06 February 2007 Young Civic Leaders To Learn About Foundations of Democracy, February 6, 2007
(Middle East Partnership Initiative program includes classes, internships)
Washington – Twenty-two young men and women from the Middle East and North Africa are embarking on a four-month learning experience as Leaders for Democracy Fellows. The program is the first of its kind to be sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Middle East Partnership Initiative.
Participants, who range in age from early 20s to late 30s, will attend a monthlong academic program at the Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Syracuse University before serving internships in organizations related to their areas of interest.
“It is a unique program,” State Department official Owen Kirby told participants and guests at the January 31 reception at the Jordanian Embassy. “It is the type of program that … bridges societies, cultures, in countries in the Middle East region and the United States,” he said. Although the State Department runs visitor and exchange programs, this one is new. “We hope that it grows in years to come,” he said.
The fellows, who were selected from more than 250 competitors, are leaders committed to building and contributing to their societies. They come from Bahrain, Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Oman, the Palestinian Territories, Qatar, Syria, Tunisia and Yemen. Among the participants are lawyers, doctors, journalists, educators, information technology specialists and human rights advocates, some of whom specialize in women’s issues or civil and political rights advocacy.
The fellows met with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Assistant Secretary of State David Welch and other officials at the State Department, Congress, the Supreme Court and the White House.
At the Maxwell School, fellows will attend classes, lectures and discussions on the foundations of democracy. They will learn about leading and managing a democratic state, duties and rights of citizenship, private civic and social action and private enterprise. As interns, they will work in organizations in the state of New York and the city of Washington that correspond with their professional areas.
“The Maxwell School has endeavored in the past few years to create new relationships and programs in the Middle East, and we are honored that the State Department has chosen us from among dozens of other educational institutions to launch this important effort,” Maxwell School Dean Mitchel Wallerstein said. Founded in 1924, the Maxwell School is known for its graduate program in public administration and international relations.
“We hope that not only participants of this program learn from the United States but also those who come in contact with them here … who have the opportunity to meet and work with these outstanding young leaders, that they, too, also learn something about the region,” Kirby said. He said the goal is also for Americans “to appreciate what the region can also offer us in the 21st century as a partner for the United States and as a contributing partner in the world.”
For more information on U.S. policies, see Middle East Partnership Initiative.