Science and technology, research, development and innovation are key drivers of progress in health, education and socio-economic growth. Investments in research and innovation have formed the backbone of economic development in both high-income and low- and middle-income countries.
The Arab spring is a major historical event in the Middle East. Millions, in the Arab world, have moved to the streets to demand change to the status quo. People are calling for equitable development. This social movement provides us with an opportunity to rethink the development model in the region by pushing for investments in research and innovation as key priority elements in the transition from an economy that is based on natural resources to an economy that is based on knowledge and expertise.
Building a society of knowledge with a spirit of entrepreneurship will increase the economic growth and create opportunities for jobs particularly among young people – whose interests and needs have been at the forefront of the political turmoil in the region.
Before these recent developments of the Arab spring, most countries in the region had not prioritized research, science and innovation as key to their development. The political changes happening now provide a great opportunity to renew interest in research, science and innovation for the Arab countries.
We need to underpin the Arab Spring with science, health research – improving the evidence-based culture of policy making and, at the same time, use the opportunity it creates to push for health, equity and development through ‘research and innovation for health’.
It is in this regard that the Council on Health Research for Development (COHRED), and regional institutions such as the Faculty of Health Sciences of the American University of Beirut (AUB) along with other key stakeholders, will from the 26th of February to the 1st of March 2013, hold a meeting at the Bellagio Centre in Italy on ‘Boosting Research for Health in the New Arab World’.
The overall objective of the meeting is to discuss how best to use the current opportunities to strengthen research, science and innovation for health in the region. Expected outputs include:
• A call for action to strengthen system capacity for research and innovation for health,
• A summary view of the various inputs that participants prepared before the meeting,
• A communication strategy to disseminate and keep key messages alive until a proposed regional conference,
• A conference plan for 2013/2014.
This event is supported by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in line with the Global Health Research Initiative (GHRI), the Middle East and North Africa Health Policy Forum and the Rockefeller Foundation.