News / Middle East

Egyptian-American Citizen Diplomacy Promotes Understanding

Egyptian and American Gabr Fellows starting a five-city tour in the U.S., , Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).                 Egyptian and American Gabr Fellows starting a five-city tour in the U.S., , Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
x
Egyptian and American Gabr Fellows starting a five-city tour in the U.S., , Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
Egyptian and American Gabr Fellows starting a five-city tour in the U.S., , Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
Mohamed Elshinnawi
In an era of increasing globalization and reliance on impersonal electronic communication, more and more people develop their most lasting impressions through face-to-face encounters. In this context, citizens’ diplomacy becomes a powerful force in bridging cross-cultural differences. With that in mind, Egyptian businessman Shafik Gabr recently launched a new citizens’ diplomacy effort to build bridges between the Arab world and the West.

Gabr’s initiative, East-West: The Art of Dialogue”, sponsored exchanges between 20 young and emerging leaders in the arts, sciences, law, media and business from Egypt and the United States.

The Egyptian and American young professionals began the citizens’ diplomacy program in Egypt last June. They met with public figures and engaged in intensive discussions, debates and site visits.  The program then moved to the United States, including a visit to Washington last week where the fellows met with Obama administration officials, members of Congress, policy experts and business leaders.

Leslie Lang and Amr Ismail explaining their micro clinic project to deal with the growing population of diabetic Egyptians, Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).Leslie Lang and Amr Ismail explaining their micro clinic project to deal with the growing population of diabetic Egyptians, Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
x
Leslie Lang and Amr Ismail explaining their micro clinic project to deal with the growing population of diabetic Egyptians, Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
Leslie Lang and Amr Ismail explaining their micro clinic project to deal with the growing population of diabetic Egyptians, Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
The Gabr Fellows examine the mutual challenges and opportunities that the two very different countries share, including economic issues, entrepreneurship, and the role of religion in public life.

“I am struck by the extent to which our two countries’ respective problems are similar, albeit to differing degrees,” said Christina Fallon, an American Gabr Fellow. “In the same manner, there seems to be a common set of core values that the fellows bring to the dialogue.”

Moataz Hussein, an Egyptian Gabr Fellow drew his own conclusion about his counterparts.

“After spending those amazing days with the American fellows, I can say that the East is definitely meeting the West, not only physically, but through surprisingly common challenges as well,” he said.

For Leslie Lang, a senior vice president for strategic development at an American global non-profit medical organization experiencing life in Egypt led to a desire to learn more.

“I became so involved in understanding the waves of popular uprisings in Egypt and developed an interest in following the daily developments after I came back,” she said. Lang also joined a class to learn Arabic.

 Moving beyond preconceptions

By giving participants the chance to experience each other’s cultures and societies firsthand, Gabr says he aims to help reverse the erosion of public understanding and trust, and rediscover commonalities between Egypt and the U.S.

According to a Zogby Research Services poll conducted in July, nearly half of Americans have an unfavorable view of Egypt and only one percent of Egyptians have confidence in the U.S.

“Through this initiative, we are engaging with the next generation of leaders from both sides, creating experiences that allow these young professionals to override preconceptions with knowledge and understanding and develop cooperative interaction,” said James Zogby, President of the Arab American Institute, which helped to organize the exchange.

American Fellow Daniel Lansberg-Rodrigues said Egypt is now part of his life.
“Egypt is no longer an abstract concept to me and that makes a powerful difference in how I find myself viewing Egypt after being there,” he said.

“I realized that disagreeing with particular U.S. foreign policies should not be equivalent to disagreeing with an entire nation of very diverse opinions even about these policies,” said Amr Ismael, an Egyptian Fellow who feels he has to explain that to fellow Egyptians.

Joint action projects

Large TV screens to be installed in Cairo and New York for real-time cross-cultural interactions, Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).Large TV screens to be installed in Cairo and New York for real-time cross-cultural interactions, Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
x
Large TV screens to be installed in Cairo and New York for real-time cross-cultural interactions, Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
Large TV screens to be installed in Cairo and New York for real-time cross-cultural interactions, Washington, Oct. 30, 2013 (M. ElShinnawi/VOA).
To expand the impact of this initiative, the Gabr Fellows developed joint projects which address challenges facing both countries while promoting further East-West dialogue.  The projects were presented at an event in Washington recently.
One of those projects, called Shared Distance, provides a forum for real-time cross-cultural interactions between citizens from Egypt and the U.S. through large, interactive TV screens in Cairo and New York.

"I hope that by giving emerging leaders in the Arab world and the West the opportunity to know each other and to talk to each other, rather than at each other, as well as collaborating in joint projects, will create better understanding,” Gabr said.
The fellows also collaborated in joint teams on other project ideas ranging from using comic books to examine common issues to interactive applications that help users develop better understanding between Egyptians and Americans.

Leslie Lang paired with three Egyptian and American Fellows to introduce micro clinics to Egypt, highlighting a shift in U.S. healthcare for treating chronic diseases.
“Egypt ranks among the top 10 countries of the highest rates of diabetes, so does the U.S.,” said Lang.  “We worked on a micro clinic model that brings together communities to share access to health care knowledge and education.”

With the apparent success of the inaugural class of Gabr Fellows, the program is getting ready to accept applications from Egyptian and American young professionals to start the second class in April 2014.

You May Like

Photogallery Pistorius Sentenced, Taken to Prison

Pistorius, convicted of culpable homicide in shooting death of girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp, will likely serve about 10 months of five-year sentence, before completing it under house arrest More

UN to Aid Central Africa in Polio Vaccinations

Synchronized vaccinations will be conducted after Cameroon reports a fifth case of the wild polio virus in its territory More

WHO: Ebola Vaccine May Be in Use by Jan.

WHO assistant director Dr. Marie Paule Kieny says clinical trials of Ebola vaccines are underway or planned in Europe, US and Africa More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rulesi
X
October 21, 2014 12:20 AM
European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video After Decades of Pressure, Luxembourg Drops Bank Secrecy Rules

European Union finance ministers have reached a breakthrough agreement that will make it more difficult for tax cheats to hide their money. The new legislation, which had been blocked for years by countries with a reputation as tax havens, was approved last week after Luxembourg and Austria agreed to lift their vetoes. But as Mil Arcega reports, it doesn’t mean tax cheats have run out of places to keep their money hidden.
Video

Video Kobani Refugees Welcome, Turkey Criticizes, US Airdrop

Residents of Kobani in northern Syria have welcomed the airdrop of weapons, ammunition and medicine to Kurdish militia who are resisting the seizure of their city by Islamic State militants. The Turkish government, however, has criticized the operation. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from southeastern Turkey, across the border from Kobani.
Video

Video China Political Meeting Seeks to Improve Rule of Law

China’s communist leaders will host a top level political meeting this week, called the Fourth Plenum, and for the first time in the party’s history, rule of law will be a key item on the agenda. Analysts and Chinese media reports say the meetings could see the approval of long-awaited measures aimed at giving courts more independence and include steps to enhance an already aggressive and high-reaching anti-corruption drive. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.
Video

Video US ‘Death Cafes’ Put Focus on the Finale

In contemporary America, death usually is a topic to be avoided. But the growing “death café” movement encourages people to discuss their fears and desires about their final moments. VOA’s Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Ebola Orphanage Opens in Sierra Leone

Sierra Leone's first Ebola orphanage has opened in the Kailahun district. Hundreds of children orphaned since the beginning of the Ebola outbreak face stigma and rejection with nobody to care for them. Adam Bailes reports for VOA about a new interim care center that's aimed at helping the growing number of children affected by Ebola.
Video

Video Young Nairobi Tech Innovator on 'Track' in Security Business

A 24-year-old technology innovator in Nairobi has invented a tracking device that monitors and secures cars. He has also come up with what he claims is the most robust audio-visual surveillance system yet. As Lenny Ruvaga reports from the Kenyan capital, his innovations are offering alternative security solutions.
Video

Video Latinas Converting to Islam for Identity, Structure

Latinos are one of the fastest growing groups in the Muslim religion. According to the Pew Research Center, about 6 percent of American Muslims are Latino. And a little more than half of new converts are female. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti travelled to Miami, Florida -- where two out of every three residents is Hispanic -- to learn more.
Video

Video Exclusive: American Joins Kurds' Anti-IS Fight

The United States and other Western nations have expressed alarm about their citizens joining Islamic State forces in Syria and Iraq. In a rare counterpoint to the phenomenon, an American has taken up arms with the militants' Syrian Kurdish opponents. Elizabeth Arrott has more in this exclusive profile by VOA Kurdish reporter Zana Omer in Ras al Ayn, Syria.
Video

Video South Korea Confronts Violence Within Military Ranks

Every able-bodied South Korean male between 18 and 35 must serve for 21 to 36 months in the country’s armed forces, depending upon the specific branch. For many, service is a rite of passage to manhood. But there are growing concerns that bullying and violence come along with the tradition. Reporter Jason Strother has more from Seoul.
Video

Video North Carolina Emerges as Key Election Battleground

U.S. congressional midterm elections will be held on November 4th and most political analysts give Republicans an excellent chance to win a majority in the U.S. Senate, which Democrats now control. So what are the issues driving voters in this congressional election year? VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone traveled to North Carolina, one of the most politically competitive states in the country, to find out.
Video

Video Comanche People Maintain Pride in Their Heritage

The Comanche (Indian nation) once were called the “Lords of the Plains,” with an empire that included half the land area of current day Texas, large parts of Oklahoma, New Mexico, Kansas and Colorado.The fierceness and battle prowess of these warriors on horseback delayed the settlement of most of West Texas for four decades. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Lawton, Oklahoma, that while their warrior days are over, the 15,000 members of the Comanche Nation remain a proud people.
Video

Video Turkey Campus Attacks Raise Islamic Radicalization Fears

Concerns are growing in Turkey of Islamic radicalization at some universities, after clashes between supporters of the jihadist group Islamic State (IS) or ISIS, and those opposed to the extremists. Pro-jihadist literature is on sale openly on the streets of Istanbul. Critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye to radicalism at home, while Kurds accuse the president of supporting IS - a charge strongly denied. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

All About America

AppleAndroid