A decade ago, the UN’s Arab Human Development Report made waves when it found that “The Arab world translates about 330 books annually, one fifth of the number that Greece translates.” The Report also noted that the Arab world had become a scientific desert:
Arab countries have some of the lowest levels of research funding in the world. R&D [research and development] expenditure as a percentage of GDP was a mere 0.4 for the Arab world in 1996, compared to 1.26 in 1995 for Cuba, 2.35 in 1994 for Israel, and 2.9 for Japan. Science and technology output is quantifiable and measurable in terms of the number of scientific papers per unit of population. The average output of the Arab world per million inhabitants is roughly 2 percent of that of an industrialized country.
The Report was valuable because it changed discourse: While so many Western activists made any number of excuses about why Arabs had fallen behind other populations in the world, the UN report was written by Arabs and put facts above politics.