perception of think tanks and that some of the concepts in the UAE are very western-biased.

“[The perception is] if it’s not coming out of the US or if it’s not coming out of the UK then it is not acceptable. Now, that doesn’t seem to be very good. In my previous life as an academic, you travel around the world and you meet these people with some really good ideas doing some really good work but you find out that no-one is listening to them because they’re not in London or in New York, which seems to be a real problem,” Dr Burchill said.

Mariam Al Sehmi is the administrative affairs manager at Trends.

She said she is thrilled to be working with a unique think tank to bring the Emirati perspective into the debate.

“I’m pleased that I’m working on hosting engaging and really constructive events. I’ve plans to launch a women’s initiative over the summer, and I hope that people would take advantage of the resources on our website and attend our upcoming events,” she said.

Events hosted by Trends are open to the public.

nalremeithi@thenational.ae