Grassroots Diplomacy in the Middle East

The following was contributed by Nora Gordon, an MIA student concentrating in Human Rights.

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On Wednesday, January 27,  I had the honor of participating in an event on campus entitled, “Grassroots Diplomacy in the Middle East.”  The event was co-sponsored by the Arab Student Association, the Conflict Resolution Working Group, The Middle East Institute, and the UN Studies Program Working Group, and was organized by the American Mideast Leadership Network (AMLN).

The event focused on issues of grassroots diplomacy in Syria and showcased AMLN’s United States-Syria Grassroots Diplomacy Program.  We began with a presentation by AMLN’s founding director, Rami Nuseir, and a question and answer session with Dr. Mazin Adi, the permanent representative of the Syrian Arab Republic to the United Nations.

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Following Dr. Adi, three SIPA students, Heidi Rosbe, Nick Jaeger, and myself (Nora Gordon) spoke about our experiences with the United States-Syria Grassroots Diplomacy Program of which we were participants in 2009.  Ms. Rosbe and I discussed our work as co-facilitators of the conflict resolution dialogue sessions which were a main component of the program, and we all discussed our experiences as a participants and travelers in Syria.

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The question and answer session after the presentation was particularly interesting.  Audience members wanted to know about women’s rights, the controversy over the occupied Golan Heights and other issues regarding US-Syrian relations.  These questions were difficult, but it was important to bring up these issues that are crucial to discuss in order to develop diplomatic relations between the two countries.

At the end of the event, it was inspiring to hear Dr. Mazin Adi emphasize the importance of AMLN’s efforts.  “Because of the program,” he said, “we now have 12 additional citizen ambassadors that have visited Syria.”

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The American MidEast Leadership Network (AMLN) is a New York-based non-profit organization dedicated to empowering the Arab-American community in the United States and to bringing together American and Middle Eastern students and young professionals in cultural exchange programs that give these future leaders a more thorough understanding of each other’s cultural, religious, and political lives.

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