The Ford Foundation in the Middle East: Objectives and Strategy           March 29, 1972                      (p. 1 of 2)

   Any account of the Foundation's strategy and objectives in the Middle East should begin with a history of how we came to be where we are. This historical account is, I gather, being prepared by others more familiar in detail with that history than I. It is an interesting historical note that the Foundation opened its office and began operations in the Middle East only months before the advent of the Nasser era. The program has sailed on choppy seas throughout the twenty years of its existence. Program accomplishments and disappointments must be considered in the context of the stormy relationships between the Arab world and the West, which so frequently prevailed.    


Distant keep of    crusader castle,    Safita, Syria             1973 


The Recent Past

Current Objectives

          I. Developmental Objectives

                    A. Political (and Social) Development

                    B. Cultural (and Social) Development

                             1. Education

                             2. Cultural Development of Women

                    C. Food Production

                    D. Population

          II. International Relations Objectives  (p. 2)

                    A. Intellectual Isolation of the Arab World

                    B. Political Instability



The Recent Past  

          The events of 1958 must have seemed almost as cataclysmic to our program managers at that time as those of 1967 seem now. A promising program in Iraq was stopped cold, and Syria, Jordan and Lebanon endured severe turbulence. Yet it was the June war that dealt the most severe blow to our programs. Operation Janus of five years ago was conducted just before the June war, and it is instructive to review the optimism with which potential program possibilities were viewed.  

          Projects in Iraq were slowly reviving at that time, the Syrian program was thriving, and Jordan looked like a Middle East success story. It was anticipated that a straightforward development program in agriculture, education, public administration, economic and social research and development, industrial and business development, population and culture would be pursued throughout the coming decade. Within this balanced program, the share of agriculture was expected to decrease from 27 to 10 per cent, and that of education from 50 to 35 per cent, while the shares of economic and social research and development, public administration, business and industrial development, population and cultural projects would increase by minor amounts. Essentially the Field Office expected to make relatively modest changes in a balanced program with developmental objectives of the sort known broadly in the International Division.  

          The June war was a shock followed by a lingering illness of increasing severity. In Jordan many of the gains from the successful development of the planning process were wiped out due to a dispersion of key people and a loss of the most fertile and productive lands of the country. The planning process became a search for short-run viability rather than long-run development. Other projects in Jordan suffered similar debilitating effects from the scattering of Jordan's intellectual resources. This process has in a way worsened with the increasing division of the country over the commando issue. Only in the last six months has the government regained full control of what is left of the country and in doing so it alienated many Jordanian intellectuals. Jordan remains a country with a relatively high proportion of educated citizens, but many of them seek or have already found employment in U.N. agencies, the developed countries, and the skill-starved areas of the Arabian peninsula.  

          In 1969, Foundation programs in Syria and Iraq ceased almost completely. The loss of programming opportunities in those two key countries of the Middle Eastern region reduced operational possibilities essentially to Jordan and Lebanon, plus a rather separate program in Saudi Arabia. The addition of Iran and the area covered by the Egyptian office to the purview of the Middle East field office added some scope for planning a regional program, but operating conditions remained so difficult that in 1970 Wayne Fredericks asked the staff to reflect on the reasons the Foundation should continue to operate in the Middle East.  

          This set of circumstances goes far toward explaining why the Foundation was unable to pursue the program objectives outlined in Don Kingsley's paper of November 7, 1968, with the vigor it would have liked. That paper, entitled "An Approach to Foundation Programming in the Middle East, should be read in conjunction with this one, so I will here only summarize the five major target areas designated:  (1) food production; (2) population control; (3) intellectual and functional isolation of the Middle East; (4) patterns and methods of thought in the Middle East; and (5) political and legal development.  

          These concepts did guide the Foundation's program for the next three years, but operating conditions were such that the Foundation was not always able to generate a full range of desirable projects. The expenditure of funds in Kingsley's five major program areas over the three-year period 1968-71 can be roughly categorized as follows: 

1.   Food Production -- $1,850,000. This largely consisted of the Arid Lands Agricultural Development program, which was our major activity over this period, plus a grant to the Egyptian Institute of Land Reclamation.  

2.   Population -- $470,000. A series of grants was made in Egypt for research into reproductive biology and to the Institute of Statistical Studies and Research for demographic work. A regional population seminar was also funded in Iran.  

3.   Intellectual and functional isolation of the Arab world -- $884,000. In this category fell all English language grants, the Arab-American dialogues, and the social science research grants.  

4.   Patterns and methods of thought -- $ 500,000. This included our work in science education, statistics, and computer science. 

5.   Political instability -- $3,750,000. These grants were a continuation of our work in the public administration field, except for a grant in support of the Faculty of Law at Lebanese University, and represented an indirect approach to problems of political stability. The activities included work on tax administration in the Ministry of Finance in Lebanon, a graduate program in development administration at AUB, grants to the Civil Service Board in Lebanon, support for the Faculty of Economics and Commerce at the University of Jordan, business administration at the American University in Cairo, and work with the Institute of Public Administration in Riyadh and with the CAOA in Egypt.  

Specific grants and FAP's since 1952 are listed in Appendix I. 

Current Objectives  

          The overriding factor affecting the development process in the Middle East continues to be the Arab-Israeli conflict, now complicated by increasing Russian diplomatic and military penetration. The resulting serious strain on the relations between the Arab world and the West carries with it important implications for the objectives and strategy of the Foundation's program in the region.  

          Objectives in the realm of international relations are consequently more prominent in our program than is the case in most of the regions where the Foundation works. These objectives are sometimes pursued directly through projects with the primary objective of improving intercultural understanding, but they also affect the selection of program opportunities in the development field, and the manner in which projects are carried out.  

          The discussion of our objectives is consequently divided into two parts, those of a developmental and those of an international relations nature. There is naturally a considerable area of overlapping of these objectives. The priorities we assign to project opportunities within our program result from our assessment of their combined impact on the two fields. One could visualize a matrix of developmental and international relations objectives in which a project scoring in the middle range of each would have a higher priority than one in the higher range on one scale and the lower range on another.  

          In this paper we have not attempted to deal with program objectives and strategy with respect to Iran. That will require a separate effort and must await the development of further information if it is to be meaningful. To date only marginal grants and awards have been made in Iran outside of the agriculture field, and this pattern is unlikely to change soon.  

          This outline of objectives is a recent formulation, but much of its conceptual background stems directly from the Kingsley paper.  

I. Developmental Objectives  

A. Political (and Social) Development  

          One of our primary objectives in the Middle East is to learn to understand and deal with the processes of political and social development. The region is rich in diversity, composed of large and small countries, over- and under-crowded, relatively poor and oil-rich, but sharing two important elements of cultural heritage: Islam and the Arabic language.  

          It is a region where, except for Egypt, nationalism is of recent origin and the boundaries of states have been drawn and redrawn within the memory of living men, often by foreign powers with minor concerns for the ethnic or cultural homogeneity of the peoples lumped together. It is no wonder that primary loyalties are often not to the country of birth, but to families, tribes, religious communities and ancestral lands, and evoke a fervor often underestimated by men of the West.  

          Kingsley caps his discussion of the chronic political instability of the area by citing, in addition to "the tensions inherent in a political order comprising a number of too-small, artificially created states," four significant contributing elements:  

1.   "the extremely low level of social mobilization, making politics a parlor game of intrigue played by a few leading families or military figures;  

2.   imperfect perception and acceptance of the importance of the rule of law, particularly in its constitutional aspects;  

3.   lack of executive capacity to deliver expected and required services or even to maintain the security of the State;  

4.   lack of training and experience among political leaders, parliamentarians and diplomats." 

          These are elements of instability at a national level, where a foreign foundation has but limited capacity to act. Most of our recent efforts in this field have been in aid of improving executive capacity through projects in public administration, but we have also attempted to come to grips with the operational possibilities in the field of law and development.  

          During the past two years, the Program Adviser on Public Administration has evaluated our work with institutes of public administration (see Roy Jumper, "Evaluative Studies" 1-5 and ''Summary and Conclusions").  A two-day staff seminar, assisted by four outside consultants, was held on public administration programs in the Middle East in February of this year. (A summary of the discussion is contained in Appendix II-A.)  We are thus well into the process of defining the priority this field of activity will have in future work, but have yet to formulate a firm position.  It is apparent from the reports and discussions to date that the field will receive a smaller proportion of our budget, as described in Appendix II-B.  

          In the field of law and development, explorations are continuing into program opportunities appropriate to a foreign foundation. Modest projects exist or are being developed in legal education and legal research on development problems, as described in Appendix III A. A more ambitious attempt to enter the field as outlined in Appendix III-B has been shelved, at least temporarily.  

          Programs designed to provide training and experience for political leaders, parliamentarians and diplomats, Kingsley's point 4 above, have thus far been small and largely confined to the latter group. Although we will want to be alert to opportunities for effective action in this field, we doubt they will be so abundant as to be a major claim on our resources.  

          Perhaps our most significant impact on political development in the future will result from research by others and ourselves on national integration and inter-group relations. This would include the legal research mentioned above, and a project currently underway in Lebanon to analyze the political and social system of that relatively successful Middle Eastern country (Appendix IV). Other research opportunities dealing with the motivations of youth and the evolution of the Lebanese education system from private to public control are under discussion and could have useful contributions to make to our understanding of political development and modernization.  

          These interests lead naturally to a concern for the development of the social sciences in the region and the organization of research processes. This involves a long-range program to expand the base of information and analysis available to decision makers, and as such can appropriately be viewed under the political development heading, but it could be considered with equal validity under the heading of social development. 

          The social science focus involves us in three types of project activity: those designed to develop, organize and use research capacity by:  

1.   strengthening the social sciences generally and bringing social scientists into a more constructive relationship with each other and with developmental agencies; 

2.   assisting in the organization of existing research capacity for problem-focused work; and  

3.   seeking solutions to development problems through descriptive, analytical and theoretical research conducted and/or commissioned directly by the Foundation.  

These projects are summarized in Appendix V.  (Continued)

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