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The Crisis Observatory

Crisis Observatory: Building Knowledge for Policy

“Building Knowledge for Policy”, is the motto that appears on the main website of the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP). The Crisis Observatory ELIAMEP’s latest initiative, with the support of the “Stavros Niarchos” Foundation, aims to contribute to this objective during a very difficult period, when the need for positive action through policy is imperative but when unfortunately, knowledge is often lacking.

Despite the fact that Greece is confronted with the most severe economic crisis in its post-war history, the level of public discourse about the crisis does not reflect the gravity of the situation. The political system has failed to reach even a minimum consensus, which would allow it to negotiate and implement better a broad reform programme, which Greece undoubtedly needs; on the contrary, it is now polarized like never before. The media tend to reproduce this clash thereby magnifying it further.

In this context, there is no comprehensive and objective analysis and, consequently, knowledge of the real causes of the crisis, the characteristics (either positive or negative) of the economic adjustment programme, or alternative policy options (and their consequences) to overcome the crisis. This deficit is critical, as it is often the case that citizens do not understand even basic aspects of the crisis (which is very complex in any case); as a consequence, during these crucial times for the future of the country, citizens either tend to form opinions based on incorrect information (which often leads them to adopt extreme positions), or to remain indifferent – as reflected in the historically low turnout rates in recent elections.

The Crisis Observatory was created to fill this vacuum in information and knowledge. The aim of the Observatory is to become a central hub of information, research and dialogue regarding the Greek and European crises. In order to accomplish this objective, the Crisis Observatory organizes its operation on the basis of three main pillars: education, information and intervention/ research.

Through educational material and simple but appealing interactive applications, we are trying to help the average citizen, i.e. the citizen who has no specialized economic knowledge, to understand basic economic concepts and dynamics, which are indispensable for understanding the crisis. On a second level, through a series of services (library, database, public documents repository) the Observatory provides all information necessary, to comprehend, analyze and research the crisis, collected at a single site and classified in a systematic and easy- to-use way. Regarding intervention, the Observatory promotes the fruitful exchange of views and policy proposals covering the full political spectrum and all issue areas affected by the crisis. Our sole guiding principle is the serious and sober presentation of research, interventions and information on the basis of well-developed arguments and evidence, with a view to contributing to the gradual improvement of the level of public discourse about the crisis. Finally, the Observatory hopes to make its own contribution through the encouragement and financing (within the limits of its resources) of new, primary research about the crisis, which will uncover new knowledge that will form the basis for evidence-based policy recommendations.

All these actions will be further strengthened and highlighted through a series of public events, which are expected to bring us closer to the average citizen, who is our primary audience; hopefully many people will join us in this endeavour. We commit ourselves to the constant improvement and enrichment of the Observatory experience – we are already planning a series of new sections and applications on our website, along with new public activities and events.

However, a word of caution is in order. In order for an initiative like the Crisis Observatory to succeed, it is necessary that the public, the average citizen, all of us put in an effort.

A constantly expanding team of prominent academics, as well as many young researchers, are voluntarily contributing to the operation of the Crisis Observatory – without their contribution, the capabilities of the Observatory would have been much more limited.

Experts and non-experts alike, we all bear some responsibility for the prevalence of populism, demagogy, cheap and eventually dead-end rhetoric – phenomena that often dominate public discourse about the crisis. In order to comprehend such a complex phenomenon, we have to avoid superficial and easy conclusions and to delve deep into the problems – in other words, we need to work.

On this note and with this wish we welcome you to this new effort: good work! For all of us.

Dimitris Katsikas

Head, Crisis Observatory