|About the Initiative|
Overview of the Initiative
The U.S.-Muslim Engagement Initiative (USMEI, www.USMuslimEngagement.org) promotes action-oriented, cross-societal dialogue among public and private thought leaders, opinion leaders and decision-makers from the U.S. and Muslim societies. The Initiative has a distinctive focus on influential leaders in Muslim societies and the U.S. who have not yet engaged in sustained dialogue with their counterparts, and who have the potential to imagine, catalyze and support groundbreaking partnerships for mutual benefit. A collaboration of three non-governmental, non-profit, U.S.-based organizations, the Consensus Building Institute, Convergence, the Institute for Resource and Security Studies, USMEI grows out of the U.S.-Muslim Engagement Project, which produced the influential consensus report Changing Course: A New Direction for U.S. Relations with the Muslim World.
Leadership Dialogues to Catalyze New Networks and Partnerships
From 2011 through 2013, we will assess, design, convene and facilitate ongoing dialogues on key issues of importance to both U.S. and Muslim societies, where there is little current or sustained leadership dialogue. Each dialogue will involve 20-40 participants, most meeting several times over one to two years. Each dialogue will involve influential and emerging public and private sector policy makers, and thought and opinion leaders from U.S. and Muslim societies. In addition to issue-area practitioners, participants may include current and former government officials, religious leaders, journalists, business people, academics, educators, philanthropists, and others as appropriate to the focus of a particular dialogue. Each dialogue will be supported by expert facilitation and analysis, and will include substantial working group and staff activity. The first dialogue will be a U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum, discussed below.
Dialogue Results and Outcomes
By creating credible, sustained forums for dialogue and partnership on important issues, we will generate several immediate results:
Over time, the dialogues will produce significant, measurable outcomes including:
Leaders Supporting the Initiative
In September 2009, 25 leaders from the U.S. and Muslim-majority countries convened in White Oak, Florida to plan the ongoing USMEI agenda. The planning retreat included leaders from Malaysia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran and the Middle East, former U.S. Ambassadors, and current senior staff from the White House, U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, USAID, and the U.S. Department of Defense. Participants agreed on the urgent need and opportunity for USMEI to organize long-term, action-oriented dialogues among leaders from the U.S. and Muslim societies. The meeting also forged new relationships and deeper understanding among leaders of U.S. government, the NGO sector, private think tanks and counterparts from Muslim-majority countries. USMEI staff continued to engage members of this leadership network to define and create the first sustained USMEI dialogue: the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum.
Goals of the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum
USMEI has laid the foundation for a groundbreaking U.S.-Pakistan civil society dialogue, conducting interviews with over 75 U.S. and Pakistani leaders, and holding a 2-day planning retreat in May 2010 with more than 20 U.S. and Pakistani leaders participating. We have found that a broad cross-section of societal leaders in the U.S. and Pakistan is committed to improving communication, dialogue and partnerships between the two countries, on issues including energy and water, education, entrepreneurship, youth engagement, health, agriculture and trade. Nonetheless, high levels of mistrust, polarized public communication, and the lack of effective forums for sustained dialogue are hampering their efforts.
The ongoing Strategic Dialogue between the two countries' governments is an important contribution. However, serious tensions continue to undermine the bilateral relationship, reflecting different national security interests and perceptions. At times, some American and Pakistani voices influential in the media and politics portray these tensions in ways that intensify mutual distrust. Leaders and opinion formers outside of the government can play an essential role in sparking a broader and deeper dialogue. Rather than downplaying or evading the differences, a well-facilitated dialogue can address them openly and constructively, and build on shared interests in other areas.
To meet this need, USMEI launched a three-year, multi-stakeholder U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum in February 2011. We plan to convene Forum sessions at least twice a year over the next three years. Through the Forum, participants will create and launch several action partnerships for significant societal impact.
The Forum has four initial objectives:
The Inaugural Meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum, February 17-19, 2011
The inaugural meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum was held February 17-19, 2011 in Lahore, Pakistan. USMEI convened a group of 40 highly influential participants from Pakistan and the U.S., diverse leaders who shape opinions and decisions in key sectors of their societies. Hosted by the Lahore University of Management Sciences, participants engaged in 3 days of professionally facilitated, off-the-record discussion and made commitments to collaborate on cross-societal partnerships and exchanges in the areas of agriculture, primary and secondary education, and higher education. USMEI also convened 2 separate roundtable discussions for entrepreneurship and media leaders in order to plan for the next meeting of the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum to be held fall 2011 in the U.S.