|Students discuss regional issues with top US diplomat|
Participated in Q&A with US State Department official
Arab Spring, global financial crisis, Palestine-Israel conflict and nuclear weapons discussed
International affairs students from the College of Arts & Sciences and students from other QU colleges had the opportunity to participate in a Q&A with visiting Undersecretary for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs for the US Department of State H.E. Ambassador Kathleen Stephens. The discussion forum included a presentation by Amb. Stephens on “American Public Diplomacy Engagement with the Muslim World”. Over 100 students attended the event along with faculty from the department.
Amb Stephens thanked the students for the opportunity to engage with them on issues that are of concern to them on a regional and international level. “There is no region more important today”, she said, adding, “young people are voicing their hopes and aspirations and this discussion with you is a great opportunity to talk about our shared future, shared hopes and shared interests”.
Amb Stephens stated that events in the Gulf and Middle East region continues to be of interest and hold critical importance for the US as noted on various occasions by Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and US President Barack Obama.
She pointed to the Islamic Museum of Art and its display of cultural history and artifacts from around the world. “It celebrates cultural exchange that is such a part of Islamic traditions”, she said. She further noted that the museum highlights the critical role Islamic culture played in science and the arts, incorporating influences from other civilizations such as Greece, India, China, and promoting cross-cultural relations. “This is also what Qatar University represents in its very diverse student body”, Amb Stephens said.
She reiterated the US government’s commitment to strengthening relations with the Arab world and to supporting justice, tolerance, progress and respect for all throughout the region.
On the Arab Spring, Amb Stephens said that from Marrakech to Manama, people voiced their desire for change. “They did it on their own. We heard the call and will continue to support human rights, self-determination, democracy, and especially women’s rights”, she said.
She encouraged the students to join ejournal USA, a Facebook forum with over 1.2 million followers from around the world, mainly young people, who upload stories, articles, and photo galleries and join discussions on issues as far ranging as global health, peace, the environment, hip-hop and other topics. “These are people to people relationships that are so important in our world today as they address issues on which we must all work together”, Amb Stephens said.
Education is the key to addressing the problems that arise between peoples and countries, Amb Stephens said, adding that it is an important tool for young people in the region. “I encourage you to become involved in exchange programs as they serve to build ties between individuals, groups and communities which leads us to a common goal to push change forward”.
Students raised concerns on the financial crisis, nuclear weapons in the region, and the Palestine-Israel conflict. Amb Stephens said that US is continuing to learn from the failures in its financial system and to introduce reforms to prevent it from happening again. She believed that international cooperation such as in the G20 will bring countries together to discuss how to deal with the crisis in their jurisdictions and the mechanisms that must be put in place for preventive action.
The US government believes that a nuclear-free world is a safer world, Amb Stephens said. To the student’s question whether war is an option to stop countries from obtaining nuclear weapons, she said that it is important to find a way to resolve the issue through diplomatic issues, and pointed to Afghanistan and Iraq as examples of the heavy toll war takes on countries and their people.
On the Palestine-Israel question, Amb Stephens reiterated the US’ commitment to the peace process and its support for human rights and greater democracy. “We continue to be engaged in the peace process that will lead to a lasting outcome that will have the confidence of the parties concerned”, she said.
Following the discussion, computer science major Hosam Rohy Abdalwahab, who is doing a course in globalisation, commented, “This was a very interesting and illuminating discussion and presented a view of the US perspective on the issues. The Ambassador responded to our questions and it gave me a little more to reflect on”.
International affairs student Maryam Al Mannai said: “This discussion made me believe that nothing has changed. Some of what the Ambassador said is quite contradictory to what we know to be the reality, especially on the issue of Palestine, and the nuclear weapons issue”.