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

Captured IS Militants Explain Why They Fought

Fighters from Turkey, Syria tell VOA Kurdish Service what drew them to extremism, jihad More

Security Experts Split on Kenyan Barrier Wall

Experts divided on whether initiative aiming to keep out al-Shabab militants is long-awaited solution or misguided effort More

Video Philippines Wants Tourists Spending Money at New Casinos

Officials say they hope to turn Manila into the next Macau, which has long been Asia’s gambling hub More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grievingi
X
Benno Muchler
March 26, 2015 3:41 PM
Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Liberia's Almost Last Ebola Patient Grateful but Still Grieving

Beatrice Yardolo was to make history as Liberia’s last Ebola patient. Liberians recently started counting down 42 days, the period that has to go by without a single new infection until the World Health Organization can declare a country Ebola-free. That countdown stopped on March 20 when there was another new case of Ebola, making Yardolo’s story a reminder that Ebola is far from over. Benno Muchler reports from Monrovia.
Video

Video Cambodian Land Grabs Threaten Traditional Communities

Indigenous communities in Cambodia's Ratanakiri province say the government’s economic land concession policy is taking away their land and traditional way of life, making many fear that their identity will soon be lost. Local authorities, though, have denied this is the case. VOA's Say Mony went to investigate and filed this report, narrated by Colin Lovett.
Video

Video US, South Korea Conduct Joint Military Exercises

The Eighth U.S. Army Division and the Eighth Republic of Korea Mechanized Infantry Division put on a well orchestrated show of force for the media this week during their joint military training exercises in South Korea. VOA’s Seoul correspondent Brian Padden was there and reports the soldiers were well disciplined both in conducting a complex live fire exercise and in staying on message with the press.
Video

Video Space Program Status Disappoints 'Last Man on the Moon'

One of the films that drew big crowds last week at the annual South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, tells the story of the last human being to stand on the moon, U.S. astronaut Eugene Cernan. It has been 42 years since Cernan returned from the moon and he laments that no one else has gone there since. VOA’s Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Young Filmmakers Shine Spotlight on Giving Back

A group of student filmmakers from across the United States joined President Barack Obama at the White House this month for the second annual White House Student Film Festival. Fifteen short films were officially selected from more than 1,500 entries by students aged 6 through 18. The filmmakers and their families then joined the president and a group of celebrities for a screening of their films. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video VOA Exclusive: Interview with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, during his first visit as president to Washington, gave a one-on-one interview with VOA Afghan Service reporter Said Suleiman Ashna, about his request for a change in U.S. troop levels, the threat from the Islamic State, and repairing relations with the United States and Pakistan. The interview was held at Blair House, late Sunday, in Pashto.
Video

Video California Science Center Tells Story of Dead Sea Scrolls

The ancient manuscripts were uncovered in the mid-20th century, and they are still yielding clues about life and religious beliefs in ancient Israel. As VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports, an exhibit in Los Angeles shows how modern science is bringing the history of these ancient documents to life.
Video

Video Angelina Jolie Takes Another Bold Step

Hollywood actress and filmmaker Angelina Jolie has revealed she had her ovaries and fallopian tubes removed to lower her odds of getting cancer. Doctors say the huge publicity over her decision will help raise awareness about the importance of cancer screening. VOA’s George Putic has more

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More