Thursday, September 18, 2014


What was the amount again, $14.8m, from Qatar, for the Brookings Institution ? The disclosure that many foreign countries provide significant funding for American "Think Tanks," non-profits whose academics often provide information and reports on those countries for decision-makers, has called into question the objectivity of such reports. Certain members of the US Congress are calling for full disclosure of funding, when scholars testify on Capitol Hill, for they fear that such financial support could influence the recommendations of these experts.

Why am I bringing this up for compliance officers, you ask ? If you are responsible for  updating Country Risk, or monitor emerging threats, you might be accessing some of the relevant articles, written by the scholars and retired military and government officials who reside at one of the Washington Think Tanks. The new information indicates that you had best take that information with a grain of salt, especially if the subject of the article is a government that is a financial contributor to the NGO.

While this may be a knee-jerk reaction on my part, to the news about undisclosed foreign sponsors, a quick check of the older articles, written by the NGO whose information that you want to rely upon, has written on the subject, should tell you whether the information is skewed or slanted in any direction other than that of objectivity. You can also rely upon authors at think tanks whose work you are familiar with. In any event, do not dismiss the think tank scholars out of hand, for many of them accurately contribute to our knowledge of unfolding events in faraway places.
Note: if you are curious, an enlarged version of the above chart, which allows you to read the names of all the US-based think tanks in the picture, can be seen here:

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