BIDPA in top five Think Tanks regionally
By Aubrey Lute
The Botswana Institute for Development Policy Analysis (BIDPA) has been ranked in the top five Think Tanks in the Sub-Saharan region.
BIDPA is only outshined by Kenya Institute for Public Policy Research and Analysis (KIPPRA) (Kenya); IMANI Center for Policy and Education (Ghana); South African Institute of International Affairs (SAIIA) (South Africa); and Council for the Development of Social Science Research in Africa (CODESRIA) of Senegal.
The bottom four Think Tanks are Swaziland Economic Policy Analysis and Research Centre (SEPARC) (Swaziland) at number 62; Institute for Policy Analysis and Research (IPAR) (Rwanda) occupying position 63; African Institute for Applied Economics (AIAE) (Nigeria) at 64; and Development Policy Research Unit (DPRU) (South Africa) at spot 65.
According to the Executive Director of BIDPA, Dr Tebogo Seleka, the improvement in ranking implies that BIDPA’s work on policy research and analysis is recognized as being of good quality amongst the organisation’s peers.
“It was mainly the outcome of deliberate effort by the Institute to refocus its work to allow for increased emphasis on supply-driven work (independent work initiated by the Institute), rather than demand-driven work (consultancies), to further ensure the delivery of the Institute’s think tank mandate. Over the past four years, the Institute has embarked on a program that has allowed it to increase its publications, policy dialogue, stakeholder engagement and public education, which are at the core of the Institute’s mandate,” he observed.
Think tanks have become more active players in domestic and foreign policy in the last two decades and are now present in 182 countries. While think tanks continue to be concentrated in the United States and Western Europe, several factors are driving the growth of think tanks in other areas of the world.
According to Seleka, as a policy research Institute, BIDPA should continue to emphasize the production of evidence through research, which can then be used as reference material to engage in continuous policy dialogue between Government and the Non-sate sectors.
“We believe that the improvement in BIDPA’s ranking over the past four years is a reflection of the Institute’s progress in this regards. We are therefore challenged to continue our effort at aligning our work to the development needs and priorities of this country. The independence that the Institute has enjoyed since its establishment in 1995 has also enhanced its growth over years,” he stressed.
According to the 2014 Global Go To Think Tank Index Report prepared by James G. McGann, Think Tanks have increased and expanded dramatically, with approximately 6,618 think tanks currently operating all around the world.
“Think tanks are public-policy research analysis and engagement organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues, thereby enabling policymakers and the public to make informed decisions about public policy. Think tanks may be affiliated or independent institutions that are structured as permanent bodies, not adhoc commissions.
These institutions often act as a bridge between the academic and policymaking communities and between states and civil society, serving in the public interest as independent voices that translate applied and basic research into a language that is understandable, reliable, and accessible for policymakers and the public,” reads McGann’s document.
He observes that the ongoing challenge for think tanks is to produce timely and accessible policy-oriented research that effectively engages policymakers, the press, and the public on the critical issues facing a country. Gone are the days when a think tank could operate with the motto “research it, write it and they will find it.” Today, think tanks must be lean, mean, policy machines.
McGann stresses that demand for Independent Information and Analysis has given Think Tanks impetus. “Over the last 15 years, the state’s monopoly and control of information has rapidly diminished due to technological advances, globalization, and democratic movements. With the emergence of the so-called “Data Revolution,” there is a new need for governments, NGOs, and research institutes to collaborate in sharing data and closing data gaps.
These trends have created a space for knowledge-based institutions like think tanks to provide independent information and analysis. In other words, “big data is the oil of the information economy that needs to be treated as an economic asset. If not, actors are doomed to the old witticism of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing”.”
McGann explains why Think Tanks are crucial
Increased Complexity of Policy Issues: Governments are faced with a range of highly technical and complex problems that require a high degree of expertise, requiring policymakers to seek outside advice. At the same time, governments are under increased pressure to improve economic and bureaucratic performance.
The complexity of these policy issues also arises from our current globalized context. In today’s world, policy formation is no longer under the sole control of the state, issues are not fully domestic or foreign, and the international system is anything but simple and straightforward.
Instead of one organization being completely in control of accomplishing a particular task, the assignment may rely on the collaboration of various institutions. Jones adds additional insight:
“Agencies must approach the delivery of their mandate with a networked approach to policy and governance. Accountability structures can usefully focus on holding units accountable for their mission or role description. Relationship management concern and participatory processes should be central focuses.” Historically, governments have turned to think tanks for evidence and advice on these matters – but that may be changing.
Increasingly Open Debate about Government Decision-Making: Interest groups and public citizens are less deferential to government monopolies on decision making, which has put a premium on more open discussion of issues and policy options. Key players are less likely to accept government information and rationales, creating a demand for more independent sources of analysis. Global policy and advocacy networks have increased the power and influence of these organizations.
Global “Hacktivist,” Anarchist, and Populist Movements: Within the last 18 months, a seemingly unrelated set of movements have sprung up across the globe that have one thing in common: they all, at their core, are anti-establishment in nature. The groups have emerged in countries as diverse as India, Greece, Egypt, Tunisia, China, Bahrain, Chile, the United States, and Turkey. This new wave of global populism has gathered the young, unemployed, underemployed, and disaffected into mass movements, often leader-less, aimed at challenging the established political and economic order.
Fueled by the economic crisis, political paralysis, and policy gridlock of many regional and national governments, these popular movements have surfaced to give voice to the public dissatisfaction with corruption, the abuse of civil liberties, and the general ineffectiveness and indecisiveness of their leaders. It is also in response to a credibility and representation gap where citizens feel that they have been marginalized and that they have elected leaders that are out of touch with their needs and interests.
Increasing Political Polarization: National politics are increasingly polarized in many countries around the globe, a trend that has increased the paralysis and policy gridlock in many legislative bodies. Political battle lines are now drawn between polar opposites: Liberal vs. Conservative, Secular vs. Fundamentalist, Political Reform vs. Tighter Government Control, Reduced Government Spending (Austerity) vs. Increased Government Spending (Stimulus).
And while we have always had conflicting priorities and worldviews, they are now more extreme in nature. This increased political polarization has made it difficult – if not impossible – to find common ground or to reach consensus on many of the critical policy issues of our time.
According to the Global report, the World Bank has called for a Global Partnership for the Data Revolution to help think tanks collaborate in sharing data. Involving a wide variety of agencies, the collaboration would focus on developing and sharing relevant information.
Think tanks will play a crucial role in the process, furthering existing efforts for greater independent analysis and information. However, the high number of think tanks and other institutions working to meet the demand for information means that the quality of information could potentially suffer.
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ENVIRONMENT ISSUES: Masisi asks Virginia for help
President Mokgweetsi Masisi says the issue of sustainable natural resources management has always been an important part of Botswana’s national development agenda.
Masisi was speaking this week on the occasion of a public lecture at Virginia Polytechnic, under theme, “Merging Conservation, Democracy and Sustainable Development in Botswana.”
Botswana, according to Masisi, holds the view that the environment is fragile and as such, must be managed and given the utmost protection to enable the achievement of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“It is necessary that we engage one another in the interchange of ideas, perspectives, visualizations of social futures, and considerations of possible strategies and courses of action for sustainable development,” said Masisi.
On the other hand, dialogue, in the form of rigorous democratic discourse among stakeholders presents another basis for reconfiguring how people act on their environments, with a view to conserving its resources that “we require to meet our socio-economic development needs on a sustainable basis,” Masisi told attendees at the public lecture.
He said government has a keen interest in understanding the epidemiology and ecology of diseases of both domestic and wild animals. “It is our national interest to forestall the dire consequences of animal diseases on our communities livelihoods.”
President Masisi hoped that both Botswana and Virginia could help each other in curbing contagious diseases of wildlife.
“We believe that Virginia Tech can reasonably share their experiences, research insights and advances in veterinary sciences and medicines, to help us build capacity for knowledge creation and improve efforts of managing and containing contagious diseases of wildlife. The ground is fertile for entering into such a mutually beneficial partnership.”
When explaining environmental issues further, Masisi said efforts of conservation and sustainable development might at times be hampered by the emergence and recurrence of diseases when pathogens mutate and take host of more than one species.
“Water pollution also kills aquatic life, such as fish, which is one of humanity’s much deserved sources of food. In this regard, One Health Approach imposes ecological responsibility upon all of us to care for the environment and the bio-diversity therein.”
He said the production and use of animal vaccines is an important space and tool for conservation, particularly to deal with trans-border animal diseases.
“In Botswana, our 43-year-old national premier pharmaceutical institution called Botswana Vaccine Institute has played its role well. Through its successful production of highly efficacious Foot and Mouth vaccines, the country is able to contain this disease as well as supply vaccines to other countries in the sub-region.:
He has however declared that there is need for more help, saying “We need more capacitation to deal with and contain other types of microbial that affect both animals and human health.”
Masisi saddened by deaths of elephant attacks
President Mokgweetsi Masisi has expressed a strong worry over elephants killing people in Botswana. When speaking in Virginia this week, Masisi said it is unfortunate that Batswana have paid a price with their own blood through being attacked by elephants.
“Communities also suffer unimaginable economic losses yearly when their crops are eaten by the elephants. In spite of such incidents of human-elephant conflict, our people embrace living together with the animals. They fully understand wildlife conservation and its economic benefits in tourism.”
In 2018, Nthobogang Samokwase’s father was attacked by an elephant when travelling from the fields, where he stayed during the cropping season.
It was reported that the man couldn’t run because of his age. He was found trampled by the elephant and was pronounced dead upon arrival at the hospital.
In the same year, in Maun, a 57-year-old British woman was attacked by an elephant at Boro and died upon arrival at the hospital. The woman was with her Motswana partner, and were walking dogs in the evening.
Last month, a Durban woman named Carly Marshall survived an elephant attack while on holiday in the bush in Botswana. She was stabbed by one of the elephant’s tucks through the chest and was left with bruises. Marshall also suffered several fractured ribs from the ordeal.
President Masisi Botswana has the largest population of African elephants in the world, totaling more than 130 000. “This has been possible due to progressive conservation policies, partnerships with the communities, and investment in wildlife management programmes.”
In order to benefit further from wildlife, Masisi indicated that government has re-introduced controlled hunting in 2019 after a four-year pause. “The re-introduction of hunting was done in an open, transparent and democratic way, giving the communities an opportunity to air their views. The funds from the sale of hunting quota goes towards community development and elephant conservation.”
He stressed that for conservation to succeed, the local people must be involved and derive benefits from the natural resources within their localities.
“There must be open and transparent consultations which involve all sectors of the society. It is against this backdrop that as a country, we lead the continent on merging conservation, democracy and sustainable development.”
Masisi stated that Botswana is open to collaborative opportunities, “particularly with identifiable partners such as Virginia Tech, in other essential areas such as conservation, and the study of the interplay among the ecology of diseases of wild animals and plants, and their effects on human health and socio-economic development.”
Gov’t commit to injecting more funds in fighting HIV
Minister for State President Kabo Morwaeng says government will continue to make resources available in terms of financial allocations and human capital to ensure that Botswana achieves the ideal of eradicating HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 2030.
Morwaeng was speaking this morning in Gaborone at the High-Level Advocacy event to accelerate HIV Prevention in Botswana. He said the National AIDS and Health Promotion Agency (NAPHA), in partnership with UNAIDS, UN agencies, the Global Fund and PEPFAR, have started a process of developing transition readiness plan for sustainability of HIV prevention and treatment programmes.
“It is important for us, as a country that has had a fair share of donor support in the response to an epidemic such as HIV and AIDS, to look beyond the period when the level of assistance would have reduced, or ceased, thus calling for domestic financing for all areas which were on donor support.”
Morwaeng said this is important as the such a plan will guarantee that all the gains accrued from the response with donor support will be sustained until the end when “we reach the elimination of HIV and AIDS as a public health threat by 20230,” he said.
“I commit to continue support efforts towards strengthened HIV prevention, accentuating HIV primary prevention and treatment as prevention towards Zero New Infections, Zero Stigma, Discrimination and Zero AIDS related death, to end AIDS in Botswana.”
He reiterated that government commits to tackle legislative, policy and programming challenges that act as barriers to the achievement of the goal of ending AIDS as a public health threat.
In the financial year 2022/2023, a total of 119 Civil Society Organizations, including Faith Based Organizations, were contracted with an amount of P100 million to implement HIV and NCDs prevention activities throughout the country, and the money was drawn from the Consolidated Fund.
Through an upcoming HIV Prevention Symposium, technical stakeholders will use outcomes to develop the Botswana HIV Prevention Acceleration Road Map for 2023-2025.
Morwaeng stated that government will support and ensure that Botswana plays its part achieving the road map. He said there is need to put hands on the deck to ensure that Botswana sustains progress made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS.
“There are tremendous achievements thus far to, reach and surpass the UNAIDS fast track targets of 95%- 95%- 95% by the year 2025. As reflected by the BAIS preliminary results of 2021, we now stand at 95- 98- 98 against the set targets.”
“These achievements challenge us to now shift our gears and strive to know who are the remaining 5% for those aware of their HIV status, 2% of enrolment on treatment by those aware of their status and 2% of viral suppression by those on treatment.”
Explaining this further, Morwaeng said shift in gears should extend to coming up with robust strategies of determining where these remaining people are as well as how they will be reached with the necessary services.
“These are just some of the many variables that are required to ensure that as a country, we are well positioned to reaching the last mile of our country’s response to the HIV and AIDS pandemic.”