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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09CAIRO1415 2009-07-22 14:02 2011-02-16 21:09 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy Cairo
DE RUEHEG #1415/01 2031401
P 221401Z JUL 09
E.O. 12958: N/A 
REFTEL: A. STATE 71325 B. CAIRO 1158 
-------1.(U) Even before Air Force One departed on June 4, Embassy Cairo began wide-ranging consultations with Egyptian civil-society, private sector, and government leaders focused on implementing President Obama's ideas. Egyptians are proud and excited that the President chose Cairo as the speech venue and have been eager to talk about follow-up. Embassy Cairo has reached out at all levels, from student leaders to the business community to senior government officials. Perhaps more significantly, Egyptians have been equally forward leaning in reaching out to us. The President's speech has energized the Egyptian-U.S. dialogue in a way few observers here remember. The challenge will be to maintain that momentum as we look for practical ways to put the ideas into practice. Key points in our dialogue with Egyptians include: -- Civil society leaders indicated strong interest in collaboration on women's issues, freedom of expression, judicial independence, and access to education. They urged quick implementation of follow-up activities. -- Business leaders and Egyptian government officials emphasized skills development. We expect to take part in developing several public-private partnerships targeted at entrepreneurship and human capital development. -- The GoE response was immediate and constructive. Ongoing efforts to re-focus USG economic assistance on improving education have picked up speed. In the short-term, we expect to use existing ESF funds to expand scholarships for post-graduate programs in education, help implement a model science and technology high school program, and expand programming that provides job skills to young people. -- Dialogue between Muslims and the West will continue to be a cross-cutting issue in our engagement with Egyptians and a key theme of a series of upcoming thematic roundtables that reflect the goals the President outlined in the speech. -- The media widely covered post-speech engagement by the Ambassador and other mission members.

2.(U) Our engagement here has also reflected Egypt's key regional role. Egyptians are eager to be seen as regional leaders in embracing and responding to the President's call for dialogue, and are in a position to offer a substantial boost to a regional implementation process, either as a host to coordinated U.S. efforts or as a facilitator of well-integrated regional follow-on efforts. The Arab League, headquartered in Cairo, has already expressed an interest in working with the USG on several initiatives, including access to education and building entrepreneurship skills in the region. Key interlocutors like the Speaker of the People's Assembly, Dr. Fathi Sorour, have suggested that the speech "opened a new page" in the Arab world's dialogue with the U.S. - an indication of the sense of optimism the speech has generated. End Summary. ------------------- Engagement Thus Far -------------------

3.(U) The overwhelmingly positive response to the speech was accompanied by a clear call for rapid implementation. Our engagement has generated numerous ideas about how to move forward, both through the expansion of existing initiatives as well as new proposals in areas like education, supporting innovation through science and technology initiatives, and skills based approaches to economic empowerment. We have already begun to discuss these initiatives with the GoE. This cable outlines our engagement to date, according to the priorities set out by the speech, and includes specific proposals for scaling up successful programs that address these areas of engagement. These program proposals follow earlier suggestions regarding follow-up to the President's speech in Egypt (Ref B), which emphasized improving education and access to opportunity. The majority of proposals below (See paras 15 to 18) seek to address needs with existing FY2009 funds (with the option of expansion in FY2010). --------------------------- Human Development/Education ---------------------------

4.(U) CIVIL SOCIETY ENGAGEMENT, ENGAGING YOUTH: Immediately following the speech, the Embassy conducted three civil society roundtables: the first led by Secretary Clinton, in which participants like the National Council of Women expressed an interest in participating in the Secretary's "Civil Society 2.0" initiative, a second with White House advisor Dahlia Mogahed and a third with Under Secretary for Political Affairs William Burns. In CAIRO 00001415 002 OF 004 each, civil society leaders expressed anxiety about continued U.S. support for human rights and democracy promotion. Participants urged continued focus on freedom of speech, strengthening judicial independence, and fighting corruption as key to an "infrastructure for democracy." U/S Burns also met with a variety of GoE officials on a "Strategic Dialogue" initiative that will include a civil society component. Public Affairs engaged the Embassy's educational partners, AMIDEAST, the Institute for International Education (IIE), Fulbright, and the Egyptian Association for Educational Resources (E-ERA), on the way forward. All recommend an expansion of current USG-funded programs including scholarships and exchanges, training in English, IT, entrepreneurship skills and vocational education that targets disadvantaged youth and is linked to the job market.

5.(U) Embassy Cairo also reached out to youth directly, raising the President's goals in a variety of academic settings. The Ambassador participated in a Cairo University sponsored roundtable on the President's speech where participants discussed U.S. commitments to human rights, Middle East peace, and economic development. The Ambassador also addressed two groups of students from joint U.S.-Egyptian advanced degree programs in business and law, emphasizing the importance of education and innovation.

6.(U) GOVERNMENT-TO-GOVERNMENT CONSULTATIONS: As part of ongoing engagement in an effort to re-orient U.S. assistance towards education, Minister of International Cooperation Fayza Aboul Naga underlined the GoE desire to focus on education, a point reflected also in a June 10 letter to Secretary Clinton from Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit, in which he requested support for capacity building in the education system. Separately, the Minister of Education reaffirmed that President Obama's initiatives matched Egypt's efforts well and welcomed USG support in teacher training, increased scholarships for graduate study in education, and efforts to match student skills with employer's needs. The Minister of Higher Education urged an increase in funding of the Fulbright program in Egypt, with a focus on science and technology, English partners assigned by field of study, and digital learning initiatives. The Minister of Health urged support for additional scholarships to U.S. MBA programs.

7.(U) INITIATIVES OUTSIDE OF CAIRO: NGO representatives from Alexandria told the Ambassador that improvement of basic education is the cornerstone of progress in Egypt. The American Center Alexandria is working with the group to establish an Alexandria NGO Association which would provide networking and training for its members, a volunteer clearinghouse, promote volunteerism, and establish a small grants program. ------------------------------------- Entrepreneurship/Economic Empowerment -------------------------------------

8.(U) CIVIL SOCIETY ENGAGEMENT, REACHING OUT TO BUSINESS: Our engagement with the Egyptian Young Businessmen's Association has been particularly fruitful. The group has committed to the creation of an implementation plan to include areas of mutual interest, like entrepreneurship development and renewable energy. Speaking to the MEPI-funded Middle East and North Africa Business Women's Network, the Ambassador underlined our commitment to improve economic opportunity for women and girls in the region. At an Ambassador-hosted economic roundtable, experts suggested that while Egypt's economic policy has made progress, commitment to reform and transparency issues remain problematic.

9.(U) GOVERNMENT-TO-GOVERNMENT CONSULTATIONS: We have exchanged ideas with the GoE on ways of increasing innovation and entrepreneurship, including discussions with the Minister of Investment, Minister of Environmental Affairs, Minister of Manpower and Migration and the Minister of Economy and Trade, with whom we discussed the strengthening of trade relations between the U.S. and Egypt. At that meeting, Ministry officials noted specific industries that might benefit from U.S. technical assistance including vocational training and spurring entrepreneurs in vital and under-served fields. The GoE already produces regular annual reports on Egyptian competitiveness, which are a good basis for a way forward. We expect to see specific proposals from the Ministry. The Ministry of Higher Education has ongoing projects on ways to provide youth with skills the labor market needs and promote entrepreneurship among students.

10.(U) INITIATIVES OUTSIDE OF CAIRO: Alexandria Business Association members have provided us with a list of several concrete proposals to implement the President's initiatives including: increased financing and technical assistance for women's SME projects; a human resources training center; and establishing a center of scientific excellence at the Mubarak Center for Scientific research in Alexandria. ---------------------- Science and Technology ---------------------- CAIRO 00001415 003 OF 004

11.(U) CIVIL SOCIETY ENGAGEMENT, ACCESS TO INFORMATION: Embassy Cairo has already begun to pursue ways to support translation of educational materials (textbooks, classroom materials, teacher guides) for electronic delivery. We have engaged two Egyptian publishing houses, pioneers in electronic delivery of scientific and education materials in Egypt, to distribute Arabic-language instructional materials electronically. The Embassy is also looking at opportunities to translate education web sites and create Arabic-language mirror sites, including consultations with the Egyptian Digital Library Consortium.

12.(U) GOVERNMENT-TO-GOVERNMENT CONSULTATIONS: Our engagement on innovation and science and technology has focused on the need to improve the quality of Egyptian graduates and to ensure that they play a significant role in economic development. The Ministers of Education, Higher Education, Investment and Economy have highlighted to us science and technology scholarships and online learning strategies for improving science and technology skills. Ideas on possible U.S. support for science and technology model high schools have been well received. These state-of-the-art schools would also be defined as scientific centers of excellence and act as training sites for teachers from across the country. We have engaged staff at both the Ministry of Science and Technology and the U.S.-Egypt Joint Science/Technology Program on expanding the Program's activities in an effort to focus ongoing cooperation on applying science to local problems. This fund has supported over 400 collaborative projects since its inception in 1995 including efforts to identify Egyptian scientific projects with commercial potential. The GoE also has an ongoing pilot program through the Ministry of Science and Technology which provides stipends, education, and career development to young researchers. ---------------------- Interfaith Partnership ----------------------

13.(U) Strengthening dialogue between Muslims and the West has been a key theme in all of our discussions with Egyptians. New opportunities for follow-up dialogue are emerging and we have begun engaging directly on this issue with religious and cultural leaders. The Acting DCM attended a conference of the Sufi orders in Cairo, during which a number of speakers praised the core message of the President's speech, even while criticizing other aspects of U.S. foreign policy. In response to our engagement, the Biblioteca Alexandrina has proposed establishing a Middle East branch office of the Council of Religions for Peace to organize interfaith discussions and implement interfaith projects for women, youth, and poverty eradication. Ambassador has engaged cultural contacts in the film, media and publishing industries to discuss ways to use new media to include youth and intellectuals in a new dialogue that would include faith. ---------------------- Programming Activities -----------------------

14.(U) In addition to considering new programs, Embassy Cairo has been looking at ways to build on what is already working here, particularly in education and science and technology. Many of the proposed new or expanded programs below can be funded through FY 2009 ESF with the potential for increased funding in FY2010. Programming that specifically addresses engagement on inter-faith partnership will be integrated into each of these initiatives, either through targeting recruitment, to ensure representation of the full spectrum of religious belief in Egypt, or through incorporating conflict-management modules that might address a wide variety of social concerns. -------------------------------- Education and Science/Technology --------------------------------

15.(U) Current education activities funded through FY08-FY09 ESF include a variety of programs that target students and their teachers at all points along the educational continuum. Basic education programming has improved learning achievements for 120,000 girls, while separate literacy programs focus on providing basic skills to adults, with a special focus on women. Our long-standing teacher training program strengthens the professional development system to ensure quality instruction. The Embassy supports educational and cultural exchange and institutional capacity building through several scholarship programs. We also have a long standing cooperation with Egypt that supports advanced research in the sciences. The U.S.-Egypt Joint Science/Technology Program has supported over 400 collaborative projects that apply science to real world problems, like water and soil quality, since 1995.

16.(U) Proposed new education and science/technology programming: -- Centers of Excellence in Science and Math Secondary Schools: These model high schools will provide quality instruction, state-of-the-art labs, enhanced curriculum, and extra-curricular CAIRO 00001415 004 OF 004 activities to the students. Strategically located in three Egyptian governorates, the Centers of Excellence will be also be used as training sites for teachers, teacher supervisors, and other education professionals from across the country. -- Science/Technology Enrichment Education: Generate excitement and awareness for science education though low-cost programs that would include: after-school English language science programs, summer science camps, an Arabic-language scientific television program, and a nation-wide science fair with a prestigious award. -- Science/Technology Field Internships: Work with public secondary school and university students to locate paid summer internships in their fields of interest at research institutes, universities, and private high-tech companies. -- Teaching Online: Support translation of educational materials (textbooks, classroom materials, teacher guides) for electronic delivery. Partner with local publishers already delivering Arabic-language instructional materials electronically. Create Arabic-language mirror sites to science education web sites such as Discovery and National Geographic. Egypt could serve as a regional hub for these activities. -- Professional Academy for Teachers: Provide training and assistance to this new Ministry of Education institution that provides professional development, mentoring, and certification standards for Egyptian teachers. -- Expand Scholarships/Exchanges: Significantly expand scholarship programs that provide English-language learning opportunities to under-privileged youth and university students. -------------------- Economic Development -------------------- 17. (U) Current USG economic development activities funded through FY08-FY09 ESF are focused on efforts to match youth with opportunities in the labor market. This includes providing technical assistance for Ag-Tech schools to ensure improved training and access to the latest best practices. Internships provided through the program give students real work experience. Through a public-private partnership with H.J. Heinz Company, another program works with thousands of small farmers to teach them how best to meet modern market demands. Support for several pilot Youth Centers for Employability has been very successful, providing a job training program and facilitating local recruitment. 18. (U) Proposed new economic development programming: -- Bi-national Initiative for post-graduate masters and PhD degrees: Increase the numbers of scholarships to U.S. institutions to fill critical skill gaps identified through input from the GOE, the private sector, and the National Competitiveness Council. -- University Career Development Centers: Provide entrepreneurship and life-skills training, including internships and career fairs. -- Youth Centers for Employability: Upgrade existing centers and incorporate new training programs to include literacy, math, IT, English language programs, as well as problem solving and interviewing tactics. -- Entrepreneurial Growth Initiative: Partner with business associations to support micro, small and medium businesses (with a focus on women entrepreneurs) gain access to venture capital and business development training (i.e. how to prepare business plans). Support GoE efforts to help firms navigate the registration, tax, and licensing requirements. -- Focus on Franchising: Franchising is a means to create jobs and transfer key management and technical skills from franchisor to franchisee. FCS will provide technical assistance on new franchise legislation, determine appropriate sectors for vocational-tech industries (i.e. plumbing, automotive, electrical) and provide technical assistance/counseling for new franchise opportunities.