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As I brace myself for my final year at American University, graduate level classes, and a highly uncertain job market at the end of the tunnel, I’m (at least a little) comforted by my experiences at AIDemocracy this summer. This organization’s ability to connect the dots between global issues (socio-political stability, food security, local organic agriculture initiatives, US aid policy, and child mortality rates, for example), rather than viewing them in isolation, has always appealed to me. I find myself almost looking forward to writing my senior thesis and diving deeper into these systemic issues that impact global development, global health, and global peace and security.

Over the last few months, many of my micro-level experiences and personal relationships have come to fit into a bigger puzzle of US foreign assistance and trade policies. Researching and blogging about progressive alternatives in the development field has shown me that effective solutions are out there, that their supporters do exist in the public policy arena, and that I’ve actually seen many of these approaches in practice with my own two eyes. My experiences abroad have taken on new meaning and weight, and I’ve realized that young people like myself are, while not scholarly experts, some of the best equipped proponents of such policies.

We are an online generation, the first group of young people fully familiar with Google, Facebook, Youtube, Wikipedia, Twitter, Skype, and WordPress. Yes, this has made some of us lazy, overweight, and phenomenally uninteresting. I would counter that it has made far more of us open-minded and better attuned to global problems. All of that Facebook chatting with acquaintances around the world is worth much more than we generally admit—it’s time we started using it to shift the national policy dialogue about global development, global health, and global peace and security.

It’s been a comfort to share experiences with my fellow activists this summer, to learn we’ve traveled and worked in some of the same communities in the developing world, and to build relationships within the movements for global justice that we’ve chosen to be a part of. It’s been a pleasure getting to know so many of you this summer, and I hope you’ll stay in touch – you’ll always be able to find me through the AIDemocracy network. Meanwhile, I hope to share my continuing research on global development initiatives this fall!

Post by Connie & Anika, STAND: Student Anti-Genocide Coalition, University of Delaware

The United Nations estimates that over 2.5 million people have been displaced in Darfur, as a result of the genocide that endures in this region. Internally displaced persons (IDPs) are those forced to leave their homes but reside within their country in shelters known as IDP camps.

Last year, we attended the “Seal the Deal” rally in Washington D.C, in which hundreds urged PreIMG_1857sident Bush to enforce passed legislation in dealing with Darfur. Several mock IDP camps were set up on the National Mall, exposing the realities of life inside of a real IDP camp via accurate representations of food rations and medical supplies, as well as photographs, videos and written information. These camps immediately caught our attention and we, along with many others, spent a great deal of time walking inside each tent to learn more about the lives of the displaced people of Darfur.

After the march, we decided to apply for a Rights, Camera Action mini-grant from AID in order to create a mock IDP camp similar to the ones we saw at the rally in D.C. for our campus’s next genocide awareness event.
Read the rest of this entry »

Hi, and welcome to AID’s new blog! To start things out, we are going to be blogging on the XVII International AIDS conference in Mexico City this August, 2008. This includes the youth preconference, which will be taking place from July 31-August 3, and the main conference, which will be from August 3-8. The conference will bring together more than 25,000 people from around the world, including AIDS activists, scientists, policy makers, people living with AIDS, community groups and health workers engaging in dialogue, debate, action, advocacy and networking around AIDS issues.

Check back for daily updates and responses to events and actions taking place in Mexico City around international AIDS issues, follow my experiences in Mexico, comment on the blog entries, and let me know what you’d like to see more or less of.


Courtney Matson

Only a few days away from the third and final conference in the “Bringing the World Home Series,” and we’re still trying to manage several (ok, one) diplomatic crises.  This conference series, sponsored by AID and POMED (the Project on Middle East Democracy) very successful opened in Amman, Jordan, in mid-April.  Prince Hassan of Jordan and Boutros-Boutros Ghali were honored guests and speakers, participants engaged in productive, exciting dialogue, and the event got excellent pres (which is always nice!).  We then moved to Cairo in early May, where we welcomed Americans and Egyptians from around the world (as far as New Zealand, Bosnia, and Washington DC) as we hotly debated American foreign policy in the region, listened to experts, and ultimately enjoyed a dinner cruise on the Nile.

And then it was back across North Africa to Rabat, Morocco, (where I currently live) to finish up the preparations for the Rabat conference that is to take place May 25-26.  We have a great selection of panelists and qualified youth participants who represent a variety of viewpoints—always makes for interesting dialogue to say the least.  Our three panels are currently on “Talking about Democracy,” “US Democracy Promotion Projects in Morocco,” and “Conflict and Security.”  Recent developments at the US Embassy and Consulate in Morocco, however, may have doomed the appearance of the US Embassy representative scheduled for the third panel—whose presence is currently hanging by a thread—while my co-chair and I sit at the edge of our seats, biting our nails.  Without going into painful and obscure detail, the US Embassy is currently under much scrutiny after a political gaffe (did he misspeak? Or does he truly not recognize Moroccan claims to the Western Sahara) on the part of the American Ambassador in reference to contested territory in southern Morocco (which is a generally obscure conflict for all of the world with the exception of Morocco, Algeria, and the UN).  This coupled with the closing of the US Consulate in Casablanca following a suicide bombing last month, American Government officials in Rabat aren’t Morocco’s favorite people right now; American Government officials claim that the Consulate has yet to open due to security concerns, while many Moroccans have interpreted it as a symbolic statement against the Moroccan population.

In any event, what this means for us is that the Embassy has become very sensitive to media, and after hearing that Al Jazeera wanted to film portions of the conference, they’ve suddenly gotten cold feet.  Understandably.  Yet, we think it’s very important for both a Moroccan and an American Government official to be present to explain official policy.  So, the jury’s still out in regards to the appearance of our US Government official.  I’ll keep you posted.

Laurel Rapp
Rabat, Morocco
Written on May 22

Thanks to David in Amman for this.

U.S. Democracy Strategy:
An American-Jordanian Dialogue

April 19-21, 2007
Amman, Jordan

Conference Recommendations

The following recommendations were approved democratically by young
Americans and Jordanians (ages 18-28) at a conference entitled “U.S.
Democracy Strategy: An American-Jordanian Dialogue” in Amman, Jordan
from April 19-21. Each recommendation was developed by the participants
in small group discussions, then discussed and amended in general
session, and finally voted upon by the participants by secret ballot.
The recommendations were approved by a majority of the Americans and a
majority of the Jordanians.

The conference was organized by Americans for Informed Democracy (AID),
the Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED) and the al-Urdun al-Jadid
(New Jordan) Research Center (UJRC). Some of these recommendations are
directed toward the U.S. government, others to the Jordanian
government, and others to the media and civil society organizations.

Strengthening Democracy

1. Recognizing that the limits placed on freedom of speech and assembly
in Jordan are undefined and unknown, causing inconsistency in their
application of upholding and protecting such rights and freedoms, and
also causing a high degree of confusion, discouraging citizens’
engagement with the political system:
We recommend that these laws and their method of application be defined
and published for the people, to promote consistency of application and
also to promote and facilitate citizen participation and engagement.

2. In order to create a culture of participatory democracy, we
recommend compulsory civic education in Jordanian schools starting in
kindergarten. This includes:
a) engaging youth in voting activities that allow them to see the result of their participation;
b) empowering young adults to affect public policy and decision-making;
c) critical thinking skills; and
d) integrating into the basic curriculum available folklore that demonstrates democratic principles.

3. Any student council in a public school or university should be elected by popular vote.

4. Create independent public awareness tools, such as a website or
television campaign on a channel with a large Jordanian viewership, to
inform citizens of prospective changes in the existing Parliamentary
election system.

5. Universities should ensure that students are not penalized for their political affiliations. This includes:
a) an ongoing student dialogue regarding political participation among university students; and
b) in cooperation with university administrations, codification of
policies regarding the political activities of university students so
that they may be consistently applied.

6. To educate the general public on the importance of democracy, its
implications, and their freedoms and rights as citizens of a democratic
government, we recommend using television programs among other forms of
media communication as a vehicle through which to instill the values
necessary for a successful democracy.

7. Reaffirming the importance of America’s significant foreign aid to
Jordan, we encourage the United States government to demand
accountability for its financial support of Jordanian institutions in
order to ensure that the funds have been directed toward their intended
destination. This information should be made accessible to the
Jordanian and American publics.

8. To strengthen democracy in Jordan, we believe in educating
Jordanians at the grassroots level for the purpose of generating
conditions upon which an organically cultivated, benevolent awareness
of democratic principles may be fostered. To this end, we recommend the

Creating actual spaces where dialogue may occur between citizens and
governmental representatives in order to maintain clear lines of
accountability, including conferences, town hall meetings, open
parliament sessions, increased office hours for representatives, and
other initiatives.

9. Mobilizing an independent traveling troupe to engage citizens in a
tangible presentation of democratic principles by means of dramatic

10. Recognizing the overwhelming influence of the tribal and familial
pressures on Jordanian voter participation and considering it an
obstacle to genuine democratic reform, we suggest that the following
actions be taken to promote an empowered and educated electorate:
a) Each candidate should formulate their own platform based on constituent needs.
b) No candidate should be allowed to provide gifts, monetary or in-kind, in exchange for votes.

11. The Jordanian media’s involvement in political campaigns should be
expanded to using radio and television stations as well as newspapers
to increase candidate and platform recognition by:
a) A government-run television station that establishes and airs debates between candidates and allocates equal time.
b) Candidate newspaper advertisements should contain the following
information: 1) name; 2) past political activities and voting history
where applicable; 3) policy goals and platforms.

12. An independent non-partisan NGO, such as Project VoteSmart, should
be established and advertised to the general public. As a result, we
hope that grassroots groups would use this information for advocacy

13. Remove or diminish limits on the number of individuals who can meet to discuss politics without a permit.

14. Change the one-man one-vote law to a system in which each voter has the same number of votes as seats in the district.

Engaging Political Islam

1. Recognizing that:
a) Islamist political groups are well-established and popular actors on the Jordanian political scene; and
b) As Prince Hassan bin Talal observed in his opening address for this
conference, excluding Islamist leaders from reform efforts invites them
to obstruct such efforts.

We recommend that the U.S. engage those Islamist individuals and groups
that express a credible willingness to participate in democracy by
offering the same dialogue to Islamist reformers that is currently
offered to other reformers. Even if dialogue is refused, the U.S.
should avoid stigmatizing Islamist politics in official rhetoric.

2. Recognizing the inclusion of mandatory religious education
throughout the Jordanian public school system and the importance of
religious issues in the region, we recommend the inclusion of open and
objective discussion on pertinent contemporary religious issues such as
the role of women in society, democracy and Islam, terrorism, and an
objective explanation of the beliefs of other world religions.

3. We encourage the United States to invest in and support local
Jordanian initiatives that would significantly encourage individuals
and/or representatives of all political parties to increase their
involvement in the political process, through the organization of
training sessions on campaign strategy, fundraising, media relations,
and similar skills.

4. We encourage American media to increase unbiased coverage of Islam.

Women’s Democratic Participation

1. To cultivate the delicate flourishing of democracy and share the
different processes thereby emphasizing the significance of women’s
participation upon which democracy relies, we recommend that
international collaboration be implemented between Jordanian and
American women through:
a) joint international projects and training centers; and
b) political exchange and fellowship programs.
2. We encourage the United States and Jordan to invest in and support
local Jordanian initiatives that would work toward the creation of a
Jordanian National Women’s Rights Charter.
3. We encourage the United States and Jordan to invest in and support local Jordanian initiatives that would:
a) Significantly encourage women to participate in the political
process through the organization of training sessions on campaign
strategy, fundraising, media relations, and related fields.
b) Encourage both men and women to promote the engagement of women in the political sphere, through public awareness campaigns.

Regional Impacts on Reform

1. Although democratic reforms in Jordan can and should be pursued
regardless of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the U.S. should
continue to consider the ways in which its policy toward the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict hinders democratization and strengthens

2. We contend that economic stability will act as a buffer against the
impact of regional instability on reform. To attain this, we reaffirm
the promotion of small and medium enterprise initiatives and
micro-financing projects.

3. We reaffirm the importance of a clear and effective strategy to
foster a more stable situation in Iraq, while using the Arab League
peace initiative as a starting point and encouraging the US to
re-initiate peace talks between all democratically elected
representatives and homegrown initiatives regarding Israeli-Palestinian

4. Recognizing the interconnectedness of political, social and economic
affairs in the region, and the significant impact of events in each
country on the entirety of the region, in particular the approach of
the U.S. government in dealing with affairs in Iraq, Iran and the
Israeli-Palestinian conflict, which work to hinder the cause for
democratic reform within countries of the region, we recommend that:

The U.S. administration continue to approach the Middle East as a whole
region, and address the conflicts in it in the context of the region,
with the cooperation of states in the region, rather than as isolated
incidents, maintaining that different countries and peoples require
different frameworks for resolution and democracy promotion.

5. We call for organizing a series of regional conventions to let involved parties in
Iraq come together to discuss their demands and reach a consensus.

An update from David in Amman, via email:


Hi all,

The AID/POMED Amman conference "U.S. Democracy Strategy: An American-Jordanian Dialogue" is going quite well.  I’ve included below some of the highlights — please feel free to copy them or rephrase them for use on AID or POMED blogs or any other media outlet etc.  This is not a comprehensive report, as it’s 3:45 a.m. and I have to be back at the conference early tomorrow, but I wanted to give you something you can use.

The conference’s opening ceremony featured an address by His Royal Highness Prince Hassan bin Talal.  Prince Hassan’s speech focused on the importance of guaranteeing political freedom and participation within Jordan, and also on the consequences of American foreign policy on the region.  Honored guests at the opening ceremony included former United Nations Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali.  The conference participants, 50 young American and Jordanian leaders, had a brief opportunity to talk informally with Prince Hassan after his speech.  (A group picture is attached; sorry it is kind of small, we may have a better one later.)

The conference included panel discussions from guest speakers, small group discussions among the participants, and skills workshops with the theme of "Bringing the World Home."

The first day of the conference was covered in all of Jordan’s daily newspapers, including:
The Jordan Times:
Al-Dustour:  (below the fold, left side)
and also Al-Rai and al-Arab al-Yawm.   

The first panel discussion, on "Measuring Democracy," featured:

  • Mohammad Arslan, Member of Parliament,
  • Zarqa Darwish, Consultant, Arab Civic Education Network (Arab Civitas)
  • Mara Galaty, Democracy Officer, United States Agency for International Development (USAID)
  • Ali Bibi, Director of Planning and Initiatives and Director of the Office of the Minister, Ministry of Political Development
  • Her Excellency Laila Sharaf, member of the Upper House of Parliament

Mara Galaty described four "pillars of democracy":  participation, accountability, transparency, and peaceful change.  Several of the participants’ small groups adopted her framework and pillars as the foundation for their analysis of how political reform should be evaluated.  She generously agreed to attend the small group discussions immediately following the panel, discussing in-depth with one of the groups how they would recommend evaluating democracy promotion efforts.

Laila Sharaf described American successes in promoting democracy in the Middle East, such as a changed international discourse, increased rights of women, more open sources of information, and socioeconomic development; and she also discussed shortcomings and failures of U.S. programs, including an American focus almost exclusively on elections, allowing conutries to fake democracy; American inconsistency in claiming to support democracy yet refusing to engage a Hamas government; and American human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay and Abu Ghraib.

The second panel, on "Engaging Political Islam," featured remarks from:

  • Marwan al-Fa’ouri, President of the Centrist Forum for Thought and Culture 
  • Ahmed Shannaq, Secretary-General, National Constitutional Party
  • Mohamed Masalha, Fmr. Chair of the Department of Political Science, University of Jordan; President, Jordan Environmental Society; President, Damia Center for Parliamentary Studies (moderator)

Zaki Bani-Irshaid, the Secretary-General of the Islamic Action Front (IAF), had confirmed that he would attend the panel, but cancelled two hours ahead of it.  He offered to send IAF parliamentary deputy Ja’far al-Hourani to speak instead.  The conference organizing committee declined the offer because Ja’far al-Hourani was one of the IAF parliamentarians who chose to attend the funeral of terrorist Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.  We support the freedom of expression and we seek to engage a wide range of voices, but we felt uncomfortable hosting a figure who made that political choice.

Participants praised the third panel as one of the highlights of the conference thus far.  The panel included a diverse range of voices on women’s democratic participation, including:

  • Ibtesam Al-Atiyat, Program Officer, United Nations University International Leadership Institute
  • Roula Attar, Resident Country Director for Jordan, National Democratic Institute
  • Arwa Kaylani, President of the Women’s Branch and member of the Shura Council, Islamic Action Front
  • Her Excellency Asma Khader, Secretary-General, Jordanian National Commission for Women

Roula Attar gave a detailed presentation about the National Democratic Institute’s programs in Jordan, stressing the goal of encouraging women’s campaigning in Jordan Ibtesam Al-Atiyat differed, arguing that women should cooperate to promote women’s issues once elected.  Arwa Kaylani strongly supported women taking a more active role in politics and in their party governance, quoting the Qur’anic verse that God will change nothing if people do not change themselves.  She criticized the current women’s quota as a system with a flawed implementation, and recommended a proportional representation instead.  We were honored to have Roula and Arwa volunteer their time to stay after the panel for the small group discussions.

The fourth panel included

  • Mohamed Abu Rumman, Columnist, Al-Ghad
  • Paul McCarthy, Resident Country Director for Jordan, International Republican Institute
  • Gregor Meiering, Middle East and North Africa Coordinator, Open Society Institute
  • Sabri Samirah, former Assistant Professor of Political Science, University of Jordan

Paul McCarthy presented an extended Powerpoint presentation on one of the International Republican Institute’s most recent polling results, which show in part that Jordanians are prioritizing domestic more than regional issues at the moment.  Gregor Meiering’s comments focused on the political impacts of Jordan’s economic transformtion, and Sabri Samirah presented his view that the U.S. has been inconsistent in supporting democracy in the Middle East.

Laurel Rapp has given two excellent workshops, one on "Talking about Global Issues with your Peers," and the other on "Organizing an International Discussion."  These workshops are based on AID materials from the "Bringing the World Home" model, successfully telling young Americans how to bring back the knowledge they have learned about the world to thier home campuses or communities.

The participants have met numerous times in small group discussions to suggest recommendations for how the U.S. could improve its democracy promotion policies.  The participants have now drafted conference recommendations, which will be voted upon on Sunday morning.  The closing address will be delivered by Christopher Henzel, Political Attache at the U.S. Embassy in Jordan.


People like yourselves know better than most how severe and pressing the global problems of today are. Although the consequences of ignorance are dire, awareness of these problems still eludes too many. Nevertheless, I believe that there is an enormous amount of latent interest in global action on the part of our generation. As you surely know through your efforts with AIDemocracy, there is so much untapped human potential in this world that is just waiting to be put to efficient use in order to come up with alternative solutions to the challenges of humanity.

What I am trying to say is, THE TIME IS RIPE FOR CHANGE.

In this context I think one cannot stress enough the crucial role AIDemocracy is playing in encouraging young people to join its movement. And as a European I believe I can do my part in creating global change by applying the idea that guides AIDemocracy to Europe.


I understand that Europe is in many ways different than the United States and I think it is crucial to create a new and independent European counterpart to AIDemocracy. This organization’s ultimate goal will be to become a valuable partner to AIDemocracy in advancing global human commitment to informed democracy. I envision an independent, autonomous, self-sustaining and professional European organization, EUforIA -Europeans for Informed Action-, affiliated with AIDemocracy. EUforIA will promote a distinctly European approach to the vision it has in common with AIDemocracy, appealing to values and ideas intrinsic to European culture, in order to give Europeans a movement of their own with which they can identify.

Its ambition will be to serve as a platform for motivated and enthusiastic people who collectively want to dedicate themselves to sensitizing and informing the public about the present and future challenges of humanity, thereby consolidating and further increasing the strength, capability and scope of a newly emerging global youth movement.

Therefore I need to find young Europeans who are willing to collaborate with me in working on an intellectual framework for EUforIA that will outline the fundamental principles and ideas which will guide future national and local chapters in their informed actions. I need to find eloquent, charismatic, intelligent and euphoric young Europeans who are willing to dedicate themselves over the next months (years) to this project and who are willing and able to represent what EUforIA stands for.


If you can imagine yourself participating in this project or if you want me to send you a more precise outline of my idea, I would be pleased to hear from you. You can contact me via email ( Also, if you know people who might be interested in EUforIA, I would appreciate it if you let them know about it and encourage them to contact me.

Finally, I would like to ask you to send me any kind of feedback you consider helpful and to spread the message to all of your friends, and I hope that some day in the near future I will be able to offer internship opportunities in Europe for members of the AIDemocracy community on this very same weblog!

Thanks for your interest and time,

Jeronimo, Swiss-Bolivian exchange student at Boston University

From Sabahat F. Adil, AID Summer Intern and Student Leader at the University of Chicago:

During the last weekend of June, I attended the 31st ICNA-MAS Convention in Hartford, Connecticut, titled “Living Islam, Loving Humanity.” It brought together thousands of people for a weekend of lectures by well-known speakers from both the United States and abroad. Sponsored by two large American Muslim organizations, many Muslims convened at this national event, one intended to help Muslims understand challenges and, simultaneously, celebrate faith. While I have been to conferences in the past, attending this in the capacity of an Americans for Informed Democracy (AID) intern provided me with a unique perspective.

I partook in the event to attempt to strengthen relationships between AID and national American Muslims organizations such as the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA) and Muslim America Society (MAS), particularly to raise awareness about our Hope not Hate initiative. Although we have a great foundation of individuals around the country who coordinate events, AID also uses great foresight in its latest efforts to develop partnerships with groups whose membership will provide nuanced insight into such global issues as U.S.-Muslim World relations.

Some of the speakers at the conference addressed Muslim political engagement, and the necessity to do so as citizens of the American community. Others addressed the theological obligation for Muslims to help others, whether it is through social, educational or political levels. All in all, issues covered in the lectures varied, but all of them strove to connect the individual with his or her obligation to serve the community.

The ICNA-MAS experience was beneficial in multiple ways. Students like us, stemming from varied backgrounds and also devoted to creating internationalist leaders, had a great opportunity to meet Muslims in a conference setting. This arena allowed us to forge partnerships with important leaders in attendance; such relationships have the potential to develop our Hope not Hate initiative in monumental ways. The conference demonstrated that Muslims in America are an important constituency, growing in rapid numbers. This conference was an important milieu for AID to understand the subtleties of elements such as approaching individuals when the issues involved are rather personal and, at times, emotionally charged. If AID is to continue with its remarkable successes in bringing the world home to people in the most diverse of circumstances, it must continue in this path of engaging individuals of the changing global sphere.

This post is from AID’s Grove City College leader Bethany Egan:

I had the incredible opportunity this week to view two really moving videos that I want to share with you and AID!

The first is called Osama and it is the first movie to be filmed in Afghanistan since the fall of the Taliban regime. The movie portrays the hopelessness and despair brought by the regime through the eyes of a young girl, who must be disguised as a boy to keep her family from starving. This is by no means an entertaining film, but it is extremely artistic and presents a strong message. It’s an MGM film, so I don’t know what the issues are with copyrights and whatnot, but its worth looking into.

The second film I wanted to share with you is called Invisible Children. I had the chance to watch this with about 100 Grove City College students today and I cant even express to you the impact it had on my heart and mind. This movie is a rough cut documentary put together by college students who decided to travel with no plan and no money in search of Sudanese refugees. The story they ended up finding and following instead was the plight of Ugandan children who are being abducted and forced to join the rebel army of Northern Uganda.

Forcibly desensitized to death and violence, these children are stripped of their innocence, handed a gun, and turned into 5-12 year-old killing machines. Those who are not abducted are in constant fear that their turn is coming, so they walk for miles into the city to sleep outside in bus areas every night, where they feel “safe.”

As a result of this documentary, there is a whole organization emerging to support the efforts to aid these “invisible children” and the Ugandan people as a whole. They started as a grassroots organization with a bunch of young, motivated, passionate people and have an excellent message to spread to the world, just like Americans for Informed Democracy. I hope that you will be inspired, as I have been, to aid this project in its humanitarian efforts.

Some college students are touring the country to spread awareness of this documentary and the organization that sprang out of it. Tonight they came to my campus, Grove City College. After the showing, I told them about you and about Americans for Informed Democracy and gave them your name and phone number, as well as the AID website. I really believe the entire “Invisible Children” project is in line with AID’s mission and would fit well among the efforts of AID. Please consider backing them in their endeavors in whatever way possible.


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