1973  MIDDLE EAST PROGRAM:  Discussion Paper (“Curfew”)          (p. 2 of 2)

Program Themes  

          It seems unnecessary here to detail the program themes we are now emphasizing, as they have been described at length in a previous correspondence -- most coherently in the narrative statement accompanying our two-year budget submission in January 1973. They tend to cluster along three main axes particular to the Middle East: 

1. Problems of individual development, including projects on:   

·         child rearing and the cultural development of women

·         Arabic language teaching

·         psycholinguistics, especially how children learn languages

·         science and mathematics education

           The preparation of the child for modern life is one of the most difficult tasks facing less developed countries; what was good enough for the father is no longer good enough for the son, and what was good enough for the mother just won't do at all for the daughter. Recent research indicates that the first three years of life are vitally important in the development of life-long character traits, mental capabilities and value structures. These years are completely controlled by the mother, perhaps the most neglected actor in the drama of development. Studies in Egypt and Uganda show that a child’s performance in school is much more closely correlated with the level of the mother's education than with that of the father or with the family's social or economic status. Our projects seek to encourage research by Arab scholars on child rearing, nutrition and child health, the production of a child-care manual for mothers and community development workers, and the study of the emergence of modern Arab women.  

          In school, the first serious subject the child encounters is reading. The techniques for teaching Arabic in most schools were developed in Basra and Kufa in the 11th century; the words and syntax employed have passed out of the daily lexicon. This early school experience tends to set the pattern of school life: unchallenging acceptance by the student of the teacher's words, and memorization. Language is, of course, the basic tool of education, and if, as is suspected, Arabic is more difficult for children to learn than other languages and takes longer to master, the educational process is itself retarded. In addition to supporting work on an initial Arabic teaching alphabet and the production of teaching materials using classical words and syntax similar to those already in the child's colloquial ken, we seek to promote teaching methods which will encourage participation and thinking.  

          Science and mathematics education have a dual value, as well; command of subject matter is important to modernization, and an understanding of the scientific method reinforces the idea that man can, through his actions, affect his environment.  

          The long-range goals of work on the child-rearing and educational processes are to promote within young adults the personal flexibility to deal with change, and the mental objectivity to deal with it well. The Foundation's efforts can affect these processes only marginally, but by following the strategies discussed below, we may affect them significantly.  

          2. Enhancing the usefulness of modern scholarship, with projects on:  

·         the environment

·         social science research and teaching

·         law and development

·         population

·         publication of scholarly works in Arabic

·         public management

·         food grains production

          These programs have the common theme of organizing skilled human efforts for the welfare of the society. Two observations that impress one most about the Middle East after arriving here from Africa are the large numbers of highly-trained people in Egypt, Jordan and Lebanon, and the apparently greater productivity of these same people in western society than in their own. One is led to conclude that higher education, even in the Middle East, is designed to prepare people for western society rather than for Arab society, and that either their acquired knowledge is not relevant to their own region, or that the infrastructure is faulty, or both.  

          We are thus deeply concerned with the extent to which western thinking in various disciplines relating to development is relevant or can be adapted to Arab society. In addition, we are concerned with the organization of scholarly endeavors so that the society is able to make use of them.  

          In the environment field, our chief contribution has been to bring scientific talent to bear on problems selected by committees that included scientists from all Lebanese universities, as well as civil servants from government. This linkage offered people with common interests the chance to communicate with each other, and proved valuable even before the grant was made. Channels for professional communications, which elsewhere might be taken for granted, are often lacking in the Arab world and can sometimes be established through the careful design of our grants.  

          Similarly, the social sciences, law, and population are fields where we work to improve communications and to find ways of applying disciplined thought to the real problems of contemporary society. Small, carefully designed research grants can be useful in stimulating cooperation among scholars and in focusing their attentions on pertinent social problems. We are also working with Arab social scientists who are raising questions about the validity of certain research techniques and disciplinary tenets for Arab culture. Communication among social scientists will be facilitated by a regional conference to be financed by the Foundation early in 1974. The set of problems surrounding the publication of scholarly works in Arabic is an important element of the scholarly communication question.  

          Public management is one of the most important fields in which we work, but one in which we are very modest about what we have to offer. Large past investments in institutes of public administration have not yielded impressive results, nor have direct transfers of administrative techniques, such as classification and pay projects. Management is a deeply cultural process, as is made obvious by comparing Japanese and American management systems, and the Arabs have yet to create a process of their own for handling the complexity and size of modern institutions. Our chief contribution may be in helping the Arabs to diagnose and articulate management problems, and in helping to design and evaluate studies of the management culture conducted by Arab researchers.  

          The agricultural program (ALAD) is an attempt to adapt the seeds and cultural practices of the Green Revolution to the semi-arid agro-climatic zone. It is concerned first with the development of food cereals production technology appropriate to the region and, secondly, with the national research processes through which the technology must be continually renewed. As the new technology, some of which is already available, is ready to be released, a range of problems in management, rural sociology, and agricultural economics can be anticipated. Indeed, the pressure created by a visibly successful new crop technology can become a powerful impetus for social change and can create the arena for interaction of several of our programs.  

          3. Interaction with the outside world, including projects on:   

·         English language teaching

·         library development

·         communications media

·         international conferences and seminars (AAA dialogues)

           These projects require a fairly small percentage of our budget. They are prompted by a growing sense of the intellectual isolation of the Arab world since 1967, not the excruciating isolation of Meiju Japan or Maoist China, but the petulant isolation of Kaddafi’s Libya. English language teaching and libraries have educational values in addition to their international relations attributes, but their inclusion on our list of themes owes as much to the latter as to the former. Arab-western communications, either through the media or in more private dialogues, are not fundamental to development but are helpful to coexistence while the longer-term development issues are being sorted out.


          In pursuing these program themes, we use our funds and staff in accordance with four general operating strategies:  

          1. Build on institutions within the region that show promise of making important contributions in their fields. Current examples are the Institute of Statistical Studies and Research at the University of Cairo, the English Language Institute at the American University in Cairo, and the Science and Mathematics Education Center at the American University of Beirut. Other institutions we may wish to continue to support are the Center for Educational Research and Development of the Ministry of Education in Lebanon, and the Department of Foreign Languages at Al-Azhar University. Other institutions with which we cooperate -- for example, the National Scientific Research Council in Lebanon -- may continue to receive grants for work on topics of mutual interest, but we do not intend a sustained interest in their continued development, or in the regionalization of their impact.  

          It is noteworthy that the centers we have singled out have, for the most part, been assisted since their creation by Foundation grants, but we are no longer able to afford encouragement to new institutions by providing staff training overseas and advisors in residence, even if we would wish to do so. We now bet only on those with good track records.  

          2. Assemble a group of professional staff members who stand high in the Middle East in their disciplines and permit them to work as peers with Arab scholars and educators in analyzing and interpreting development problems in the Arab cultural context. We are acquiring a staff whose visits to universities are as welcome for their intellectual as well as for their potential financial contributions. For example, Salacuse stimulated a seminar on law and development for a year at the FacuIte de Droit of the Universite St. Joseph, which led to a team research project in the Faculte, interdisciplinary in nature, on the basic law of the municipality in Lebanon. Salacuse has also given seminars on law and development in Saudi Arabia and at the National Center for Criminological and Social Research in Cairo, and he has been invited to give a series of lectures on civil codes and the common law tradition at the University of Khartoum in October. Fluency in French and knowledge of the French legal tradition, plus a reading knowledge of Arabic, give Salacuse the tools to be a catalyst in this new but potentially important field of law.  

          Benedict in sociology and anthropology, Roy in development administration, and Tucker in linguistics have received similar recognition of professional excellence; Croley in population and Controulis in taxation have made highly regarded professional contributions. We are anticipating the arrival of Gotsch in agricultural economics, Kinsey, with fluent Arabic, in educational research, and Jernudd, Tucker's replacement, who has Arabic and field experience in the Sudan, in linguistics. Several of our perennial consultants have earned high professional reputations among Arab colleagues, such as Pella in science education, Munn on library development, Prator on TESL, Conway on the environment, and Hinds on Arabic.  

          These men are not working in imported ivory towers, oblivious to their surroundings, as were many of the messengers of enlightenment who peopled the university colleges of colonial Africa. Nor are they routinely applying western measurement and analytical techniques to the Arab environment. They are members of the more modest generation of developers, keenly aware of how little we really know about the development process in other cultures and of how limited in application are the intellectual tools designed and tested in the West. Instead, they work as colleagues with Arab scholars and policy-makers in search of increased comprehension of real problems and improved methods of dealing with them. 

          This involves working closely with individual scholars, stimulating their intellectual development, collaborating in their research, and participating in their seminars. It also involves designing cooperative research projects, convening conferences on research themes, and analyzing institutional obstacles to the full development of academic potential.  

          Working intimately with development problems in the Arab world, as these men do, has an important impact on their own intellectual development as well. Many of the assumptions with which they arrive are challenged by this experience. One of the great benefits of this style of operations is that it permits us to improve our own perceptions of the nature of the development process. In this way we hope to advance the field of development, and eventually to work out development models and theories that will be valid elsewhere. 

          3. Cooperate with other donors, especially United Nations agencies, in hopes of multiplying the effect of what we do and of improving the quality of other, larger efforts. In the Middle East, the UN agencies play a leading role in development assistance, probably a more prominent part than they play in other areas of the world. This is largely because of the paucity of bilateral assistance, and the tendency of existing bilateral programs to concentrate on military assistance.  

          Yet, the UN record here is no better than elsewhere in the world, and their tasks are complicated by the need to have a high proportion of Arabic-speaking staff, which severely limits the recruitment pool.  

          We began working with the UN only about a year ago but our interaction is increasing at a satisfactory rate, as fast as either party really wishes it to. We began by working with UNICEF, perhaps the most effective of the technical agencies, in Oman and Jordan. In Oman, we support a research project, through a grant to UNICEF, with the main objective of improving UNICEF's competence to work on child rearing problems in the Gulf area. In Jordan, the Foundation worked parallel to UNICEF, but in cooperation with them, by contributing to the quality of an in-service teacher training program in which UNICEF is committed to invest over a million dollars in five years. The resources of the ELI and SMEC were brought to bear on the project, thus enhancing their growth and expertise at the same time as they are improving the yield of the UN investment.  

          The United Nations Economic and Social Office in Beirut (UNESOB) hosts innumerable regional conferences on a variety of subjects of interest to our program, such as the environment, population, employment, and management. The Foundation has often been invited to participate as an observer, but we are now beginning to cooperate in the staging of some of these meetings. In September 1973, a regional conference on population will be held to which are invited four guest specialists from other parts of the world. The costs of these resource people are outside of the conference budget and we have agreed to absorb them.  

          Another conference on the uses of the computer by managers of public enterprises is under consideration and we have been asked to contribute to the funding and participate in the design of the meeting. In October 1974, a major regional conference on employment is planned, which could become a vehicle for the introduction to the Middle East of the results of the Foundation's current study of the employment question.  

          The caliber of UNESOB conferences has not uniformly been high, but it is a valuable neutral host for meetings on topical matters, and our closer participation should serve to further our own program objectives in the subject matter fields, as well as to sharpen the focus of the conferences.  

          The Foundation's agricultural program, ALAD, cooperates with FAO in the distribution of plant nurseries. Under appropriate conditions, we would wish for much greater cooperation. FAO has a large budget to spend in the Arab world, and is able to work in countries such as Iraq and Syria, which have high agricultural potential but are at the moment virtually closed to ALAD; yet, FAO has been largely ineffective over the years despite its operational advantages. We have sought to find ways in which ALAD and the international centers could relate their expertise to FAO projects (see my memo to Lowell Hardin of April 18).  

          The Foundation has had less success in working out cooperative relationships with another group of organizations, the Arab League technical agencies and the Arab regional banks. In 1970, Jim Ivy established good relations with the Arab League Economic, Cultural and Social Organization (ALECSO), and its director requested the approval of his governing body to cooperate with the Foundation. This was vetoed by the Syrians and Algerians, and serious allegations about the Foundation's role in the Middle East were made. Since then, in the past year, ALAD has made good progress towards cooperation with two Arab League agricultural research programs.  

          The Arab League agencies are not generally well regarded, but they have the potential to make valuable contributions to the development problems of the region and we would like to cooperate with them as we do with the UN agencies.  

          I called on the director-general of the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development in 1972. The Fund is modeled on the World Bank and is very well managed. To date nothing has come of this contact, and we have had nothing specific to propose, but in time we hope to work more intimately with the major Arab sources of finance. This can only be done when relationships of trust have been developed, and this in turn will depend upon our performance and on continuous congenial contacts with the people directing these organizations.  

          A beginning was made in Saudi Arabia, where we worked for eight years on a program of administrative reform mostly financed by the Saudi government. This was for the most part an attempt to make rather direct transfers of American administrative experience to an Arab society. It had successes and failures, as one might expect, but the net result was not such that the Saudis turn first to the Foundation for help with their problems.  

          4. Engage in our own research. In two rather different circumstances, the Foundation has itself undertaken research conducted by expatriate project specialists. These are the ALAD program and the study of the Lebanese social and political system by David and Audrey Smock.  

          The Smock study was prompted by the view that Lebanon has found a way to deal with its fragmented, crisis-ridden society that contains lessons for other societies divided deeply by tribal, ethnic, racial or religious factors. At this writing, that view is being put to a most severe test. Our reason in this case for using expatriate researchers was that our main interest was in the product of the research, not the process, and we believed that it would be exceedingly difficult to find locally the necessary combination of objectivity and background in political development possessed by the Smocks.  

          The ALAD program has as its objective the improvement of the agriculture research process in addition to obtaining a valid research product. In this case, drawing on the experience of the Green Revolution in Asia, it is judged that the best way to raise the quality of agricultural research is to demonstrate its potential results. This can be done most quickly and effectively by a sizable team of expatriate scientists working together on production problems in conditions unfettered by bureaucracy or politics. 

          ALAD serves as a relay station for ClMMYT, IRRI, and ICRISAT, benefiting from research results at these centers and feeding back field trial data from arid lands.  

          This strategy is admittedly one with a high cost, but compared with the other successful Green Revolution strategy of creating international centers with their own facilities in developing countries, ALAD appears to be a bargain. An international center may yet emerge in the Middle East, and certainly the scientists would appreciate the facilities and prestige that would accompany its creation, but the regional program now emerging in ALAD has an enviable cost/benefit ratio for the agriculture field.  


          The curfew seems about to be lifted at last, and this memo has drawn on longer than intended. I have tried to set forth the reasons we think the Middle East is a vitally important area of the world in which to work, some of the problems we think we can affect over time, and the operational strategies we employ. This exercise was prompted not so much by the frustration of being shut in as by the frustration of having our budget cut just as we are approaching full staff strength and just as challenging opportunities in such critical areas as Arabic language teaching seem to be opening up to us.  

          The big boy in our budgetary boat is the ALAD program, which commands 30 percent of our program budget and is actually spending at a higher rate than that. Geographically, ALAD works in the semi-arid belt from Afghanistan to Morocco, well beyond the borders of the Middle East office. The analysis put forward in this paper would not put food production high on the priority list; nevertheless, there are valid reasons for ALAD being the size that it is, and indeed, good reasons for its continued growth:  

-- It is a program almost assured of success, unlike such high-risk ventures as tinkering with the Arabic language or the way in which people bring up their kids. The technology for greatly increasing yields is known, or at least the way to develop it is known, and the UN agency responsible for the field is not competent to produce the goods. 

  • It is a program almost assured of success, unlike such high-risk ventures as tinkering with the Arabic language or the way in which people bring up their kids.  The technology for greatly increasing yields is known, or at least the way to develop it is known, and the UN agency responsible for the field is not competent to produce the goods.
  • The Foundation has excellent contacts with the world network of production-oriented scientists. 
  • It is a high-priority field for many Arab governments, and a field where success can be recognized and measured. 
  • It is a program that can and does attract other donors' funds in direct support of ours. 
  • It is a field with which our efforts in the social sciences, management, law and development, and agricultural economics will in time usefully interact. 

          It could be added that the program is very ably led and increasingly respected in the Middle East. The clearly non-political nature of the program and its measurable successes greatly enhance the reputation of the Foundation in these suspicious lands. 

          In short, ALAD uses well every dollar it gets and I am not suggesting that it be cut. I do, however, believe that we must find a way to increase, or, at least not diminish, the total of funds available to the Middle East office. 

          We have selected our strategies with an eye to multiplier effects, and reduced the average size of our grants in order to stretch the funds, but the dollar has been shrinking while we have been stretching, and the prospect of a $200,000 cut in FY 74 is one I am compelled to resist.  

          This summer, after eighteen months as representative, I will have the staff I have been seeking, a group of specialists in their disciplines who are also sensitive to the historical and cultural conditions of the Middle East and able to work effectively with its inhabitants. The arrivals of Bunker, Kinsey, Gotsch and Jernudd will add greatly to an already strong team and can be expected to put great pressure on our regular budget as they explore opportunities in agricultural economics, Arabic language teaching, psycho- and socio-linguistics, and other fields. 

          For this office to be forced to undergo a budget cut just when we become best equipped to use funds well would be most unfortunate. Our case rests on: 

  • the intrinsic importance of the region,
  • the leanness of our program design,
  • the reach of ALAD outside the geographical boundaries of our region, and
  • the strength of the staff we have been fortunate to attract. 

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