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Middle East Partnership Initiative

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The Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) is a project of the U.S. Department of State which was launched by President George W. Bush devised "so democracy can spread, education can thrive, economies can grow, and women can be empowered"; with more than $293 million spent in four years.

"Since 2002, MEPI has set in motion more than 350 programs in 15 countries and the Palestinian territories. MEPI investments are in addition to billions of dollars in bilateral assistance the U.S. provides annually to the Middle East."

"Middle East Partnership Initiative (MEPI) funding goes directly to partners such as non-governmental organizations, businesses, and universities. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice describes transformational diplomacy as the use of both diplomatic power and foreign assistance to help citizens better their own lives and build their own nations. MEPI is transformational diplomacy in action." [1]

MEPI and free trade

According to the June 24, 2003, Jordan Times, MEPI "has been formulated to help facilitate the implementation of a Middle East Free Trade Area (MEFTA)" and "set up its headquarters in the region to make sure the project runs smoothly." [2]

Speaking at the World Economic Forum, Elizabeth Cheney, a Deputy Secretary in the U.S. Department of State's Near East Bureau, "confirmed that Iraq would not fall under this project's mandate. Neither Libya nor Syria are entitled to share in this funding. Cheney also indicated that projects in Lebanon would be funded under a current USAID agreement." [3]

Cheney stated that Iran would "be entitled to participate" in the program and hoped "to involve Syrians in another capacity." She also "warned that embarking on free trade with the United States was a big commitment on the part of all countries involved. ... These agreements are much different from the agreements the Europeans have established across the region. In ours everything goes to zero 'all across the economy...tariff and non-tariff barriers,' she added." [4]

Programs: Forum for the Future and Fund for the Future

"The Foundation will support democratic political reforms, civil society development, free and independent media, and it's meant very much to be an entity that's separate from any one government, that has the support of a number of governments both in the region, in Europe, obviously the United States," Elizabeth Cheney, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State, Near Eastern Affairs and Coordinator for Broader Middle East and North Africa Initiatives (BREMA), stated in a November 9, 2005, State Department briefing to preview Secretary Rice's Middle East Travel.

The Fund "will have a board of directors that has no government officials on it and be a completely private sector civil society board of directors made up of individuals from the region, from Europe and from the U.S. It'll have a chairperson from the region.

"The same will be true of the Fund. There'll be no government officials on the board of the Fund either. We think the Fund is important. Just for some basic facts, we're putting in 50 million, the Egyptians will put in 20 million and the Moroccans will put in 20 million and the Danes are putting in a million. And the Fund will support small and medium size enterprises across the region.

"Now, it is modeled after the Polish-American Enterprise Fund and what we hope is that it will be as success as the Polish-American Enterprise Fund was. What you find across the region today is, particularly in the oil-producing nations, there is a lot of capital but the capital doesn't flow to the people who will create the jobs. It's very difficult for somebody to walk into a bank and get a loan if they don't have connections, if they're not a member of the right family, you know, if they don't have the collateral that you need to put up the loan.

"So looking at the establishment of basically a venture capital fund that can operate along the lines of these enterprise funds with a board of directors that will hopefully be a very prominent board of directors so that we can see some of the same things that we've seen, particularly in Poland, but also in Hungary, in the former Soviet Union as well, where the boards are able to work with the governments in the region and talk to them about economic reforms that are needed to improve the investment climate so that investments can be made. So hopefully it has a reform benefit to it in addition to the actual equity stakes that the Fund will be taking in small and medium size businesses."

When asked "How do you decide who gets the money?", Cheney responded that "will be the job of the board of directors. In the case of the Foundation, you'll have a board of directors and then you'll have a management entity, and one of the first tasks of the board will be to put in place a charter that lays out the kinds of programs that will be funded and supported.

"With respect to the Fund, you know, it's a bit of a different set of decision-making because that will have to do with, you know, which businesses have business plans that can be supported."

"With respect to the Foundation, we'll be having a meeting of all of the countries that have agreed to contribute funds, probably in January [2006], somewhere in the region, to talk through how we will divide up the seats on the board, you know, how the decisions will be made about who's on the board. So you'll have a process in place. We haven't selected the board yet and we think it's very important that we do that in partnership with people from the region, in partnership with other European countries that have contributed funds as well," Cheney said.

When asked on how many projects the U.S. contribution, "a base of $300 million" "allocated by Congress" which was "coming from the MEPI funding," would be spent on, Cheney responded that she didn't know how "the exact number". She added that the $300 million included money that had been appropriated for 2005, "which has not, obviously, gone out the door yet but the majority of the money that's been appropriated from 2002 through 2004 actually has been allocated for projects." She thought that "our figure is like over 150 projects across the region."

Cheney added that the funds allocated were for "over a two-year period so you'll have '05 and '06 in MEPI money going to fund both the $50 million and the $35 million."

"Future" Failure?

The "foreign policy initiative fizzled out" on November 12, 2005, "when Middle Eastern allies refused to sign up to an administration plan to ship more democracy their way," Christopher Deliso reported November 14, 2005, at antiwar.com.

"Although the president sent no less a character than Condoleezza Rice (who has to be Bush's number two these days, in light of his alleged loss of faith in both Dick Cheney and Karl Rove) for the Bahrain summit, the draft declaration 'was shelved after Egypt insisted on language that would have given Arab governments greater control over which democracy groups receive money from a new fund.' Accompanying Condi was Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Liz Cheney, who had originally dreamed up the project as a '$100 million venture capital fund to promote economic enterprise' – with half of the cash to be chipped in by the American taxpayer," Deliso wrote.

Interesting grantees

In 2004 the International Research and Exchanges Board received millions of dollars to promote independent media in the Middle East. [5]

In 2004 Scholastic, Inc. received $6.5 million for a "My Arabic Library" in Jordan, Lebanon, Bahrain, Morocco, and Libya. "The program is the first major effort using classroom libraries to develop independent reading, critical thinking, and analytical skills in young readers in the region. My Arabic Library includes fiction and non-fiction titles (translated and adapted from their original English) as well as teacher training and curriculum materials. To maximize the effectiveness of the reading materials, the program also aims at engaging school principals, parents, and local communities to support early independent reading, as well as providing sustainable resources for classrooms." [6]

Breast cancer diplomacy

In March 2007, the U.S. breast cancer organization Susan G. Komen for the Cure announced a new partnership with M.D. Anderson Cancer Center, U.S. Department of State, and King Hussein Cancer Foundation and Cancer Center, "to raise awareness of breast cancer in the country of Jordan." [7]

A press release from Komen stated, "This partnership is an extension of the U.S. Department of State's Office of Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs and the Middle East Partnership Initiative. The U.S.-Middle East Partnership for Breast Cancer Awareness and Research is the first major women's health campaign in that part of the world. ... In September 2007, two representatives from Jordan will attend Komen for the Cure's first-ever Global Advocates' Summit in Budapest with First Lady Mrs. Laura Bush as the honorary chair." [8]

Personnel

"In 2004, a former IRI staff member, [Deputy Assistant Secretary of State] J. Scott Carpenter, became head of the State Department's Middle East Partnership Initiative." [9]

Contact

Website: http://www.mepi.state.gov

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