A Primer to Promote a New Era of Democracy and Socioeconomic Development in the Middle East and North Africa

It has been more than a month that the people of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are demanding improved rights, representation, and socioeconomic development. And yet, muffled in the calls for liberty, is a low murmur uttered by people around the world who are concerned, and rightfully so, that today’s freedom fighters may be opening a sociopolitical Pandora’s Box, out of which will come a militant takeover by anti-democratic forces. The fear is that today’s rebels and protestors who are disorganized and well-meaning when it comes to changing the region’s leaders will create an opening to be exploited tomorrow by those who are better organized, power-obsessed, and who have nefarious intentions for those who do not fit their world view. It is really no surprise this turmoil is occurring. The world economy is struggling. Food prices are up. And the Middle East already is ranked the lowest on the global human development index. The conditions are ripe for serious change, but in which direction will that change occur and is there anything we, in the west, could do about it without appearing imperialist?

Let’s take a quiz to help us focus.

What to do?

A) Wring our hands and do nothing;

B) Make a lot of proclamations and threats about sanctions and reductions in financial exchanges that take some time to begin having an impact, while in the short term do nothing;

C) Bomb and shoot the heck out of people and infrastructure, then fly away and leave the locals to their own devices;

D) Bomb and shoot the heck out of people and infrastructure, then get stuck in their country for an unforeseen number of decades to come;

E) Come up with a strategic plan that actually speaks directly to the needs of the people on the street far better than any militant, anti-democratic force ever could do, so they see we are prepared to engage them constructively, and on their terms, as soon as “the day after” arrives.

You should know, by the way, that A-D are the options recently offered and discussed in international power circles while innocent people in the Middle East are massacred, friendly governments are threatened, and adversarial eyes watch from the shadows with their own plans for the region’s future. Meanwhile, the only viable answer, E, remains ignored.

Below are recommendations based upon best practices in socioeconomic development to assist President Obama maneuver the United States, and subsequently the rest of the west, into the new and improved MENA regional ally:

1. Speak directly to the people on the ground, explaining that we offer them the hand of friendship and cooperation, rather than waste any more time making proclamations about their leaders;

2. Make it very clear that the intentions of the United States and western nations, from now on, are to promote self-sufficiency in the people of the MENA region, and that, to that extent, we are at their service through the following methods (Points 3-10):

3. Offer to widen access to the vast resources in socioeconomic development that are found throughout the United States and other western nations to the people of the Middle East — our capital, technology, and best practices in human development (healthcare, education, public safety, etc.) — through training programs and financial exchanges to assist them rebuild their economies under democratic governance;

4. Offer to make all non-oil exports to the USA and Europe from MENA countries duty free to help them diversity their economies;

5. Send in members of MENA Diaspora communities now living in the west who will offer assistance organizing governmental changes along the following lines:

  • That MENA leaders empower their parliaments with more authority to enact the will of the people in their districts;
  • Create neighborhood advisory councils that function independently of government, made up of civilians (e.g. tribal elders, academics, etc.) who discuss methods to improve services and attract business to their areas, and who provide their insights directly to local mayors and governors;
  • The elected leaders of the neighborhood councils, the mayors, and the governors from all over the country should meet annually to elect, from among their ranks, a “kitchen cabinet” of advisors that, in turn, meets directly with the executive branch of government; MENA leaders and their official cabinets should meet with these kitchen cabinets quarterly for official consultations;
  • Promote laws that maintain equitable treatment for all people irrespective of their ethnic, tribal, or religious affiliation;
  • Facilitate modern community policing methods so that the police no longer act as a militia, and the people develop a friendly, trust-based relationship with local law enforcement;
  • Thus, by providing more power to parliament, improving citizen participation in local government through neighborhood councils, creating kitchen cabinets made up of local representatives that meet directly with the executive branch of government on a routine basis, ensuring equitable treatment before the law, and promoting good ties between the locals and cops, MENA governments will facilitate much greater direct participation in government by the people themselves;

6. Offer assistance through training programs to develop government agencies that engage socially disadvantaged groups through best practices in services and empowerment programs that focus on full integration into mainstream society, e.g., minorities, women, people with disabilities, etc. so that these services are not left up to aspects of the civilian sector run by militant organizations that may be hostile to democracy;

7. Create cross-cultural programs between the people of the MENA and people from western countries that focus on mutual sustainable community development programs because nothing overcomes competition better than does cooperation to accomplish a humanitarian goal;

8. Create youth entrepreneurship opportunities through international trade and infrastructure development to facilitate equitable exchanges between youth and young adults that result in mutual stakeholders in poverty-reducing programs;

9. Promote stronger ties between technological research centers at western universities and MENA universities with dual focuses on urban and agricultural development;

10. Maintain a strong military presence in the region to deter any semblance that the west has gone weak while we begin engaging the local population socioeconomically to build their independence in a healthy partnership with the west.

In addition, the people of the MENA region should:

1. Create a Middle East and North African Youth Regional Parliament, made up of elected representatives specifically to this grouping who are under the age of 40; that provides recommendations on democratic governance and regional policy, and present their findings bi-annually to a regional group of official parliamentary heads that includes all nations in the region irrespective of their diplomatic ties with each other;

2. Create the Middle East and North African Youth Regional Games, which would function as a mini-Olympics for youth throughout the region irrespective of politics. These games should have a Special Olympics component for people with developmental disabilities, and a Paralympics component for people with physical disabilities to promote humanitarian interaction between the countries.

Any nation that refuses to allow its youth or parliamentary heads to participate in these programs should be expelled from its political regional grouping at the United Nations via direct petition of the MENA Youth Parliament, which would effectively interrupt its ability to participate on the United Nations Security Council. It is also incumbent upon the Youth Parliament and Regional Games not to exclude or marginalize Israel or any one nation, but rather, to focus on improving the region collectively.

Altogether through these policies, the west and MENA countries, and the people from both areas, would promote a combined micro- and macro-approach to MENA development in partnership with each other without exploitation.

If these policies are enacted comprehensively, the end result will be improved living conditions for the diverse peoples of the Middle East and North Africa, increased regional peace and cooperation, enhanced relations between Middle Eastern and North African countries with each other and with the west, and a significant reduction in global militancy. These policies speak directly to the needs of the people without appearing to be a fair weather friend to regional allies by promoting workable democratic reforms; and implement methods that will keep Pandora’s Box of Militancy shut tightly — the best of all worlds.

Freedom and democracy are not just discussion topics. They have real meaning. People are dying in the chaos. Yet, unfortunately, time is not on our side. We must move beyond rhetoric and focus on results-driven policies… now.

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1st Annual Pan-African Global Trade Conference

Matt Rosenthal, PREVENT HATE’s president, will be a panelist on “Negotiations, Conflict Resolution & Peace Building Programs” at the 1st annual pan-African global trade conference, which will be held in Los Angeles on October 21-22, 2010. Amina Salum Ali, the
African Union Ambassador to the USA, will be the keynote speaker.

This first of its kind landmark event in California will provide
opportunities for conference participants to:
— Network with private and public sector leaders and
potential business partners from the U.S., Africa and the
African Diaspora in roundtable business panels and private
business meetings;
— Learn about current small business opportunities in
Africa’s emerging markets;
— Learn about current financing and investment programs for
international trade & commerce with Africa;
— Strengthen business and cultural relations between the
U.S., Africa and the African Diaspora through bilateral
business and economic development. 

Ensuring peaceful coexistence is crucial to successful socioeconomic development. For more information on the conference, check out this flyer.

1st Pan-African Global Trade Conference Flyer

PREVENT HATE Speakers Bureau for At-Risk Youth Going Strong

On Tuesday, May 25, 2010, PREVENT HATE brought one of our speakers to Canoga High School in Los Angeles, CA for a program to inspire youth away from hate and violence, and to open their minds to creative outlets for their frustrations.

Mr. Zuhdi Sardar, a brilliant artist from the Kurdistan region of Iraq, spoke for approximately 45 minutes to a large group of students about his experiences with institutionalized discrimination and intergroup violence under Saddam Hussein’s regime, as well as his determination to channel his anger into productive methods. Today, Zuhdi Sardar’s smile is irrepresible, as well as is the love for humanity that he exudes.

An ethnic minority in the Middle East, the Kurds have been subjected to systemic violations of their human rights by various political parties representing ethnic majorities in the region. Mr. Sardar’s story is one of hope and inspiration, explaining how the friendships he cultivated across ethnic lines saved his life at a time when nearly all his childhood friends were murdered by government forces. At the end of the program, he opened his portfolio and shared some of his art with the students. The swarm of youth that approached Mr. Sardar at the end of his speech was a strong testimony to his message and his ability to speak directly to the hearts of at-risk youth.

For more information on Zuhdi Sardar’s art, please visit zuhdisardar.com.

PREVENT HATE’s speakers bureau brings survivors of genocide and severe crimes against humanity to speak to students about overcoming their differences, rejecting violence, and making a productive contribution to society. Our speakers are role models who have been through the worst hellfire, and yet, celebrate life.  As is always the case, at the end of the program, we were asked to come back.

July 26, 2010 Program at Los Angeles City Hall: Empowering People With Disabilities

On July 26, 2010, PREVENT HATE, in partnership with the City of Los Angeles, will hold a public demonstration at Los Angeles City Hall on behalf of our joint training program to empower people with disabilities. The program will utilize labor from people with disabilities to build emergency housing in just one day in order to dispel bias against them, and to promote methods of self-sufficiency. This is part of a larger program at Los Angeles City Hall in commemoration of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act.

PREVENT HATE continues to bring much needed, innovative programming to marginalized and disadvantaged populations. Thank you so much for your continued support.

Natural Disasters: Opportunities for Peacemaking

Could natural disasters be opportunities for communities that are adversarial or unfamiliar with each other to cooperate rebuilding lives and renewing the environment?
 
After the earthquakes in Haiti and Chile became international news, and showed an outpouring of humanitarian concern and involvement, there has been little discussion about how to continue bringing nations together to cooperate during the redevelopment process. Countries around the world donated their time, energy, and money into rescuing victims and alleviating suffering in both Haiti and Chile when the disasters struck. But what about the months, and years to come? How will the international community engage demolished areas during the effort to rebuild?
 
Unfortunately, we can rely upon the status quo: the international community will not maximize the opportunity to bring groups of people together strategically to work hand-in-hand through the long term to redevelop areas ravaged by disaster. The reason for this is simple: lack of insight how natural disasters could become catalysts to cultivate coexistence. Yet, the opportunities clearly are there.
 
…cooperation between the international teams [in Haiti], which had arrived from 30 different states, was strengthened by the Sabbath prayer. “We sat with Jordanian security guards, an Israeli team, and people from Qatar and Egypt.
 
Working together to provide crucial services to people who are struggling, while sharing cultures with each other, is an excellent method in which rivals begin to re-evaluate each other as humane, compassionate, and friendly rather than as suspicious, destructive and untrustworthy. This is true not only in times of crisis, but during calm as well. The earthquakes in Haiti and Chile created fertile grounds to bring opponents together, to provide them with economic incentives (e.g. contracts) for rebuilding devastated areas in concert with each other, and to foster new belief in coexistence as they work together to improve the lives of disadvantaged people. Humanitarian response to large-scale emergency situations offers opportunities for adversaries to create tangible results of their cooperation, and gain first-hand insight that “the despised other” is capable of enormous goodness.
 
Nobody sane wishes tragic natural disasters to befall countries. Yet, when they inevitably do, they present new chances to promote peace by bringing adversarial or unfamiliar parties together to cooperate offering hope, healing the environment, and changing ravaged areas into places that thrive. What a great way to celebrate life… together. Thus, not only would rivals heal devastated areas, but they also would recognize each other’s humanity and begin to heal their own conflict too as they do so.
 
The next time natural disaster unfortunately strikes, just a little organization would prevent a lot of hate. 

Remaining in Control of One’s Better Self

As our nation’s economy continues to sputter like an old car that is badly in need of maintenance and repair, an increasing number of people are suffering – jobs are being eliminated, workers are being laid off, employees’ hours on the job are being reduced, cash reserves are being depleted, home owners’ ability to keep current on mortgage payments and other on-going obligations is being weakened, and the mood of the average American is souring.

One of the concerns that many of us ought to have is that this fiscal condition may prompt grossly affected folks to try to point fingers and blame innocent “others” for this on-going human and national tragedy. After all, history records the fact that in the midst of financial turmoil there is an increase in discrimination, hate and prejudice – these are but some of the ways that people act out their anxiety, fear and worry. 

Under these circumstances, we would do well to constantly monitor our own feelings and to gauge our reactions to situations not of our own making. If we are usually calm and deliberate, and we discover that some of our coping skills have become less effective simply because the flow of bad economic news – accompanied by our own uncertainty – is playing havoc with our emotional strength to endure adversity, there are steps for us to take.

Should we feel that we are under siege, rather than suffering in silence or uncharacteristically lashing out at others, it would be very helpful if we turn to people whom we trust (such as a psychotherapist, a clergyperson, et al.) and not only seek time to articulate our deepest fears but to seek guidance before we drown in these uncharted waters.

In like manner, if we find that a loved one or friend is showing signs of great angst – and we think that this condition is the manifestation of fiscal upheaval – out of concern and with compassion we need to be emotionally supportive and let that individual know that we are nearby – certainly not to interfere but to provide empathic comfort whenever that would be welcome and useful.

Each of us is endowed with a “better self;” it is sometimes very difficult to remain in control of it when we are scared. Thus, awareness and acknowledging what’s really happening are essential as we interact with others in the most wholesome ways even when challenged by a most awesome monetary crisis.

Rabbi Allen I. Freehling

PREVENT HATE Update: First Lady of Zambia in Los Angeles

From Jan. 21-28, the First Lady of the Republic of Zambia, together with Zambia’s Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Natural Resources, were in Los Angeles for a week of strategic outreach and programming. PREVENT HATE coordinated their professional schedule, with the aim of assisting them connect with greater Los Angeles to foster socioeconomic development and women’s empowerment in their country. Their trip was a big success. We laid down the foundation for L.A. to engage Zambia constructively and productively; and will continue to follow up.

They met with leaders and executives from the Jenesse Center, which is a state-of-the-art shelter for victims of domestic violence;

First Lady (Rt.) with Karen Earl (L), Executive Director of the Jenesse Center

UCLA Medical Center;

First Lady with UCLA medical staff and administration (From L to R: Dr. Gautam Chaudhuri, Chair of OB/GYN; First Lady Banda; Dr. David Feinberg, UCLA Vice Chancellor and CEO of Hospital Systems; Dr. Amy Stenson, Lead Faculty of Global Health program)

UCLA Anderson School of Management;

Catherine Namugala, Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Natural Resources for Zambia, speaking to business leaders in Los Angeles at UCLA business school

the Los Angeles Museum of the Holocaust;

First Lady at Los Angeles Holocaust Museum

Los Angeles City Hall;

Catherine Namugala, Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Natural Resources (L.), and First Lady Banda (C.) meeting with Miriam Long (Rt.), Deputy Mayor of Los Angeles for Education, Youth, and Families

First Lady ringing Los Angeles City Hall bell with Los Angeles City Councilmember, Tom LaBonge

and the Los Angeles World Affairs Council as part of their overall agenda.

As you probably remember, PREVENT HATE loves to party with first ladies. For the First Lady of Zambia, we partnered with FOX ENTERTAINMENT to host a social gathering on their studio lot. The First Lady first was interviewed in the Shirley Temple Room by Susan Hirasuna, and then met over one hundred PREVENT HATE guests in the executive commissary.

Invitation to social gathering with First Lady at FOX

First Lady (in red) and Minister of Tourism, Environment, and Natural Resources (in blue/green) at FOX studios party

PREVENT HATE continues to work with developing communities and emerging economies to provide them with best practices in socioeconomic development across ethnic and cultural lines.