Thursday, February 3, 2011

New Efforts Needed to Bridge the Divide between the West and Middle East


 ‘Project Encounter,’ a UAE-based Initiative for Engagement, Launched at Dubai School of Government
Dubai-UAE: 3 February, 2011 Ten years after the events of September 11, 2001, a critical lack of understanding still remains between the Middle East and the West, motivated by a number of factors, central among them a lack of interaction and constructive engagement between the two regions. This was the context, as described by experts at a panel discussion hosted by the Dubai School of Government (DSG), a leading research and teaching institution focusing on public policy in the Arab world.
The panel, entitled “Bridging the Divide: A Critical Conversation on Global Engagement in a post 9/11 World,” discussed the view from the United States towards the Arab world, and the lack of a nuanced understanding of the region’s society and people. The panelists emphasized also that this gap was growing rather than narrowing, and that there needed to be continued efforts from both sides to counter this trend.
The event served as the launch of Project Encounter, a UAE-based initiative in partnership with the private sector hosted by the Dubai School of Government, which will act as a stage for on-the-ground exchange of ideas and critical engagement between the West and the Middle East. The leaders of Project Encounter, Co-Directors Taufiq Rahim and Nick Billotti, as well as Programs Manager Fadi Salem, led the discussion at the DSG event.
Taufiq Rahim commented on the initiative: “We have four principal activities. The project will organise ‘visit’ programmes of young influence-makers and future leaders to the UAE and the GCC, with an integrated itinerary to deepen an understanding of political, economic, and social dimensions of the Middle East.
“The project will also assist existing ‘student’ delegations to the region from graduate and undergraduate Western institutions to expand their itinerary, as well as add programming to existing events in the UAE to discuss engagement across different themes. What we are really excited about is Encounter 2012, an international gathering we plan to host in the UAE, bringing together the diverse set of stakeholders promoting engagement between the West and Middle East.”
Dr Tarik Yousef, Dean of Dubai School of Government, added: “The events and aftermath of 9/11, further contributed to a critical misunderstanding between the Middle East and the West. In the past few years, there have been some initiatives that aimed to bridge this divide with the West. However, only a few have been based in the region. We believe it is the responsibility of academic and teaching institutions to bridge this divide between the two regions. We are pleased to host Project Encounter as a DSG initiative, and we trust it will achieve its vision and become a pioneering endeavor in the Middle East.” 
Established in 2005 in cooperation with the Harvard Kennedy School, the Dubai School of Government is committed to the creation of knowledge, and dissemination of global best practices in the Arab world. The school conducts various programmes that seek to enhance the region's capacity for effective public policies.