King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies: excellence in a year of change and challenges
by Nada Htait
LONDON – Research institutes, study centers and think tanks increasingly play strategic roles in modern societies, helping to define their national policies and streamline their decision-making processes. Through their specialized production of ideas, analyzes and visions on international relations and various political, economic, social, security and scientific issues, in addition to planning for the future, they strengthen the security and well-being of States by maximizing their sources of power, preventing threats and increasing their ability to optimize their resources. In addition, they function as nodes in a global network of accumulated and structured human knowledge.
Since the founding of the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) in 1831 as the first think tank independent of government bureaucracies and specialized in serving policy makers, the importance of these centers to modern states has worsened in an essentially dynamic environment. of complexity, accelerated and continuous changes and globalized cross-border threats. This is happening at a time when the fragmentation of information enabled by modern technology has reached a point where precise technical capabilities are needed if we are to make sense of the world around us.
While these (thinking) institutions are typically charged with supporting decision-making authorities, their impact in communities is visible, both as centers of excellence in academic research and as part of the ideological apparatus of the community. ‘State, informing the public opinion of the company in the background. urgent problems and how best to manage the risks associated with them.
At present, the quantitative and qualitative contribution of such institutions in the formulation of the policies, strategic orientations and ideological structures of the great world powers is well documented, whether in the United States, which hosts by far the most. large numbers, to China, Russia, Great Britain and European Union. Their presence is also noted in other middle powers, such as Japan, Korea (South), Turkey, Iran, Australia and Canada.
In the Arab world, interest in research and study centers has increased in recent decades, in both areas: official and private. Its activity has expanded in quantity, quality and specialization, some of which have become a dominant part of the scientific, academic and knowledge landscape in their countries, and actively contribute to the formation of policies and the position of these countries. regionally and internationally. steps.
In Saudi Arabia, which has some of the region’s most advanced study and research centers, the King Faisal Center for Islamic Research and Studies (KFCRIS – www.kfcris.com/en) since its founding in 1983, is dedicated to serving as a leading academic, intellectual and cultural center in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia as well as in the Arab and Muslim world. KFCRIS produces original research in the humanities and social sciences and provides a platform for local, regional and global researchers and research organizations to engage in intellectual exchanges and cultural dialogues in accordance with the vision of the late King Faisal Bin Abdulaziz , which, according to a statement made in 1975, saw the Kingdom “become a source of radiance for mankind” over the next 50 years.
Through its publishing arm, Al-Faisal Cultural House, KFCRIS also publishes books and periodicals that deal with themes and topics important to the Kingdom, Arab and Muslim societies, and the world. In addition, KFCRIS stores historical and modern knowledge through its state-of-the-art library and preserves the memorabilia of the late King Faisal and his family through its Faisal family archives and its museum promotes and maintains the value of Islamic manuscripts and collections. of art.
By all accounts, 2020 has been a particularly difficult year that has affected humanity due to the coronavirus pandemic. The Kingdom has seen its share of victims, which has left serious repercussions on the economy and all aspects of life. KFCRIS has been resilient and has succeeded during a difficult time in migrating most of its social, cultural, educational, business and financial activities online.
One of the most important “migrations” for Saudi Arabia has been the G20 summit, where world leaders met through virtual means to discuss socio-economic plans. The Riyadh summit was the first such event held in the Middle East and addressed both the consequences of the pandemic and appropriate solutions to revive stagnant economies.
KFCRIS played an important role in the preparations for the G20 summit, alongside the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center (KAPSARC), as the two institutions were entrusted by royal decree with the convening of the Think20 (T20) Engagement Group – the think tank that prepares policy recommendations for Summit members.
The T20 (Think20) is one of the G20 engagement groups and is a network of research institutes and think tanks from all of the G20 countries that serves as an “idea bank” for the G20. It brings together policy briefs from global experts and provides evidence-based policy recommendations to G20 leaders. KFCRIS ‘participation in the Saudi edition of T20 covered five main themes: Climate and environment (creating circular carbon economies to support climate action), Women and youth (empowering women and preparing young people for a more inclusive), Multilateralism, Economic Development and Finance (providing prosperity through international cooperation, economic development and financial sustainability), sustainable resources (securing, sustaining and improving the global energy supply and availability, food and water), and technology and digitization (harnessing technology and digitization to solve global problems).
Saudi T20 initially established 10 working groups. In response to the outbreak of the global COVID-19 pandemic, an additional 11th task force was formed to develop policy recommendations aimed at effectively facilitating a transition to post-pandemic reconstruction. Of these 11 working groups, KFCRIS oversaw the work of five working groups, which produced 49 policy briefs in total, out of the 146 made available for the summit.
Despite serious logistical challenges, the members of the KFCRIS team maintained their scientific reputation and strengthened the centre’s status as one of the region’s most respected research institutions. Equally important, the center has cemented collaborative working relationships with dozens of research organizations around the world. Prince Turki Al-Faisal Al Saud, Chairman of the Board, in his introduction to the recently released KFCRIS Annual Report 2020, said that “in addition to these high profile events, KFCRIS has also kept its commitment and its main objective of producing academic research and generated dozens of publications on a variety of topics, including language, culture, and social and political concerns in Arabic and English.
KFCRIS has also organized a comprehensive program of seminars, public lectures and panel discussions with the participation of eminent thinkers from around the world.
Two new research units, the Cultural Studies Unit and the Socioeconomics Unit, have been created. The African Studies Unit has launched a new edited monthly report, Africa Follow-ups. The Asian Studies Unit edited a special issue of the Asian Journal of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies on Saudi Arabia-China relations. Throughout the year, KFCRIS organized and co-organized 37 research events and published several research papers, including eight Dirasat editions (KFCRIS Papers), one Qira’at (KFCRIS Humanities Papers), 14 special reports , 20 comments, two policy briefs, and eight special weekly reports on the regional and international impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The editorial arm, Al-Faisal Cultural House, published a total of seven books in 2020 and continued to publish the Journal of Linguistic Studies and Al-Faisal, a widely read cultural magazine. In addition, he began publishing the bilingual International Journal of Humanitarian Studies for the King Salman Center for Humanitarian Aid and Relief, the first two issues of which appeared during the year. The Faisal Family Archives continued to collect resources regarding King Faisal and his family and provided documents to external entities, including King Faisal’s interview on his 50-year vision, which was released by Saudi Arabian Airlines (Saudia) on Saudi National Day.
In 2020, KFCRIS also significantly improved its infrastructure and improved its quality. In particular, its library has completed a transfer of its database to the integrated open source Koha library system; its museum has also set up a new laboratory for the conservation of the centre’s manuscripts and art collections. After the outbreak of the pandemic, its administrative functions worked tirelessly to move the centre’s activities to online platforms, allowing the center to operate seamlessly despite periods of lockdown.
KFCRIS is today a beacon of understanding and learning in a part of the world that is changing rapidly and for the better and if it fulfills its mission, it is largely, according to the two, Prince Turki Al-Faisal. Bin Abdulaziz and Dr. Saad Al-Sarhan, Secretary General, because of the dedication of the centre’s researchers, collaborators and employees and their eagerness to add value to their local and global communities.