Advancing understanding on public policy, Islamic governance

Rizal Faisal

The Institute of Policy Studies (IPS) at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) is a graduate school specialising in public policy and public management, and Islamic governance.

Both taught and research-based degree programmes are offered for students from all academic and experiential backgrounds. The IPS’ past and present students are from various countries including South Africa, Russia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, the United States of America (USA), Jordan, Gambia and Uganda among many others.

The IPS facilitates the learning of applied policy and its analysis, allowing for the provision of advanced training across a spectrum of multi-disciplinary policy areas.

This holistic approach opens opportunities for students of the highest calibre from both public and private sectors to engage in matters pertaining to public policy and governance. Students include military and government officers, members of non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and post-graduate researchers.

The IPS pursues five strategic aims: advancing research on mainstream and specialised public policy areas, teaching high-quality graduate degree programmes, training in key policy areas and processes and conducting conferences, seminars, and publications. With the Islamic governance programme, currently the only one in the world, the IPS organises the Islamic Governance Annual Symposium to continue the conversation on the concept.

Maintaining this conversation on Islamic governance is an important strategic focus to enhance its academic and intellectual proficiencies, and for creating a constructive intellectual space for academics, policymakers, policy implementers, researchers, students and, most essentially, the general public, to share their knowledge, opinions and experiences in a mass collaborative effort towards greater understanding of the concept’s application, relevance and challenges.

A student does her research at the IPS library. PHOTOS: RIZAL FAISAL
Students discuss their group presentations

This ultimately leads towards creating a profound awareness of the possibilities of Islam as a solution for societal organisation, for overcoming its challenges and enhancing inter-civilisational relations.

The activities of the IPS are in response to the titah by His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah Mu’izzaddin Waddaulah ibni Al-Marhum Sultan Haji Omar ‘Ali Saifuddien Sa’adul Khairi Waddien, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, Chancellor of UBD, during the university’s 29th Convocation Ceremony, where His Majesty urged UBD to give emphasis, among others, to the field of Islamic governance.

Islamic governance is a critical cog for realising Brunei’s national philosophy of MIB (Malay Islamic Monarchy) by offering a systematic, cohesive, and methodological approach for mitigating the incongruences between national aspiration, policy formulation and its implementation.

The IPS has previously held four symposiums mainly featuring local speakers. This year’s symposium, on September 21-22, will be the first International Islamic Governance Symposium featuring speakers from Singapore, Malaysia, Turkey, South Africa and the Philippines.

The upcoming symposium themed ‘The Evolution of the Muslim State’ discussed against the background of Muslim societies having grown more complex due to a rapidly expanding population, rising educational standards, access to technological advancements and information offered by globalisation and the Internet, and the accompanying array of new economic opportunities.

Citizens’ expectations, both of the political and the economic, have risen as a result. Numerous new notions and institutions were introduced into many Muslim states to meet those rising expectations, which in turn only served to further complicate their socio-organisational fabric. Intricate contemporary challenges place unprecedented pressure on the state – its resources and governance.

For many Muslim states, the added challenges create the need for a system of governance that can ensure the state, society and all its institutions are geared towards achieving the objectives of the state and society, while balancing their Islamic religious obligations.

It is in consideration of these factors that this symposium seeks to deliberate on the evolution of the socio-political condition of the Muslim ‘state’, and how those transformations have affected Muslim societies.

With the increasing emphasis given by His Majesty to the operationalisation of the national philosophy of MIB in all sections of the government, there is a correlative surge in interest among policy influencers in the principles of Islamic governance and its potential for providing a cohesive and systematic approach for the implementation of MIB.