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

    Chechen Suspected in Istanbul Attack, but Questions Remain

    Turkish sources say North Caucasus militants involved in bombing at Ataturk airport, but name of at least one alleged attacker raises doubts

    With Johnson Out, Can a New ‘Margaret Thatcher’ Save Britain?

    Contest to replace David Cameron as Britain’s prime minister started in earnest Thursday with top candidates outlining strategy to deal with Brexit fallout

    US Finds Progress Slow Against Human Trafficking in Africa

    Africa continues to be a major source and destination for human trafficking of all kinds -- from forced labor to sexual slavery, says State Department report

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Eitheri
    X
    Jim Malone
    June 29, 2016 6:16 PM
    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Clinton Leads Trump, But Many Voters Don't Like Either

    In the U.S. presidential race, most recent polls show Democrat Hillary Clinton with a steady lead over Republican Donald Trump as both presumptive party nominees prepare for their party conventions next month. Trump’s disapproval ratings have risen in some recent surveys, but Clinton also suffers from high negative ratings, suggesting both candidates have a lot of work to do to improve their images before the November election. VOA National correspondent Jim Malone has more from Washington.
    Video

    Video Slow Rebuilding Amid Boko Haram Destruction in Nigeria’s Northeast

    Military operations have chased Boko Haram out of towns and cities in Nigeria’s northeast since early last year. But it is only recently that people have begun returning to their homes in Adamawa state, near the border with Cameroon, to try to rebuild their lives. For VOA, Chris Stein traveled to the area and has this report.
    Video

    Video New US Ambassador to Somalia Faces Heavy Challenges

    The new U.S. envoy to Somalia, who was sworn into office Monday, will be the first American ambassador to that nation in 25 years. He will take up his post as Somalia faces a number of crucial issues, including insecurity, an upcoming election, and the potential closure of the Dadaab refugee camp in Kenya. VOA’s Jill Craig asked Somalis living in Kenya’s capital city Nairobi how they feel about the U.S. finally installing a new ambassador.
    Video

    Video At National Zoo, Captivating Animal Sculptures Illustrate Tragedy of Ocean Pollution

    The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is home to about 1,800 animals, representing 300 species. But throughout the summer, visitors can also see other kinds of creatures there. They are larger-than-life animal sculptures that speak volumes about a global issue — the massive plastic pollution in our oceans. VOA's June Soh takes us to the zoo's special exhibit, called Washed Ashore: Art to Save the Sea.
    Video

    Video Baghdad Bikers Defy War with a Roar

    Baghdad is a city of contradictions. War is a constant. Explosions and kidnappings are part of daily life. But the Iraqi capital remains a thriving city, even if a little beat up. VOA's Sharon Behn reports on how some in Baghdad are defying the stereotype of a nation at war by pursuing a lifestyle known for its iconic symbols of rebellion: motorbikes, leather jackets and roaring engines.
    Video

    Video Melting Pot of Immigrants Working to Restore US Capitol Dome

    The American Iron Works company is one of the firms working to renovate the iconic U.S. Capitol Dome. The company employs immigrants of many different cultural and national backgrounds. VOA’s Arman Tarjimanyan has more.
    Video

    Video Testing Bamboo as Building Material

    For thousands of years various species of bamboo - one of the world's most versatile plants - have been used for diverse purposes ranging from food and medicine to textiles and construction. But its use on a large scale is hampered because it's not manufactured to specific standards but grown in the ground. A University of Pittsburgh professor is on track to changing that. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Orphanage in Iraqi City Houses Kids Who Lost their Parents to Attacks by IS

    An orphanage in Iraqi Kurdistan has become home to scores of Yazidi children who lost their parents after Islamic State militants took over Sinjar in Iraq’s Nineveh Province in 2014. Iraqi Kurdish forces backed by the U.S. airstrikes have since recaptured Sinjar but the need for the care provided by the orphanage continues. VOA’s Kawa Omar filed this report narrated by Rob Raffaele.
    Video

    Video Re-Opening Old Wounds in a Bullet-Riddled Cultural Landmark

    A cultural landmark before Lebanon’s civil war transformed it into a nest of snipers, Beirut’s ‘Yellow House’ is once again set to play a crucial role in the city.  Built in a neo-Ottoman style in the 1920s, in September it is set to be re-opened as a ‘memory museum’ - its bullet-riddled walls and bunkered positions overlooking the city’s notorious ‘Green Line’ maintained for posterity. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Brexit Resounds in US Presidential Contest

    Britain’s decision to leave the European Union is resounding in America’s presidential race. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump sees Britain’s move as an affirmation of his campaign’s core messages, while Democrat Hillary Clinton sees the episode as further evidence that Trump is unfit to be president.
    Video

    Video NASA Juno Spacecraft, Nearing Jupiter, to Shed Light on Gas Giant

    After a five-year journey, the spacecraft Juno is nearing its destination, the giant planet Jupiter, where it will enter orbit and start sending data back July 4th. As Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, the craft will pierce the veil of Jupiter's dense cloud cover to reveal its mysteries.
    Video

    Video Orlando Shooting Changes Debate on Gun Control

    It’s been nearly two weeks since the largest mass shooting ever in the United States. Despite public calls for tighter gun control laws, Congress is at an impasse. Democratic lawmakers resorted to a 1960s civil rights tactic to portray their frustration. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti explains how the Orlando, Florida shooting is changing the debate.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora