ERF is currently engaged in carrying out a number of programs that address questions where knowledge gaps about the Arab countries, Iran and Turkey are apparent.
The Arab World faces complex challenges. It needs to address problems such as a burgeoning labor force, severe environmental issues and difficulties in ensuring that women are allowed to reap the benefits of substantial investments made in education and health over the past few decades.
However, the region suffers from a severe knowledge gap, drastically damaging its ability to address challenges like these. Research capacity in the areas of economic and social development is weak or non-existent and has had a very limited contribution to policy-making.
Accordingly, ERF has chosen to address the above issues. In 2008, ERF launched the Research Initiative for Arab Development (RIAD), a multi-year, multi-topic research agenda designed to enhance the quality of economic research in the Arab World and to bridge the glaring knowledge gaps in the economic sciences. Funded predominantly by the Arab Fund for Economic and Social Development (AFESD) and the World Bank Global Development Facility (WB GDF), this initiative aims to help achieve the economic, social and institutional reforms needed for sustainable development in the region. In light of the recent regional political changes, the initiative has become doubly relevant, since the probability of greater government accountability enhances governments’ need for solid research to better inform policy. In addition to the research, RIAD also tackles the above issues through seminars, conferences and capacity-building sessions and produces a series of publications to disseminate research findings.
The RIAD initiative covers six priority themes: equity and inequality, regional integration, natural resources and economic diversification, environmental economics, institutional dynamics and political and economic transformation. The last theme is part of ERF’s contribution to addressing the regional developments brought about by the Arab Spring. Each of the themes has a designated Thematic Leader who works with ERF management to guide research.