For years, CEOSS has been conducting international dialogue as part of the Forum for Intercultural Dialogue program, covering the Arab and European regions. Seeing the fruits of said dialogues, CEOSS embarked on a different level of dialogue in which public diplomacy was sought, as a voice of civil society, around relevant and current issues to bridge cultural and societal dialogue. Public diplomacy serving as a turning point in which public attitudes on the formation and execution of foreign policies are influenced, governments are cultivated by public opinion in other countries, private groups and interests in our countries are influenced by one another. A step in which, together, the Arab region is brought forward. CEOSS’ notable public diplomacy dialogues, in 2014, took place in Washington, D.C. and in Brussels.
The Egyptian-American Dialogue, held on October 20-23, 2014, as a pilot project by CEOSS, in partnership with Hands Along the Nile Development Services (HANDS), World Religions for Peace, and United Church of Christ (USA), in which mutual understanding and collaborative efforts were borne to truly and fully move Egypt into a democracy fitting for its religious and cultural social order. The dialogue was influential and beneficial to both nations and communities, and more importantly to the Egyptian-American relationship. Participants in the initiative included an Egyptian delegation, prominent and with a great role in Egypt’s current atmosphere, comprised of CEOSS leaders, Parliamentarians, Christian and Muslim religious leaders, political intellectuals, and media personalities, as well as a US delegation of similar composition. The dialogue included sessions surrounding Egyptian-US Relations, the New Egypt (new political system and economic challenges), and Muslim-Christian Relations: Co-Existence in a New Era.
Visitation to the White House
At the White House, the Delegation met with the Heads of Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships and National Security in Egypt. The discussions revolved around the January 25th Revolution and the rise and demise of Political Islam, in addition to the military’s support to the people in their response to the demand and will of the public on June 30th. It was also emphasized that the Egyptian People-Military relationship is quite different from other nations in which the military is a stronghold of government. In Egypt, the Egyptian military would never raise arms against the people. Andrew Miller, in the discussions indicated three major and important points: 1. The Obama Administration never called the events of July 3, 2013 a Coup; 2. In the past month, President Obama has met with President El-Sisi, an indication of the US government’s acceptance of El-Sisi’s government, as the President would not meet with any unrecognized governments; and 3. The US is supportive of Egypt’s fight against terrorism. 4. The importance of participation of the US in the upcoming economic conference in Egypt expected to be in March or April.
Visitation to the State Department
In meeting with State Department Officials, the focus was on perceptions of the future of the Egyptian-American relationship and the importance of building a future collaboratively. Discussions also revolved around issues of US’ criteria in determination of terrorist groups and aid to Egypt and its use a negotiating factor and red card.
Visitation to the United States Institute of Peace
During this visitation, it was emphasized that although an Act of Congress establishes USIP, its activities and function are independent of the Federal Government and US Foreign Policy. They also discussed the importance of promoting peace in the region as well as supporting the civil society in the peace building process and its support to government institution s in supporting the ground for dialogue and bridge building
Visitation with Michele Dunne of Carnegie Peace Endowment
American Aid to the Egypt and the more beneficial kind of aid was the focus of this conversation. Ms. Dunne had suggested that aid should be split economic and military, however, the discussions of the delegation indicated that military aid is more useful and of current importance to Egypt to assist with combatting terrorism.
Finally, throughout the meetings the relationship between Muslims and Christians was a matter of discussion. In these discussions, Dr. Andrea, General Director of CEOSS, indicated that post-August 14, 2013, Christian-Muslim Relations improved via the response of the Copts to the events. The Coptic response and loyalty to the nation, brought about two main positive points: 1) it brought peace to society, and 2) the mere fact that while the Copts who had experienced innocent bloodshed refused international interference while the Muslim Brotherhood called upon international interference to assist in securing their political gains and powers, brought the public to the realization that the Copts are nationalistic and loyal.
The Arab-European Dialogue, held on November 16-20, 2014, was an especially important dialogue as it was an informative and educational experience for both the Arabs and Europeans. Participants in the Dialogue was an array of elite parliamentarians, civil society representatives, and academics, with a range of experience on topics. Topics discussed during the dialogue ranged from EU formation and dynamics to cross-cultural politics and dialogue between Arabs and Europeans to the roles of civil society in reformation of countries and civic education in both regions. Additionally, discussions revolved around the role of religion in the transformation of policies between Arab and European nations, with vivid examples from Egypt, Tunisia, Syria, Jordan, and Iraq, as well as how to differentiate between the different experiences and the roles religion, civil society, and political influence played in those experiences. Some participants emphasized the importance of the European Union understanding of the Arab views of its political events and building around it instead of adopting an external view that is not shared by the country’s political views and have to be treated at equal footage. There were a number of meetings with project funding responsible and there were discussions on expectations and roles of civil society in supporting the democratic transition and peacebuilding roles within the region.
Visitation with Elmar Brok, Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs
One of the most important visitations in this dialogue was with Elmar Brok, a German Member of the European Parliament and the current Chairman of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs. This visit discussed the European Neighborhood Policy and emphasized the “more for more and less for less” approach to European Aid to other nations. Mr. Brok indicated that European Union policies are dependent upon the “more for more and less for less” approach to aid, in which reformation of policies is a determining factor for aid. Furthermore, respect for and non-violation of human rights is an integral part of European policies. Mr. Brok also emphasized that direct contact with parliamentarians is just as important as with politicians.
CEOSS held several meetings with funding officials from EU as well civil society organizations. During these meetings, they addressed the importance of promoting democracy in the region and opening new channels of Arab-European dialogue.