The President called for a new global engagement in his June 4, 2009, Cairo speech and laid out a vision to expand opportunities in science, technology, health, and innovation in Muslim-majority countries and with Muslim communities. Following is an overview of the programs the Department of State has launched or facilitated during the past year to advance the President’s vision.
U.S. Science Envoys. In November 2009 in Marrakech, Secretary Clinton announced the establishment of the U.S. Science Envoy program and named the first three Envoys. The overarching objective of the Science Envoy program is to advance opportunity, prosperity, and security worldwide by addressing issues of common concern and advancing cooperation in areas of mutual interest. Nobel Prize winning scientist Dr. Ahmed Zewail visited Egypt and Turkey in January and attended the Qatar Foundation board meeting in February. Former NIH director Dr. Elias Zerhouni visited UNESCO Paris, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Libya between February and April, and Dr. Bruce Alberts traveled to Indonesia in May. More envoys and more regions to be visited are being planned, including Africa, Central Asia, and other parts of South and Southeast Asia. The U.S. Science Envoys program demonstrates U.S. commitment to increased international collaboration and engagement with foreign governments as well as research, education, nonprofit, and business communities.
Maghreb Digital Library. The Department is directing $1.5 million in assistance toward the establishment of a Digital Library for the Maghreb. The Maghreb Digital Library will help support development in S&T, increase access to digitized scientific data and research, and encourage partnership and networking. The Library will be an essential tool for the professional development of the regional scientific community and sustainable relationships between U.S. and foreign science communities.
U.S. and Egypt Science Fund Doubled and U.S.-Egypt Science Year: At the May 2010 Joint Board Meeting of the U.S.-Egypt Science and Technology Cooperation Fund, Egypt and the U.S. announced the doubling of the science fund to $8 million annually. The two countries also launched the U.S.-Egypt Science Year for 2011, which will focus on K-12 science education. At this year’s board meeting, the Science Fund awarded 23 new research collaboration grants and funded five workshops and 22 junior scientist programs. Egypt and the U.S. also completed a wind research workshop in March and a Digital Resources workshop in May and are planning a Global Information Systems conference in Egypt in late June. Workshops to be funded next year include water and remote sensing, solar energy research, coral reef health assessment, cybersecurity, and "globesity,” the worldwide obesity “pandemic.”
Centers of Scientific Excellence. Centers of excellence will provide a platform for international partnerships that address shared challenges through scientific and technological solutions. The centers will build on existing institutions and create a network of centers in each sector. Secretary Clinton announced the intention to establish a Middle East Water Center of Excellence in her World Water Day address in March, and USAID recently completed a comprehensive needs assessment for a proposed climate change center of excellence. Interagency working groups are developing proposals for centers on the topics of public health, renewable energy, and science policy.
Bilateral Science Partnerships with Muslim-majority Countries. The U.S. signed Science and Technology Cooperation Agreements with Indonesia in March and with Kazakhstan in April 2010. The U.S. continues to deepen cooperation through the consultations with Central Asian countries in the areas of energy, agriculture, telecommunications and innovation, and university partnerships. Cooperation with Pakistan is deepening in the areas of scientific research cooperation, broadband telecommunications applications, and nursing workforce development. A workshop was held in May in Abu Dhabi to help women scientists and engineers in the MENA region build new collaborative associations and increase their international research collaboration. Cooperation with Saudi Arabia has advanced in the areas of space, aeronautics, and remote sensing, and further collaboration is planned in water, plant genetics, and climate research. The U.S. will be consulting with Jordan later this year about deepening cooperation in water management, biotechnology, renewable energy, and nanotechnology. In addition, the U.S. and Egypt will begin Phase II of the Egypt Science and Technology Initiative (ESTI), which helps bring science to market. The U.S. is also partnering with Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution to survey seismic features of the Bay of Algiers and sites west of Alexandria, Egypt, both to map seismic faults and help locate lost antiquities. Following several recent visits, cooperation with Libya is intensifying in renewable energy, the development of digital resources, water management, nuclear and radiological security, and university partnerships.
U.S.-Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) Health Dialogue. The OIC and U.S. Secretary of Health and Human Services Sebelius jointly hosted a Health Dialogue with Ministers of Health from the OIC Member States on Monday, May 17 in Geneva on the margins of the World Health Assembly. Secretary Sebelius, Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs Kerri-Ann Jones, and U.S. Special Envoy to the OIC Rashad Hussain discussed areas of mutual interest and proposed concrete steps to improve the public health situation in the OIC countries, particularly to deepen collaboration on polio eradication, broaden cooperation to reduce maternal and child mortality and expand cooperation in immunization and disease surveillance.
U.S.-OIC Polio Partnership. Since the President’s Cairo speech the United States and the OIC have begun working closely to eradicate polio. The U.S. is supporting the OIC in working with the World Health Organization (WHO) to develop national campaigns among the 57 OIC members to combat the disease. The OIC-linked Islamic Fiqh Academy issued a fatwa urging ministries of health in Muslim countries to promote immunization campaigns while calling on parents to have their children vaccinated. The Gulf Cooperation Council Health Ministers Council, representing an influential group of OIC Member States, adopted a resolution of support for the WHO-led Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI). During consultations on polio, U.S. Centers for Disease Control officials are finding strong support for U.S. partnerships among Muslim-Majority Country governments, especially on knowledge transfer and technical assistance. The State Department’s Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs, USAID, and CDC are collaborating with the OIC to encourage support among OIC members for the GPEI.
H1N1. Throughout the H1N1 pandemic, the U.S. Embassy in Kuala Lumpur cooperated effectively with relevant health, agriculture, and defense agencies in Malaysia. Training exercises supported by the U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM) have improved Malaysia's capacity to respond to outbreaks of infectious diseases, including Avian Influenza and Pandemic Influenza. In addition, the U.S. Centers for Diseases Control (CDC) worked with the Saudi Ministry of Health to protect the health of Hajj visitors during the H1N1 pandemic and improve the Kingdom’s ability to track and respond to outbreaks of infection. The CDC project piloted, fine-tuned, and deployed a 21st century disease surveillance system for use during the Hajj and beyond. CDC sent a number of experts in advance of and during the Hajj and helped the Saudis assemble a team of their own specialist doctors to combat H1N1 potentially arriving with pilgrims from around the world.
Science, Technology, and Math (STEM) Exchange Program. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs’ International Visitor Leadership Program entitled, “A New Beginning: Early Science STEM, Education” will bring up to 25 science educators and education administrators who work in Muslim communities to the United States. The program will occur from September 27 - October 15, 2010.
TechWomen Program. The Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA) TechWomen Program will provide professional peer mentorships for women from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, the West Bank and Gaza working in the field of technology with their counterparts in the United States. Selected participants will travel to the United States for four-to-six weeks to work with mid-level female employees in U.S. companies. Select American counterparts also will travel to the participants’ home regions to offer skills development and networking workshops for a broader range of women. The program will pilot in late spring 2011, and will include 20-40 foreign participants. In the summer of 2010, $1 million will be awarded to a competitively selected U.S. non-governmental organization to manage the program.
Innovation Award for Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment. Announced at the Summit on Entrepreneurship in April, the “Secretary’s Innovation Award for Women’s and Girls’ Empowerment” seeks to find and bring to scale pioneering approaches to the political, economic and social empowerment of women and girls around the globe. Funded by the Rockefeller Foundation, the award is part of a continuing emphasis on public-private partnerships and is founded on the premise that the major economic, security, governance and environmental challenges of our time cannot be solved without the full participation of women at all levels of society. The awardees will be announced by the end of 2010.
Science, Technology, and Innovation Conference. The U.S. is developing initial plans for a Science, Technology, and Innovation Conference in 2011 involving all Muslim majority countries in cooperation with Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (ISESCO) and other key stakeholders, with “leadership” stakeholder meetings leading up to the conference.
Expanding Corps of Environment, Science, Technology, and Health Officers and Fellows. Secretary Clinton has committed to expanding the number of Environment, Science, Technology, and Health (ESTH) officers at U.S. embassies. Four of the positions will be in Muslim majority countries: Indonesia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and Bangladesh. New officers should be in place as early as summer 2010. The U.S. also sent five Embassy Science Fellows to four countries associated with this initiative: Morocco, Nigeria, Turkey, and Uzbekistan.Two Science Diplomacy Films Premiered. In July 2009, a science diplomacy film, titled One: Sailing Towards a Horizon of Hope, chronicled the intense experiences of Palestinian and Israeli youths working together on a tall ship off the coast of New England to develop leadership skills and learn about the environment. In December 2009, the film, One Small Step, One Giant Leap, told the groundbreaking story of 24 Libyan high school students attending Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama, with an equal number of American (and Italian) counterparts, where they received the same training as U.S. astronauts.