Think Tanks in Brunei Darussalam (Updated 2015)

About three and a half years ago, I posted the list of Think Tanks in Brunei. Since then the list had expanded with the addition of a couple of newer Think Tanks. I thought I will update that list of Think Tanks for this new year of 2015. Remember, I am using the simpler definition where, a think tank is a body of experts providing advice and ideas on specific political or economic problems. At its most complicated, a think tank (or policy institute) is an organization that conducts research and engages in advocacy in areas such as social policy, political strategy, economy, science or technology issues, industrial or business policies, or military advice.

For the list of think tanks that are now in Brunei, I came out with the following updated list:-

(1) Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS)

This is certainly the most established of all the think tanks in Brunei. It was at first the ASEAN-EC Management Centre funded by European Communities and hosted by Brunei from 1992. The issues it dealt with were mostly human resources but it did deal with other issues. But with the end of the funding, the government set up the CSPS using the existing building.

The Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies (CSPS) was officially established on July 1st, 2006. It is a Corporate Body and is governed by the “Centre for Strategic and Policy Studies” Act 2006, Brunei Darussalam. According to the CSPS Act 2006, under Article 83(3) Section 13 (a), it is stated that the function of the Centre shall include “the advancement and dissemination of knowledge and the promotion of research on Brunei Darussalam and on all matters appertaining to Brunei Darussalam’s interests”. The establishment of the Centre is seen as a mechanism for inputting information to relevant stakeholders to facilitate intelligent, informed and educated decision-making. It could also play a role in monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of the current policies to make policy refinements, terminations or other policy decisions possible.

(2) Brunei Darussalam Institute of Policy and Strategic Studies (IPSS), Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade

This think tank was a founder member of the Network of East Asian Think Tank as far back as 2002. There is more information about NEAT than there is about the think tank itself.

Officially recognized at the “10+3" summit meeting, Network of East Asian Think-tanks (NEAT) is a mechanism for research and academic exchange, and a platform for the second-track diplomacy in the regional cooperation among “10+3" countries in East Asia. It aims at integrating the research resources in East Asia, promoting the academic exchanges and providing intellectual support for East Asian cooperation. To be more specific, by establishing a network among East Asian think-tanks, governments and enterprises and promoting the interaction of these three circles, it intends to study the key issues related to East Asian cooperation, work out strategic ideas and concrete policy suggestions for the regional integration and submit research reports to the “10+3" summit meeting.

In 2002, East Asian Studies Group (EASG), the second-track in the mechanism of East Asian cooperation, suggested 17 short-term measures to be taken for closer cooperation among East Asian nations, among which was establishing “Network of East Asian Think-tanks" (NEAT) within the framework of “10+3" regional cooperation. The suggestion was adopted at the informal meeting of “10+3" leaders held in Phnom Penh, Cambodia in September 2002.

The activities of NEAT fall into the following categories: 1) Hold annual conferences of NEAT members to promote exchanges among East Asian think tanks and submit an annual work report to the informal meeting of “10+3" leaders on the basis of the research of the key issues in East Asian integration process; 2) Set up a website of NEAT, bridging the governments with the academic circles, promoting the academic exchanges among scholars about East Asia, and educating the masses in the region; 3) Hold irregular international seminars on East Asian cooperation so as to facilitate the theoretic research on the integration and community building of East Asia and help to shape the theoretic framework, strategies and specific policies conducive to the regional cooperation in East Asia. 4) Cooperate in the research of the key issues in regional cooperation and figure out the solutions.

The founding as well as the first annual conference of NEAT was held in Beijing from September 29 to 30, 2003. There were delegates from the think tanks of all the member states at the conference. The three topics discussed were “Towards East Asian Cooperation", Important Steps Leading to East Asian Cooperation" and “Key Areas in East Asia Cooperation". The conference report was not only published, but also distributed at the “10+3" leaders meeting in 2003.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade can probably give more information with regard whether the think tank is a physical think tank or a virtual one.

(3) Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (SHHB-IDSS), Ministry of Defence

This was set up a few years ago by the Ministry of Defence. The establishment of the Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies (SHHB-IDSS) was officially announced by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzadin Waddaulah Ibni Al-Mahrum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Khairi Waddien, Sultan Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, in His Majesty’s Titah during the 45th Anniversary of the Royal Brunei Armed Forces on 31st May 2006. The Institute was formally formed, with the appointment of its first Director in April 2007.

Its vision is "To be a leading think tank in regional defence, security and strategic studies" and its mission is "To study, discuss and disseminate defence, security and strategic issues relevant toBrunei Darussalam and its surrounding environment."

SHHB-IDSS has the following roles and functions: 1.To conduct policy relevant research on defence, security and strategic issues; 2.To promote international cooperation on defence, security and strategic issues with like-minded institutions and organizations; 3.To provide a platform for scholars, officials and others in their private capacities to discuss and research defence security and strategic studies; 4.To convene national, regional and international seminars, meetings, conference and other cooperative activities on defence, security and strategic studies; 5.To establish linkages and exchange information, insights and experiences in defence, security and strategic studies with similar institutions and organizations around the world; 6.To facilitate in human resource development for Brunei Darussalam’s Ministry of Defence and Royal Brunei Armed Forces; and 7.To publish and disseminate its research outputs and other activities in various forums and media.

The institute is active in organising the annual Brunei Darusalam International Defence and Security Exhibition and Conference (BRIDEX).

(4) Brunei National Energy Research Institute (BNERI)

The newly established Brunei National Energy Research Institute (BNERI) aspires to become an international centre of excellence on energy that will have a significant contribution towards Wawasan Brunei 2035. It was established under the Brunei National Energy Research Institute Order, 2011.

Its strategic objective is to support and promote Brunei Darussalam’s energy security, economic growth and environmental sustainability through innovative research and development (R&D) activities, including the commercializing and deployment of R&D products and research on renewable and alternative energy, energy efficiency and conservation, electricity generation and distribution, and hydrocarbon exploration, production and manufacturing.

BNERI shall recommend and accelerate the energy strategies by providing policy research, information, expertise and capacity building to ensure that, over the long-term, necessary energy development policies and programs are in action and harmony with the economic growth and the environmental sustainability of Brunei Darussalam under Wawasan 2035 and the region.

​The ambition is to make BNERI an energy think tank on certain areas of energy, firstly for Brunei Darussalam and eventually for the region and in the international arena, with immediate plans to make it an institute of about thirty researchers over the next three years. BNERI approach is to “synergize” with other think tanks and strategic partners in order to assure that those energy challenges are well undertaken and all targets are achieved to drive Brunei’s economy into a sustainable future. ​

(6) Borneo Research Centre, Brunei History Centre (PenBORNEO)

Borneo is one of the oldest islands in the region with a vast historical treasure in politics, economy, social, culture and the arts. The historical resources and material need to be compiled and preserved because they are among the country's heritage. The establishment of the Borneo Research Centre or 'PenBorneo' of the Brunei History Centre, as the reference source and study on Borneo Island will contribute to the collection of Borneo's treasures.

PenBorneo was established as a facility to keep resources and material on Borneo for research, writing, publications and exhibition. Among other things, its objective is to expand the market of Brunei Darussalam's publications to the whole of Borneo. Apart from that, it also aims to create cooperation in research and collecting materials on Borneo with local and foreign researchers.

Information resulting from the research would be shared with the public to ensure Borneo's historical treasures are not lost in time. The existence of the centre itself would make Brunei Darussalam an alternative destination among foreign researchers wishing to conduct research on the island. Senior History Officer, Awang Hanafi bin Haji Salleh says university students and the public can join PenBorneo as members.

PenBorneo is open during office hours to members of the public, researchers and secondary school, college and university students. Besides providing reference material such as books, newsletters, old letters of agreement and membership services. PenBorneo also provides microfilms and videos on historical material and events of Borneo, particularly on Brunei Darussalam.

Universiti Brunei Darussalam has set up a number of institutes. Many are teaching institutes but one in particular may qualify as a think-tank:

(7) The Institute for Leadership, Innovation and Advancement (ILIA)

ILIA will focus on being the premier academic center in the provision of research and training on issues and concerns related to the advancement of Negara Brunei Darussalam, with an emphasis on leadership and innovation.

Its missions are: Firstly, to be the premier national institute for the promotion and understanding of responsible innovative leadership and to develop outstanding real world leaders in public, private and social sectors through the provision of training and consultancy. Secondly, to undertake high quality research and consultancy which focuses on advancing our frontiers of knowledge in issues related to change leadership and innovation.

Its objectives are: (1) To be a focal point for research and training on issues and concerns related to the advancement of Negara Brunei Darussalam, with emphasis on leadership and innovation (2) To promote collaborative networking between government, business and academics and society in identifying and exploiting key niches for development (3) To encourage a culture that sees change and evolution as necessary part of advancement and development (4) To raise awareness that leaders roles should come from everywhere to transform organizations and social situations for the advancement of society (5) To encourage a multi-disciplinary approach to problem solving (6) To publish and promote the findings through papers, seminars and dialogue sessions.

(8) The Institute of Asian Studies (IAS)

The Institute of Asian Studies (IAS) at Universiti Brunei Darussalam, Brunei’s national university, was established in January 2012. The IAS's inaugural research areas cluster around Borneo Studies, South China Sea Studies, popular culture in Asia, economic and financial integration in Asia and human/capital movements in Asia.

Given the country’s strategic location, its political stability and the growing emphasis attached to research and development at UBD, the Institute is an ideal home for scholars and practitioners engaged in research on Asian affairs.

Further, researchers and practitioners alike find the combination of Borneo’s lush natural environment, the campus location on the shores of the South China Sea, collegial professional atmosphere, and supportive university administration highly conducive to scholarly activities. The Institute places a very strong emphasis on research that is immediately relevant, academically rigorous and multi-disciplinary.

Within UBD, the Institute acts as a conduit across disciplines and faculties, drawing on core participation from the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), the Academy of Brunei Studies (ABS), the School of Business and Economics (SBE), the Faculty of Science (FoS), the Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah Institute of Education (SHBIE) and the Pengiran Anak Puteri Rashidah Sa’adatul Bolkiah Institute of Education (PAPRS-BIHS).

Brunei's technology university, Institute Technology Brunei had also recently established a research centre. In the website it was described as Centre for Transport Research but all the write ups are about Centre for Road Safety Studies. It is probably undergoing a name change and probably its roles as well:

(9) Centre for Transport Research (CfTR)

The Centre for Road Safety Studies is the first research centre established at Institut Teknologi Brunei (ITB) in February 2011. The centre was officially launched by the Honourable Minister of Communication, who was then the Advisor to the Brunei National Road Safety Council (BNRSC).

The centre acts as a research centre within the university's structure to conduct interdisciplinary research in the related fields of road safety and transport. ITB has been an active member of BNRSC, and both basic and applied research studies have been conducted at the centre to complement the National Road Safety Action Plans.

The researchers work closely with BNRSC and its stakeholders, as well as with other international partners. The centre is keen to transform contemporary issues, problems and opportunities related to road safety and transport into research questions and develop the research outcomes into policies, programmes, countermeasure strategies and innovative products or processes.

Brunei's second university, University Islam Sultan Sharif Ali (UNISSA) also formed a couple of institutes and two, I think qualify to be considered as think tanks. At the point of writing this blog entry, I could not retrieve details of these institutes:

(10) Centre for Promotion of Knowledge and Languages Learning

- To be updated -

(11) Maddhab Shafi'i Research Centre
- To be updated -

In my original blog entry in 2011, I listed the Brunei Research Council as a think tank. After thinking about it, I have dropped the BRC from the list of Think Tanks in Brunei as the BRC functions more as an authority in deciding budget allocations for research proposals in Brunei.

Updated 24 December 2015

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