Why Think Tanks Matter: A Virtual Forum

June 18, 2022

CPPG in collaboration with CBS, LUMS, held a discussion on the importance of think tanks in policy discourse of Pakistan on January 29, 2021.

This event was a collaborative discussion among various representatives from Pakistani think tanks. The panelists in the event highlighted the importance of think tanks in policy discourse, scope, challenges, and solutions to development problems. For example, the Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) has brought sufficient research material in the context of climate change and food security in light of public and policy discourse. The Alif Ailaan campaign was also successful in creating awareness and bringing to the public’s attention the flaws in the education system. The data in the public domain is the outcome of think tanks’ efforts and research. Policymakers, academics, corporate sector, political parties, and society, according to panelists, should all be participating in policy making discourse. The formulation of the Environmental Policy Act 1997, and the debate around the construction of Orange Line trains damaging the heritage sites were all efforts of different think tanks, thus highlighting its importance in Pakistan’s policy discourse. The session also noted how think tanks create a forum for dialogue amongst the individuals and highlight the issues and concerns that have been distant from the media’s limelight. Researchers aim to bring a more nuanced understanding to various issues in an objective manner. The panelists also highlighted some of the main problems these organisations face. For instance, being associated with an academic institute could takes away the independence of researchers as the administration continues to change the agendas that may not accord with the ideology of the think tank. The second was to find the appropriate skill set and achieve the funding and sponsors. Another significant challenge identified was the absence of long-term research orientation.

The discussion ended on a high note, with panelists emphasising the need of such organisations and agreeing on a single strategy. The role of think tanks must be strengthened as they are major contributors to evidencebased analysis, data collection and data-driven policy recommendations. Event covered by Neha Malik