About the Author: Farah Pandith serves as the Special Representative to Muslim Communities.
On Tuesday, almost exactly five months after the President’s speech in Cairo announcing a “New Beginning” with Muslims around the world, Secretary Clinton spoke in Marrakesh at the Forum for the Future and reiterated the U.S. commitment to a "New Beginning." Standing before leaders from the Broader Middle East and North Africa (BMENA) region, as well as from the G-8 countries, the Secretary highlighted some of the actions we are taking to move beyond words -- actions we are taking to create partnerships, and through those, opportunity.
Through the Civil Society 2.0 initiative, we will help grassroots organizations use digital technology to tell their stories, build their membership and support bases, and connect to their community of peers around the world. Technology provides us with enormous opportunities to narrow the gaps and create understanding between people of different cultures, races, ethnicities and faiths. Connecting people together is one way we can help empower civil society at the grassroots level.
Secretary Clinton also announced the upcoming President’s Entrepreneurship Summit, which will take place early next year. The Entrepreneurship Summit will focus on the positives things young Muslim entrepreneurs are doing around the world through their creative ideas and passion for action. It addresses a need I’ve been hearing from young leaders around the world. The Summit will not only highlight amazing entrepreneurs but will help social, business, and technology entrepreneurs scale up their efforts. In so doing, they will impact their communities in big and small ways. Jobs and income are important benefits of successful entrepreneurship, but it goes beyond that: Entrepreneurs have the power to transform their lives and the lives of others around them. I hope you will go to www.entrepreneurship.gov/summit to learn more about the Summit, share your ideas, and nominate delegates!
I can tell you that the initiatives the Secretary has outlined directly respond to what I have heard in my own meetings with civil society leaders and, particularly, young people. I just returned from Kuwait, Iraq, and Saudi Arabia myself. The most encouraging thing about meeting with young people in these three societies was their energy and their own desire to make a difference. I met a young woman in Kuwait who writes a blog about what it feels like to grow up in Kuwait in 2009, having recently returned to her country after several years away. She was passionate about the future and the importance of sharing information. I met a young social entrepreneur in Jeddah who started a green campaign called GreenJeddah. She and her peers were seized with this issue and wanted to educate their community about recycling. I met a young man in Baghdad who started a tech company and wanted to do more to build networks of young people to share feedback and experiences. We need to enable and empower them. This is exactly what we are trying to do with the initiatives Secretary Clinton announced.
As the Secretary said, “it is results, not rhetoric, that matter in the end.” While listening and learning from each other are key first steps, true change will only come from building partnerships. When we work together, whether in government, academia, a non-profit organization, or as entrepreneurs, we each bring a unique perspective. Harnessing these different perspectives towards partnerships for action enables us to work together for the common good.