School of Public Policy and American University in Cairo Hold "Challenges of Transitions" Seminar
The School of Public Policy (SPP) at CEU organized a seminar on the “Challenges of Transitions,” just hours after the initial round of Egypt’s first democratic presidential election. The event, co-hosted by the American University in Cairo (AUC), was held May 26-28 steps away from Cairo's famed Tahrir Square. The square was the major site of protests that brought down the 30-year-old regime of former President Hosni Mubarak and has become a symbol for the popular uprisings which have swept through the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) since December 2010.
The SPP seminar was designed for advanced undergraduate students, recent university graduates, and junior members of Egyptian civil society or governmental institutions. The goals were to embed current events in the MENA in a global context; to link them to experiences from other world regions; and to situate them within conceptual approaches of transition, social change, and public policy.
Five CEU professors, from three of the CEU departments with which SPP has cooperated most closely since its launch in September 2011, covered topics in political science, public policy, and international affairs. Their expertise was supplemented by other instructors, including AUC and Cairo University professors, an independent member of the Egyptian parliament and representatives of the Food and Agriculture Organization, a U.N. agency working to achieve food security.
“I think we got the right people into the seminar to talk about the right issues,” said CEU Associate Professor of Public Policy Andreas Goldthau. “It would be naive to expect full-fledged democracies to emerge overnight in MENA but where we can contribute is to expand the toolbox of current and future policymakers in these difficult times of transition.”
The event represented the beginning of a broader partnership between CEU and AUC which is expected to include a student exchange program and various forms of research collaboration.
“The MENA seminar put into practice the spirit of creative risk-taking that SPP has strived to embody since its creation,” said SPP Founding Dean Wolfgang Reinicke. “Holding the seminar in Cairo during a potentially turbulent period for Egypt was a testimony to our ambition to go beyond a certain comfort zone and to explore collectively the challenges faced by the global community, while humbly sharing our own experiences.”
Reinicke and AUC President Lisa Anderson granted certificates of participation to the 25 attendees, a mix of undergraduates in their final year and master's and doctoral students.
“I would say that the most important thing I gained from the experience is a sense of how the transitional process works,” said AUC undergraduate Hedayat Reda. “The course helped me reflect on the changes that have already happened and are continuing to happen in Egypt and compare them to other experiences around the world. While history does not always repeat itself in exactly the same way, knowing what has happened before means you can prevent it from happening again or make it happen if that's what you want.”
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