Friday, August 01, 2008

Youth Recommendations for a better U.S. - Middle East Relationship

In one of the world’s most dynamic regions, young people make up relatively 2/3rds of the population and are becoming “an increasingly powerful demographic force” engaged in the political arena. Middle Eastern and American youth met at the Young Global Leaders Forum to promote US-Middle East Relations to foster democratic development in the Middle East and North Africa. This remarkable forum was comprised of three conferences this past spring hosting 138 youth leaders throughout the region in Morocco, Egypt, and Jordan to develop and ratify policy recommendations for their respective governments as well as international media and civil society organizations concerning Middle East reform and America’s role. The conferences were hosted by Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) and the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED). On Tuesday, July 29th these two organizations partnered with the Middle East Institute (MEI) to bring representatives from the conferences to present their policy recommendations here in Washington DC.

In anticipation of the upcoming presidential election, this summer has seen a myriad of policy recommendations for the next administration, especially concerning foreign policy in the Middle East. Ambassador Wendy J. Chamberlin, President of MEI, stated that this “refreshing” report is particularly compelling and thought provoking as these young people represent the next generation of global leaders. The policy recommendations emanating from the three conferences addressed the following questions:

- How can U.S. development assistance better foster sustainable economic and political reform in the Middle East?
- What impact have other U.S. policies had on political reform in the region?
- How can the U.S. best support independent media sources and freedom of expression?
- How can the U.S. and the Middle East cooperate to give youth a meaningful voice in social, economic, educational, cultural and political debates?

As Tuesday’s presentation was directed to an American audience, the youth emphasized that the ‘War on Terror’ is not simply an American concern but that the Arab World feels the threat just as much within its own countries. Accordingly, a panelist expressed that the U.S. should “not be a demanding power [but] rather a willing partner.” All three conferences had a unanimous desire for greater promotion of understanding Arab culture in the U.S. as well as a desire for increased face-to-face dialogue via video conferencing. The young people hope to express to Americans that an equal, mutually respected partnership between the U.S. and the Arab World is in the best interest of global security and democratic development in the Middle East and North Africa.

Sponsor: The Middle East Institute, The Project on Middle East Democracy, and Americans for Informed Democracy
Date: July 29, 2008
Time: 12-1 p.m.
Representative Attending: Jessica Walker

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