First and foremost, please let us extend our good wishes and support to all colleagues in Lebanon who have endured a terrible tragedy following the explosion at the Port of Beirut. Like the COVID pandemic, we see a repetition of calls for social protection and transparent government. I hope that out of this new crisis that has struck Lebanon, change for the better can happen. I give myself license to speak as this is my country of origin…
Thank you for taking the time to read this newsletter and share your news. I hope, as always that you continue to find the space of the MENASP network amenable to the issues and activities that are of interest to you. A network seems to be a good structure to operate through since it can be loose and spread-out to accommodate a diverse arrange of members whose collaborations fluctuate depending on the opportunities that arise. Perhaps this is especially so in the times we are in. Our work environments have altered due to the COVID pandemic, as they might following any crisis event. Some positive outcomes which we have perhaps all experienced have been the increased accessibility of international social policy events and policymakers thanks to modern technologies like Zoom and Microsoft Teams. I can think for example of the recent UN-ESCWA’s annual forum for Arab Human Development.
But this virtual proximity to our policymakers does not reduce the political distance between them and the populations they represent. No doubt, a major challenge for researchers will be to explore and develop new and effective ways of safeguarding accountability and building trust in this time of uncertainty and social distancing. Please, colleagues, use the space provided by the network so share any practices you are developing and help build capacity for the important topics we are all committed to advancing. One change I will make which has only now materialized thanks to the restricted travel regulations is to collaborate more with colleagues overseas especially where we have common empirical interests. A network can be a good starting point for the pooling of our human resources and so please continue to support the newsletter so that we can connect everyone in fruitful ways.
My very best wishes for a restful summer.
University of Bath
MENASP Network Convener