A new publicly-accessible database of experts, developed by UNICEF and researchers at the University of Bath, has launched aimed at improving policy and decision making across the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region.

The result of a collaborative project between UNICEF’s Regional Office in Jordan, the MENA Social Policy Network and the University's Institute for Mathematical Innovation, the new database provides information about experts gathered through a worldwide survey of 3000 researchers and practitioners working in the field.

It aims to support better knowledge exchange and networking among social policy decision-makers, researchers and practitioners working on the MENA region. Providing an inventory of MENA social policy expertise, it covers key themes including poverty and child poverty, social protection, public finance for children and decentralisation and local governance.

Experts included range from academics to researchers within think tanks and government agencies working across the Arabic, French and English languages.

Project lead, Dr Rana Jawad MENA social policy expert in the Department of Social & Policy Sciences, explained: “This database reflects the recognition by a leading UN agency of the centrality of social policy expertise in resolving the key policy challenges facing the MENA region.

“It is a public good which I hope will support a new breed of policy solutions around social protection and social justice that can help address the challenges facing MENA populations and those flowing out of the Middle East into other parts of the globe.”

Arthur van Diesen Regional Social Policy Advisor for the UNICEF MENA Region added: “UNICEF is very pleased to have been working with the University of Bath to develop this public good for social policy practitioners active in the Middle East and North Africa. We hope that the database will facilitate intensified networking between social policy specialists, resulting in accelerated progress in addressing the many social policy challenges the region faces.”

Professor Jonathan Dawes, Director of Bath IMI said: “IMI has been delighted to have taken part in this project, linking its data handling expertise with Bath’s social policy research strengths to build the first database of this kind on expertise in the MENA region. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed working with UNICEF and showing how Bath can establish and manage interdisciplinary collaborations that meet their requirements.”

UNICEF is currently reviewing plans for the future maintenance and development of the database and more information about this will be provided in due course. The database is populated on a self-reporting basis. Inclusion in it does not in any way express an endorsement by UNICEF or the University of Bath, and users of the database are advised to use their discretion in verifying information via other sources.

You can access the database see https://chaiml.shinyapps.io/menaro_database/​.

Please send feedback to the project leaders:

Read Rana Jawad's accompanying piece for Beirut Today 'Why we need to broaden the debate about social protection in the MENA region'