The Middle East in Transition: Leadership in Challenging Times

A Global Leadership Series Conference
Presented by the Yale World Fellows Program
and Egypt’s International Economic Forum

June 20-21, 2009 - Cairo, egypt

This international event drew leaders from every sector of the Egyptian and American societies, including business, politics, education, media and civil society. It tackled the unique political, social, and economic problems facing the Middle East in an era of globalization.   

The conference was organized into seven sessions – five open-to-the-public expert panels and two closed roundtable discussions – addressing the challenges of Leadership facing the region today, with each session focusing on a specific topic in Middle Eastern politics, economy, and society.

Conference summary

Opening Session:  Welcome & Opening Remarks

  • M. Shafik Gabr, Chairman, Egypt’s International Economic Forum
  • Michael Cappello, Director, Yale World Fellows Program

Session 1: Globalization Panel

Globalization & the Middle East: The Next Chapter analyzed the growing phenomenon of globalization and its implications for the region.  The panel explored motivations for resisting or joining a globalized world, and considered the extent of the Middle East’s readiness to integrate into the world community.

  • Lisa Anderson, Provost, American University in Cairo

  • Nader Fergany, Director of Al-Mishkat Center for Research

  • Heba Handoussa, Lead author, Egypt Human Development Report 2008

  • Moderator:  Hafez Al-Mirazi, Vice Chairman, Al-Hayat TV

Session 2: Politics and Diplomacy Panel

A Region in Turmoil: Politics and Diplomacy for a New World Order examined the changing political dynamics of the region and the world and considered what specific, concrete actions can be taken to ensure seizing the opportunity that presented itself in the wake of President Obama’s speech in Cairo on June 4. The panel considered what role, if any, the West should play in promoting democracy and religious freedom and what steps can be taken to resolve the Arab-Israeli conflict, as well as the lessons that can be drawn from the results of recently held elections in both Lebanon and Iran.

  • Ambassador Ahmed Maher, Former Egyptian Foreign Minister

  • Margaret Scobey, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt

  • Hesham Youssef, Chief of the Cabinet of the Secretary General, League of Arab States

  • Moderator:   Ashraf Swelam, Acting Director General, Egypt’s International Economic Forum

Session 3: Finance and Economics Panel

Middle East Businesses: Winners Despite All Odds analyzed the unique regional and international challenges facing the region’s private sector. Panelists described how their companies have overcome the region’s economic obstacles and described what role they saw the business community playing in the future of the Middle East.  

  • Wael El-Fakharany, Regional Manager, Google Egypt, Saudi Arabia and North Africa

  • Alex Shalaby, CEO, Mobinil

  • Mohamed Farid, Senior Sales Manager, Financial Industry, Oracle 

  • Moderator:  Mehmet Daimagüler, Partner & Co-Founder, Polar Bear Fund

Session 4: Education Panel

Innovative Ideas to Bridging the Education-Employment Gap addressed the pressing issue of bridging the gap between the skills provided by the educational system and those needed by the market. The panel considered how to address the demand for educational resources created by the “youth bulge”.

  • Yousry Al-Gamal, Egyptian Minister of Education

  • Hani Helal, Egyptian Minister of Higher Education and State for Scientific Research

  • Bassel Mubarak, Regional Manager, Government & Public Services, Egypt & Sudan, Oracle 

  • Moderator:  Iman El-Kaffass, President, Step-Up International Consultancy for Education Research

Session 5: The Middle East: In Search of a Grand Strategy

The Middle East: In Search of a Grand Strategy considered the need for a comprehensive strategy that addresses the breadth of the region’s social, economic, and political challenges.

  • Introductory Remarks:  M. Shafik Gabr, Chairman, Egypt’s International Economic Forum
  • Ambassador John Negroponte, Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of State
  • Ambassador Nabil Fahmy, Dean - School of Public Policy, American University and former Egyptian Ambassador to Washington

  • Abdelmoneim Said Aly, Chairman of the Board of Al-Ahram

  • Moderator:  Hafez Al-Mirazi, Vice Chairman, Al-Hayat TV

 Session 6: Public Perceptions

We and Them: Public Perceptions and How to Change them addressed the damage that stereotypes from both sides cause to West-Middle East relations. The panel highlighted the role that the media and education in particular can play in reshaping negative public perceptions.

  • Rev. Canon Alistair Macdonald-Radcliff, Dean, All Saints’ Cathedral, Cairo & Director General, C-1 World Dialogue

  • Roland Schatz, Founder and CEO of Media Tenor

  • Abdallah Schleifer, Professor Emeritus, American University in Cairo

Session 7: Closed Experts Roundtable Discussion

Civil Society in the Middle East: The Promise and the Obstacles considered how nongovernmental organizations can better realize their potential to act as agents of reform and change in Egypt and the Middle East despite obstacles. The panel also addressed regional collaboration between civil society organizations.

Lead Discussant:  Heba Handoussa, Lead author, Egypt Human Development Report 2008

Egypt’s International Economic Forum Annual Sponsors:

Arab African International Bank Housing and Development Bank Arab Bank

Conference Platinum Sponsors:

Oracle Mobinil

Media Partners:

Nahdet Misr Daily News Egypt Al Alam Al Youm