Hamed El-Said is Chair and Professor of Political Economy and International Business at Manchester Metropolitan University Business School.
He was born in Jordan into an academic family – his father was a professor and former Dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Jordan – so from being a child, Professor El Said was fortunate in knowing exactly what he wanted to do with his life.
There is one question which has dominated his work and thoughts since his undergraduate days in Jordan and then on to postgraduate study in London and Manchester: ‘Why in the Arab world despite all its wealth has the area failed to industrialise?’
The question has dominated his work and from being a critic of the methods of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in their attempts to offer ‘western’ solutions to the economies of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) his research has now been adopted by these organisations as the guiding principles for success in the region.
Professor El-Said’s focus on the political and economic reforms of the MENA region has also now been adopted by the United Nations as the authoritative source of information for its member states and the approach of governments across the globe is now being guided by his research.
More recently the Professor’s work on terrorism and business has shaped the thinking of many large organisations and governments who are venturing into the region. The four major studies and two books produced as a result of the research have been endorsed and used by the UN in their attempt to counter terrorism at a global level.
According to Professor El Said, the reason for his passion for this area of work is the hope of making a difference and ultimately saving lives.
Coming from the region myself I feel all the contradictions of a growing up in a very wealthy region which has failed to develop and industrialise. I looked towards Singapore, Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan – once very poor countries but now very much richer than Jordan. Why? This was always the question which fascinated me and is reflected in much of my academic research.
The role of leadership is most important in the pursuit of development. Singapore, Hong-Kong, Korea, Taiwan are known as ‘developmental estates’ and the emergence of these countries is a result of the formation of leadership focused on the development of the state rather than its own personal interests. Such leadership has never developed in Arab states underlined by the oil wealth which has allowed leaders to bribe their own citizens. The main target of development and the interests of the country at large have never benefitted from effective Arab leaders. With such immense wealth available to the few there was no need to industrialise. Subsidised energy, food, education, and health was a sort of deal between the leadership and the people – a destructive contract if you like – based on the premise the government subsidises everything, you stay out of politics. A culmination of all this over many years explains what we now call the ‘Arab Spring’, the result of three or four decades of the rich getting richer, the poor poorer.
Being in the UK has given me the opportunity to acquire knowledge which wouldn’t have been available in the Arab world. I’m very proud to have British Citizenship and to be living and working in a country that allows you to think, speak and write freely. The freedom to think has added to my creativity as there is no creativity without freedom. Being in the UK has given me advantages which I would not have been able to access in the Middle East. With the advances in technology I can follow up things on a daily basis in an unrestricted way. The reason I have achieved what I have done is because I am here. After all, in four hours I can be in the Middle East, so it’s not as far away as some people think. On the emotional side, as regards my family, it is sometimes difficult but on the professional side it has only been positive.
A wide variety of organisations and individual people benefit from my work. These include governments, the IMF and the World Bank as my work shows the defects in their programmes and leads to improvements. Students from the Middle East and North Africa gain greatly from my work as do many people involved in promoting economic reforms in the region.
The area of work I am involved in with the United Nations is in the area of terrorism and how to counter terrorism at a global level. I believe it was my work on the economic and political impact of terrorism and the role of the emergent Islamists as a major power which prompted the UN to invite me to look for solutions to the growing radicalisation and terrorism problems in many Muslim majority states and western Muslim minority states.
I led the UN research team in 2008 ‘The Working Group on Radicalisation and Extremism Leading to Terrorism’ and for the last five years have been focusing on finding ways to reduce radicalisation and building ways to develop counter-radicalisation programmes. The aim is to first reduce the problem at a societal level but at the same time introduce a scheme which deals with people who have ‘crossed the line’ and are either trying to do something and have failed or were arrested before doing so.
This work has produced four major studies and two books. The two books represent the largest inventory of all such programmes in the world and the most comprehensive evaluation of the conditions conducive to success and failure. All of this work has been funded by the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and has been adopted by the UN and distributed to all member states. All of this work has been conducted while working at Manchester Metropolitan University.
The reason you do all this is in the hope the work will make a difference. The business you are in is in saving lives.
All of my work is funded from grants from prestigious donors such as Oxfam, The British Council and the Norwegian Government. My research places Manchester Metropolitan University as a major contributor to important areas of work on terrorism and economic reforms in emerging countries and links the institution to international organisations and establishes its excellence. The work of the Business School and the research it undertakes is linked with organisations and governments including the United Nations, Britain and the US – something few universities benefit from.
I want to shift away from theorising as almost all my research is based on field work involving interviews with the people involved. All of the work we do is focused on the practical and in finding workable applications for the research we conduct. In line with the history of the university and its reputation as a practical educator we concentrate on practical issues and solutions. My work supports the ethos and traditions of Manchester Metropolitan University.
There is a large audience around the world benefitting from the work we do here. I’m very pleased to see the counter-radicalisation programmes I have been advocating are being adopted by a large number of governments around the world, including the UK, Belgium, Holland, Norway and the US. Most Muslim majority states are using these programmes and there are signs that this work is leading to successful results in many areas and more attention is now being paid to the social impact of the reforms they are seeking.
Most of my audience is in the west but I do receive invitations to go and talk about my work from almost every government in the MENA region including Saudi Arabia, Abu Dhabi and the Arab Emirates.
As an academic I always feel that things could be better and this spurs me on to continue to improve my work.
Academics benefit in terms of the use of the research in their teaching on Middle East and North African courses. Academics working in many universities including the University of London School of African Studies, Bradford, York and San Diego University in California have benefited from collaboration between us and them.
There is a lack of data available from the Middle East and North Africa and so my work is helping to fill this major gap in the available literature. As a result further research is being conducted building on the work done at Manchester Metropolitan University stimulating more debate about the area. A major benefit of the work is the increased discussion of the issues facing the region. More subjects being examined, more research being done, more doors opened.
Yes, I have enquiries on a daily basis from students wishing to study for a PhD. I receive regular invitations to speak at conferences and there is a great deal of interest in my research from governments and the world’s media. All of this interest feeds into the brand name of the university and this translates into students wishing to study here.
I’m a regular reviewer on many international journals and this supports the reputation of Manchester Metropolitan University, develops expertise in this area and attracts students from all over the world.
What I would like to do is to take my research into new areas. I’d like to provide a new type of research which takes what I have done so far into greater depth and takes it into a new dimension to create a new scholarly activity which will have a lasting effect.
I’ve already started work on behalf of the World Bank who have asked me to work on Aid Effectiveness in North Africa – what determines the effectiveness of aid and what factors determine aid flow to the region. The issue of aid and how it has undermined economic development in the region and why it has not played the part it did in Europe under the Marshall Plan. Even though I have been very critical of the World Bank in the past I am pleased and honoured they have asked me to do this work. It is very encouraging to be invited as it makes me feel what I am doing is being noted and also having the desired effect on key players in the area.
Routledge have invited me to do another piece of work on economic thinking in the Middle East – looking at more and new issues which have not been examined before.
Most recently the UN has asked me to submit a paper on post-Assad Syria, a very topical subject which is keeping me very busy at the moment.
Terrorism has become a major threat to business. Evidence shows that most multi-national businesses have no idea of how to deal with the problem. I’m working at Manchester Metropolitan University to develop business models that allow businesses to reduce the threat of terrorism wherever they go and how they can minimise the risks.
I’m helping businesses to protect themselves from terrorism by allowing them to test factors of risk before they make a decision about whether to go and set up in the region.
This is a new area of research where no-one has been before and allows businesses to assess the risks before they commit themselves. It also allows firms to understand the threats better and to be part of programmes that enable them to be part of the solution rather than the problem. The Business School is the ideal place to be to work on these areas.
The study of business and terrorism is unique to Manchester Metropolitan University in the UK. It is taught as part of political courses at other institutions but not partnered with business. Overseas, the two areas are often linked and taught at business schools. Foreign governments have appeared to show the most interest in viewing these two areas side by side although the UK faces the same threats, if not more so, than other countries.
|Heinz Tuselmann's research on labour relations and MNC performance included in Academy of Social Science document launched by Vince Cable.|
The Academy of Social Science (ASS) has produced a document with a few selected cases on how research in managment in business is contributing to economic and social development in the UK. The document is entitled: "Making the case for social sciences - management".
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