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Secretary Clinton Meets MEPI Leaders for Democracy Fellows and Affirms Commitment to Supporting Arab Reformers
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Secretary Clinton Meets MEPI Leaders for Democracy Fellows and Affirms Commitment to Supporting Arab Reformers

June 13, 2012
LDF Fellows with Secretary Clinton ©State Dept

MEPI’s 2012 Leaders for Democracy Fellows (LDF) met with Secretary Clinton on May 29th, following their participation in the Civil Society Strategic Dialogue town hall meeting earlier in the month.  The Secretary praised the fellows’ reform-oriented activism and work in advancing civil society during an unprecedented time in the Arab world.

At the meeting, Secretary Clinton made clear that the U.S. Government has a vested interest in supporting reformers throughout the Middle East and North Africa.  She told the fellows that the State Department wants to “continue encouraging you, supporting you where we can in your efforts to stand up for democracy – real democracy – and the human rights of every human being, and to help advance the cause of progress and freedom every way that you are already doing so…we are very proud of what you are doing.”

The Secretary invited fellows to provide candid feedback on U.S. Government foreign policy with respect to Arab world-engagement during meetings with top Department officials, including Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Maria Otero; Dr. Tomicah Tillemann, the Secretary’s Senior Advisor for Civil Society and Emerging Democracies; USAID Assistant Administrator for the Middle East Mara Rudman; and MEPI Director Thomas Vajda.

The following week, fellows were honored at a breakfast reception at the U.S. Capitol, where staff members from House and Senate offices exchanged views on Middle Eastern affairs and U.S. Government foreign policy.  Deputy Assistant Secretary (DAS) of State for Near Eastern Affairs Nazanin Ash highlighted the importance and accomplishments of civil society and lauded the work of the Leaders for Democracy Fellows to advance reform region-wide.  “It is an incredible privilege to meet you.  I really commend you on your courage and your commitment  to a better future in your countries.” said DAS Ash.  One of the Fellows, Raghda Abushahla from Gaza,  commented on her LDF experience during the event: “I am not the same person today than I was when I started the program…I appreciate the access to academics, information, and knowledge…we are taking knowledge and sharing it with our people back home.”