Remarks by Walid Maalouf
Director, Public Diplomacy for Middle Eastern & MEPI Affairs

D.C. Lebanese American Professionals
Arlington, Virginia
Thursday, March 30, 2006


I am extremely delighted to be with you this evening to talk about USAID and U.S. efforts in the Broader Middle East and North Africa. I want to thank the leadership of the D.C. Lebanese American Professionals for inviting me and I look forward to a great discussions and exchange of ideas. These are historic times in the region as change is taking place in several countries.

Recently, and particularly after September 11, 2001, US public diplomacy has become a subject of much discussion and debate in America and abroad, especially in the broader Middle East. The Secretary of State established an Advisory Group to look into Public Diplomacy. The new strategic direction for US public diplomacy in the Arab & Muslim world, "Changing Minds Winning Peace", was compiled and reported by the Advisory Group on October 1, 2003.

Several other independent reports on Public Diplomacy were published such as the research study done by the Heritage Foundation titled "Improving US Public Diplomacy Toward the Middle East" and "Strengthening U.S. Public Diplomacy Requires Organization, Coordination, and Strategy". This debate is ongoing and I believe it will remain so for quite a long time.

But public diplomacy is not something that is engraved in stone. Public diplomacy is diverse, dynamic, communicating, engaging, discussing, influencing, implementing and increasing understanding for American values, policies and initiatives and also for us to increase our understanding of your priorities values and concerns. It is a long-term investment in both the broader Middle East and the United State. This is a historic moment for the Levant. President George W. Bush's policy strives to bring together private sector businesses, non-governmental organizations, civil society groups and government officials to develop and promote innovative reform policies in the greater Middle East. Its focus is on democracy, economic and political reform, social and cultural change and education for all, with full opportunities for women.

There are several vehicles for public diplomacy at the Department of State and other agencies of the United States government:

  • The Bureau for Educational and Cultural Affairs at the Department of State.
  • The Middle East Partnership Initiatives at the Bureau of Near East and Asian Affairs at the Department of State and its offices in Tunis and UAE.
  • The 11 Missions of the U.S. Agency for International Development in the broader Middle East and North Africa, I will name them later.
  • The Office of Press and Public Diplomacy in the Near East Bureau at the Department of State and the 18 Public Affairs Sections at the U.S. Embassies in the region.
  • The Bureau of International Information Programs at the Department of State, which has great websites and produces several printed materials in Arabic and English for the region.
  • The Broadcasting Board of Governors, which oversees Radio Sawa, al-Hurra TV, and on the other hand we have the Voice of America. Also the Broadcasting Board oversees Radio Free Asia, Radio Free Liberty directed toward Europe and Afghanistan, Radio Farda directed toward Iran and Radio Marti directed toward Cuba.
  • The daily press briefings and public outreach by our missions in the broader Middle East and around the world and many - many of our public diplomacy officers on the ground in the region.
  • The Arabic websites we established in all our agencies and missions around the world.
  • The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government corporation designed to work with some of the most promising developing countries in the world, is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom, and investments in people that promote economic growth and elimination of extreme poverty. 

The American people have long been active in establishing educational, social and business relationships in this region and around the world. Let me list few of those, such as the American University of Beirut, the American Community School, in Cairo for example, the American University of Cairo and many others in the region. On social issues, many American non-governmental organizations are working in the region such as AmidEast, YMCA, World Vision, Coalition for Citizen Diplomacy and many others. Countless American business companies are in the broader Middle East and North Africa, from the banking industry to the oil industries providing jobs and economic growth. I must add the private-public initiatives that took place in establishing sister cities program between Iraq & the U.S. and with the Wheelchair Foundation to provide wheelchairs in Morocco, Jordan, Oman and other Arab countries.

Now let me give you some dollar figures of our commitment to the Arab and Muslim world at the U.S. Agency for International Development and other agencies of the US Government:

•  USAID 2005 budget for the broader Middle East and North Africa was $3.7 billion. Breaking it down by countries, Afghanistan has benefited with $1.514 billion, Egypt $531 million, Iraq $700 million, Jordan $350 million, Lebanon $40 million, Morocco $26 million, Pakistan $300 million, West Bank & Gaza $220 million and Yemen $15 million. I also must add that USAID helped with more than $750 million in humanitarian assistance, which has saved countless lives in the Sudan conflict.

•  Over the last four years MEPI budget at almost $300 million emphasizing political, economical and educational reforms.

•  Education & Cultural Affairs budget at more than $100 million for the international visiting program, the Humphrey fellow, the exchange programs, the Fullbright Scholarship program, and many others.

•  Department of Defense is engaged in significant strategic communications activities to which $500 million is being dedicated in 2006.

But with all of these vehicles and programs from the Department of State to the Department of Defense going through the significant work of USAID, what are the missing links to make public diplomacy visible:

1. Wider authority given to Under Secretary Karen Hughes. President Bush recently appointed her to lead America's Public Diplomacy effort. Her job is to coordinate these vehicles and programs, identify strategies and fill in the missing links, in order to increase effectiveness of these efforts.

2. There is a genuine effort to have Americans of Middle Eastern descent with fluency in the local languages, a strong understanding of the region, and experiential knowledge of the political, social and religious implications to help in these endeavors.

3. Place Arab-speaking official Americans on television and radio to defend our policies in the region and around the world.

4. Internally, we should cut through some of the bureaucracy to make things happen more expediently. You are our customers, we are the salesmen, and the product is the development work we do around the world, and the result, I hope, is our good relation with the people of the broader Middle East and North Africa.

Times have changed. The United States is reaching out and we want to work with you to convince the region that we care about making your lives better - free, democratic, and prosperous. We want to make a difference and to demonstrate progress as expediently as possible.

We are committed to improving knowledge of American political values in the greater Middle East and promoting a better understanding of the policy goals of Presidential Initiatives and President George W. Bush's forward strategy which is designed to encourage freedom and reform in the broader Middle East & North Africa. We at USAID are deeply engaged in the implementation of the President's goals across the greater Middle East and is working to enhance communication and understanding of the policy and programs of the United States.

I appreciate the opportunity you have given me to discuss USAID and U.S. efforts in the Broader Middle East and North Africa with you, and I look forward to your questions.