Transcript: Partnership for Peace Fund Advisory Board Meeting October 27, 2022

Speeches Shim

Wednesday, November 16, 2022

Megan Doherty: Hello, everyone. On behalf of USAID, it is my honor to welcome everyone here to this meeting of the Partnership for Peace Fund Advisory Board. Before we begin formally, I just want to note for those of you listening in that we have a closed caption option on the screen, and we also will have an American sign language interpreter. We will also be posting the transcript and the recording from this.

When we first met as a group, MEPPA was in its earliest stages of implementation. We had the vision of the incredible Mrs. Lowey. We had the guidance of the legislation, and we had a call out for proposals. But we had no idea how many applications we would receive, how many programs we would fund, what they would look like. And now, thanks to the hard work of so many of you in this room and so many of our friends joining us virtually near and far. I'm really proud to say that we have completed the first full year of MEPPA programming.

And in that year, we launched 10 programs with our good friends at the Development Finance Corporation. We obligated the first $50 million in MEPPA money. And these new programs, they're exciting. They represent a wide variety of sectors. And these projects are going to bring together thousands of Israelis and Palestinians while also tackling real problems like environmental sustainability, medicine, health, and other issues that impact people's lives. We have called year one our building and learning year. And we're already thinking about next year, how can we strengthen? How can we improve? How can we do better?

So, the timing of this meeting is perfect. We want your advice, your honest critiques, your feedback, your guidance. We know that we need to focus on supporting smaller and newer partners, especially those in the West Bank. We also need to make sure that our people -- that the work that we do not only brings people together, but also has a real development impact and improves people's lives. And we also know that we need to make sure that MEPPA is a catalyst for other donors to contribute to the cause of peace. And that more Israelis and Palestinians know about and celebrate the work of peacebuilders in their communities.

In today's meeting, we have two expert presentations. First, Gary Mason will join us virtually to share insights from his decades of working on peacebuilding in the Northern Ireland context and beyond. And then our wonderful USAID mission director, Amy Tohill-Stull, will present to you the details of USAID programming and are planning for next year. And our hope is that these presentations will help inform you and set the stage as you formulate your recommendations for USAID.

So, members of the Board, thank you so much for your time, your energy, your creativity, and your passion for this work. And it is now my great honor to introduce my boss, USAID Administrator, Samantha Power, who has been a strong supporter and a champion of this important work. Administrator, over to you.

Samantha Power: Thank you. It's great to be here with you in person. I think I parachuted in virtually the last time. But it's really great to meet each of you face to face, some old friends, some new ones, I hope. I want to just also take note of the space that we are in. Because as many of you know, this U.S. Institute for Peace was designed by Israel's greatest architect, Moshe Safdie, who designed, of course, Habitat in Montreal, but also Yad Vashem, the most powerful architectural experience many of us have ever had. And you can just feel actually the Jerusalem stone sort of emanating here. So, both the mission for peace and even the structure here should connect us to the work that we are trying to do out there in the field -- in the real world.

Megan, you have our very best from USAID here driving this initiative. If you can't tell yet, you will definitely soon, I'm sure, have that impression. What you may not know about Megan, because she's so attentive to MEPPA and to driving this initiative, is that she has lots of other jobs, too. But she somehow manages to be our deputy assistant administrator for the Middle East in North Africa and be basically desk officer for MEPPA.

And so, Megan, I'm really in awe of the contribution you've made and the dynamism that you have brought to this. I think Congresswoman Lowey and I'm sure Mark Green dealt with this as well. I mean, there was a sense that things were not moving as quickly as they should be, that the legislation was there, that the framework was there. And, you know, it does take time. There are big startup costs to doing anything in government and certainly at USAID. But I think the progress that Megan has described, and that Amy will detail, it correlates linearly with Megan's taking over the file. And really, you know, getting us to a position where we have real programs happening in the real world from which we will learn. And from which we must, you know, find a way to iterate.

Each of you could be doing so many things with your time. I mean, this is such an all-star board and all-star cast. I'll say a few words about a few of you but, you know, thank you. Just thank you for what you're investing. I'm really hopeful that this not only will you contribute to the path ahead, but also that you will take things from these discussions from the programming, hopefully from trips that we are able to do to the region that will also inform the work that you do in so many other domains and wearing so many other hats. So, just my gratitude, I really can't overstate.

And of course, I got to start in speaking about gratitude with George Salem, our Chair, who is investing so much in this -- in the day today. So much that you may not see on the surface, you know, when we come together as a board. But I know Megan and George are on speed dial and a lot of what we have achieved is because of that very hands on approach. And again, that's not without sacrifice, you know, in his own life, you know, more than it is a sacrifice free for any of you. So, George, I'm just so grateful that you took this on and for your leadership every day really on trying to help promote this cause. I also want to thank Lucy Kurtzer-Ellenbogan, the U.S. Institute for Peace Director of the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict Program, because she's personally co-hosting this meeting.

Congresswoman Lowey, we're getting there. You've had a vision. We are trying to make that real. I'm hopeful that every board meeting, you know, it's a snapshot in time and that you will really feel your legacy instantiated in these communities that have benefited from this program. But just thank you for your leadership on the Hill and for staying honest in that period where you are kind of like, "Okay, how many months since the law passed? You know, where -- when are we going to start to see these funds that we've made available actually start to flow?" So, thank you for the vision. And again, thanks to all of you who also helped Congresswoman Lowey get that across the finish line. And thanks, of course, to my predecessor, Mark Green, who was a major agent in that effort as well.

To acknowledge the new faces here, Megan has mentioned Amy Tohill-Stull. Amy is our relatively newly minted Mission Director for USAID's work in the West Bank and Gaza. She's been in the job just three months. But she has already played a vital role in maintaining the flow of humanitarian assistance during the conflict between Israel and militants in Gaza over the summer. I think what you will see in Amy is someone who's not just passing through. This is a really personal commitment.

You know, we have mission directors in 80 countries around the world, programs in 100 countries at USAID. But it was really amazing talking to Amy, you know, this can be a very difficult posting. And some people I think do it, you know, like our previous Mission Director did an amazing job over the course of the year, including by launching these programs on the ground, but it was a one year posting. Amy's in it, you know, for the longer haul, which you can speak to and has brought her family with her. And I think that really reflects on the community she's building with these communities.

Dina Powell, we didn't have you the -- Dina Powell McCormick, I should say -- we didn't have you, I guess, at our last meeting, but we're just thrilled that you could bring all of your experience as Deputy National Security Adviser -- of course, bringing that policy perspective -- but the work that you've done to promote inclusive growth at Goldman Sachs, at the Foundation, supporting women entrepreneurs, small businesses. I mean, this is just the kind of insight and expertise that we need to draw upon as we think about programming and precisely those domains.

And our two international board members whose perspectives I think will honor the fact that peacebuilding has always been a global effort that, of course, we need to multilateralize the resourcing of this enormous set of challenges in the real world. Ms. Farah Bdour, one of our two incoming international board members. Farah has worked on peacebuilding efforts among both policymakers and young people for the last decade in Jordan. She brings a deep understanding, not just of this conflict, but of how peacebuilding efforts will be received in the Arab world. And that's a critical audience, critical stakeholders in all of this.

Nickolay Mladenov, my friend and collaborator, who I am absolutely thrilled has engaged here on the Board. Nickolay, as so many of you know, was the U.N. special coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process. I don't know what's harder, working at the U.N. or working on Middle East peace. But Nickolay did both and managed to retain tremendous credibility with the parties as in extremely difficult circumstances and among a very, very diverse set of stakeholders in the international system, as well as he played a critical role in de-escalating violence between Israel and Hamas. And I think he can offer really strong recommendations from all of his time on the ground trying to do peacebuilding, peacemaking, mediation about what -- of what we're trying to do is likely to resonate and with whom. And so, Nickolay, thank you for joining us.

Obviously, we're meeting as violence and tensions between Israelis and Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza continue to present a major challenge and major threats to civilians caught in the crossfire on both sides. In recent conflict, multi-day conflict in Gaza just a few months ago where, of course, civilians, men, women, and children for whom violence is all too familiar an occurrence. Homes have been lost, loved ones. But one thing is clear, certainly, from our work on the ground -- I think it's the reason that you all are here as part of this effort -- is people want peace. The vast majority of people want peace. They are tired of living in fear, whether they're Israeli or Palestinian. They want, as parents, what we want as parents for our kids, which is safety, the ability to go to school in the morning and know your child is going to come back home, the ability to go to school and work hard and know that there'll be economic opportunity for you, agency, high quality medical care, dignity, and freedom from fear. And so, these are the calls that we try to heed at USAID across the board.

And, you know, for all of the challenges and everything, of course, one sees the headlines, there are, I think, glimmers of hope and I think our programs can shed some light on that. Amy is going to provide an update on our work providing basic assistance for Palestinians in the region. And, of course, she came in just after President Biden announced a package of reforms that expanded assistance for Palestinian people. And among them was the historic announcement that our Ambassador on the ground, Tom Nides, who played a very critical role in helping facilitate that the Allenby Bridge would eventually be operational 24 hours a day, seven days a week. And this is not bearing full fruit yet. The announcement came out. And of course, nothing's easy in that part of the world on something that is proven as vexing as this. But a pilot program is soon going to begin to phase in the full time opening of the bridge and to facilitate smoother foreign travel for Palestinians living in the West Bank. And of course, again, the programmatic work gives us even more reason for hope.

So, with this Board's guidance, as Amy indicated, USAID has awarded IMF $45 million. But I heard Amy -- I heard Megan, excuse me, say $50 million. So, clearly, we've done something in the last few days that I need to get briefed on, but to around 10 organizations doing crucial work on the ground to strengthen ties between Israeli and Palestinian communities. And again, there's peacebuilding, there's also basic necessities, quality of life, and that kind of enabling environment. And, you know, even if peace in the longer-term sense feels far off, there's always good that we can do in the here and now to advance that kind of human security in the region.

So, among the beneficiaries or the partners here are the Edith Wolfson Medical Center, which will provide training courses for both Israeli and Palestinian trauma surgeons, an activity that bolsters the level of trauma care accessible to both communities. It includes the organization, Our Generation Speaks, which will bring more than 100 Israeli and Palestinian entrepreneurial leaders to Boston over three years for a three-month accelerated program complete with seed funding to build business skills and create new startups and new jobs on both sides of the line.

And I feel like this is exactly the kind of vision that Congresswoman Lowey, you know, tried to instantiate, you know, in this law and I think it's bearing fruit in these ways. It includes organizations like Reut USA, which will help Israelis and Palestinians collaborate on medical devices that will benefit the elderly and persons with disabilities in both communities. Innovations like 3D printed prosthetic limbs or specialized wheelchairs for young children. As the Partnership for Peace Fund concludes its first year, again, I want to thank our partners on the Board, though they're not here, the people who nominated most of you, members of Congress, and again, the advocates and organizations that lobbied for so long to help bring an initiative like this to pass.

I'm presenting as if this is some fixed proposition. We have -- you're going to learn as we go -- wwe're not kidding when we say we welcome feedback, not only at these board meetings. But, just as Megan is in speed dial with Congresswoman Lowey and the Chair of our Board, Mr. Salem, so to any perspectives that you have on the program we were doing, on how we should be thinking different about how we were embarking upon this. Unlike so much in bureaucracy and the government, this is so nascent. It is still a really, really shapeable effort. And that's why again, we're so excited to have already an infusion of new voices here in this community that we are building together.

So, we know that the Partnership for Peace Fund is no panacea. That it's not going to itself overcome, you know, deep structural challenges or willy-nilly, you know, create peace on its own or rebuild trust for that matter in a broad base way that the trust deficit is enormous. But it is the largest single contribution any country has ever made to grassroots peacebuilding efforts between Israelis and Palestinians. And so, I feel incredibly privileged just to be a part of it and to offer my voice and support as best I can from the leadership of USAID.

So, thank you, again, to all of you and looking forward to the discussion.

George Salem: Thank you, Administrative Power, for your leadership, and I mean that very sincerely, and for your commitment and support for MEPPA and its goals and for this Board. Thank you also to all of our board members that are here with us today and those that are with us virtually for your continued support to USAID as we engage in this very important undertaking.

Through the Nita Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act, we're so blessed to have Congresswoman Lowey as a member of our Board and as an inspiration that helps guide us with our work. I want to share my own enthusiasm for the fact that many of us are here together in person and that Dina, Farah, and Nickolay are also now officially on the Board.

When we met for the first time in April, MEPPA was an abstract concept. We knew USAID had put out solicitations and we advised on the kinds of goals that the Agency should aspire to, but we didn't yet have anything tangible to react to. Now, there are 10 awards, as you've heard from the Administrator and from Megan, nine grants and the Building Regional Economic Bridges, or BREB contract, which was just recently awarded. We've also seen a year's worth of public engagement, heard inputs from the peacebuilding community, and received feedback from members of Congress and their staffs.

Today, we are well suited for a robust exchange of ideas both reactions to what we have seen thus far as well as recommendations for what we would like to see maintained, changed, or added. I'm looking forward to the presentations today, as I know all members of the Board are, and to hearing Gary's perspective from Northern Ireland and learning from Amy Tohill-Stull, our new USAID Mission Director about how the USAID team is incorporating our advice and recommendations into their important work implementing this program.

My hope is that we can emerge from today's meetings with consensus recommendations that will help guide USAID as they make their plans for next year. We may not fully agree on a consensus, we will note the differing opinions, and seek to capture the majority position. For my part, I will advocate that we keep the focus on the people who suffer the most because of the conflict. I hope that USAIDs programming under MEPPA can tangibly strengthen the Palestinian economy while injecting life into Israeli and Palestinian civil society and new hope for peace for all that live in the region.

I will encourage the Board to look to the BREB, Building Regional Economic Bridges program, as an exciting tool to draw Palestinian and Israeli entrepreneurs and business people together to bring regional and international enthusiasm for technology and innovation in the work of changing attitudes in building the conditions on the ground for peace. Finally, I will encourage USAID to be aggressive on its end to increase its international support for peacebuilding in alignment with a MEPPA model. And we've had many conversations at the staff level and internationalization is something that I think can make a very meaningful difference in what this program is about.

MEPPA is important, but it has -- because it has given those of us who care so deeply about this region a cause for hope even in the context of continuing violence and suffering. I'm glad and honored to be a part of advising USAID in this important work. And I echo the thanks of DAA Doherty and Administrative Power for all of your service, my fellow colleague board members on this important board.

Before we jump into presentations, I want to give our three new board members a chance to introduce themselves. If we could stick with two-minute introductions that would be consistent with the timeframe we have for our full deliberations today. First is my dear friend, and Representative McCarthy's appointment to the Board, Dina Habib Powell McCormick. I emphasize Habib because that is her maiden name. She is a native Egyptian, moved to this country when she was four years old. I have known Dina since she worked with leader army back in the House of Representatives and got to know her especially well when she was at the Bush White House in charge of Presidential personnel and we are delighted to have her with us. Dina?

Dina Powell McCormick: Well, thank you, Mr. Chairman. I'm so delighted to be here. And I was really looking forward to being in person and having a chance to meet all of you and to see so many friends starting with the Administrator who I've had the privilege of working with for many, many years. And my old colleague, Elliot Abrams, in Bush years, and most especially Congresswoman Lowey, who has just absolutely dedicated her entire life to searching for peace and programs that help the most vulnerable. And when Leader McCarthy called me about this, I was so energized to try to participate and play a role in what we're trying to build here.

As the Chairman said, I was born in Cairo, immigrated to the United States when I was five. And I always like to say my parents said, "We left our Coptic Christian community so you and your sisters could pursue your dreams, do anything you want to do as long as you're a lawyer, or a doctor, or an engineer." And since --

[laughter]

George Salem: Sounds familiar.

Dina Powell McCormick: Does that sound familiar, George? So, I failed at those things. But I'm now a banker at Goldman Sachs and have had the privilege, as the Administrator said, of working on a number of initiatives that seek to empower women, small business owners, and to try to use those as bridges for peace. So, I'm really delighted to be here today, and I want to say how absolutely wonderful Megan and the entire team have been to work with. So, thank you for having me.

George Salem: Thank you very much, Dina, and welcome. Next is Farah Bdour, who Administrator Power named as one of her two international board members, who's joining us virtually today. Farah, the floor is yours.

Farah Bdour: Thank you, George. I'm Farah. I'm a political analyst with Seeds of Peace at public policy and conflict resolution and mediation. I'm part of a Jordanian think tank based in Amman that engages in providing policy analysis and recommendations to the strategic community, both in Jordan and abroad. I focused my writings on the Israeli, Jordanian resolutions. I have 10 years of experience in designing and leading programs for youth in the Middle East in the field of leadership, conflict resolution, peacebuilding, advocacy, and nonviolent resistance. It is a great honor to be part of this collective devotion and I look forward to working with all of you. And thank you, Megan and Dan and the USAID team for all your efforts. Once again, thank you so much for having me. And over to you.

George Salem: Thank you, Farah. And finally, Nickolay Mladenov, who was Administrator Power's pick for the other international board seat. Nickolay, the floor is yours.

Nickolay Mladenov: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, everyone, for the opportunity to join the Advisory Board. I see many friends and I see many people who I hope will become my friends very soon. I have followed MEPPA since before it was -- since it was just an idea. So, it's emergence and I'm very proud to be able to sit today and offer my little experience in the region. And I say very little experience in the region because I don't believe that in a conflict that has gone on for generations, those of us who've spent five, six, 10 years perhaps living with both sides can really claim to understand it. But I hope that the experience that we all bring together will be of use to both Israelis and Palestinians as they create an enabling environment to find a solution that is in the interests of peace.

Myself, I've been involved with civil society since, too long, since the early '90s back in peacebuilding efforts in the Balkans. And then later, I was Minister of Defense, Minister of Foreign Affairs before joining the United Nations where I had the honor to work with Administrator Power as the U.N. representative in Iraq in a very difficult time and then with Israelis and Palestinians based in Jerusalem.

I know from experience that we cannot build peace from the top down unless we have an enabling environment from the bottom up. And I really hope that MEPPA’s activities and future partnerships with others in the international community will create that enabling environment that we need so much, particularly in these days of rising violence again across the West Bank. Thank you again for the opportunity and I look forward to our deliberations.

George Salem: Thank you, Nickolay, and thank you all colleagues on the Board. It's an honor to serve on this important Board with each of you and we will benefit greatly from each of your experiences and your insights.

As I mentioned before, our first presentation will be from Gary Mason, who will discuss the lessons learned from his experience as a peacebuilder during the conflict in Northern Ireland and how he applied those lessons to his work with those seeking peace around the world, including Israelis and Palestinians. Gary is the founder of Rethinking Conflict which is dedicated to modeling the principles of the good agreement to advance the cause of peace around the world, including the Middle East.

As far as the founding Rethinking Conflict, Gary spent 28 years as a clergy person in Belfast as he was involved in the Northern Ireland peace process. He has been and continues to be a close advisor to Protestant ex-combatants and holds a Ph.D. from the School of Psychology at the University of Ulster. This will be the first of two presentations. Each presentation will be approximately 15 minutes and will be followed by a five-minute question and answer session from board -- between board members and presenters.

With that, I turn things over to you, Gary.

Gary Mason: Okay. Colleagues, thank you very much for the opportunity to be with you this evening. And so, I'll just move through by 12 to 15 minutes, as the Chairperson has said, and then we can open it up for some comments. I often remark if we were to kind of rewind our DVD back to the early 1990s, within the global context, there were many conflicts. But primarily, the ones that were grabbing most people's attention was South Africa, Israel, Palestine, and Northern Ireland.

Interestingly, most commentators saw apartheid slowly coming to an end. Many believed that with the Oslo Accords that Israelis and Palestinians were slowly getting over the line. And it seemed that those troublesome Irish were never going to sort themselves out. Yet here we are three decades later and while the Irish peace process has not been without its difficult moments, I still want to suggest that has been one of the most successful peace processes of the last 50 years. As many of you know, the last stage of the Irish conflict was 1969 to 1998 with the signing of the Good Friday Agreement.

And in our tiny space of Northern Ireland, very small population, 1.6 million people, over 30 years, we had 47,000 injuries, 36,000 shootings, 22,000 armed robberies, 30,000 people went through our penal system, with 16,000 bombings, and almost 4000 deaths. I often extrapolate those figures, particularly for American audiences and say very simply that if the Northern Ireland conflict had taken place in the United States over a 30-year period, you would have had 700,000 deaths, 6 million political prisoners, 9 million injuries, 7 million shootings, and 3 million bombings.

Most conflicts at their core, invariably, have three elements: land, identity, and religion. And those three concepts are very evident and also present in the Israeli-Palestinian theater. I'm going to suggest that I think many efforts to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I feel, to what I would highlight, I think, is a flawed methodology where people are pursuing a peace process where the conflict is actually dealt with as if it was kind of technical problem that can be resolved by a very selected and exclusive leadership.

I knew within the Northern Irish context, and several of my colleagues have already alluded to the rule of civic society, I think a strategy like that feels to address the very complex entanglement of grievance, belief, and ideology that characterizes region's context, and which literally are at the root of this conflict. So, I'm delighted that this process is beginning with yourselves with this partnership for peace because the main inclusive peace process is therefore required. That means societal shift for senior, mid-level political leaders, community leaders, religious leaders, NGOs, civic society, all have a role to play in communicating the need for real difficult action in pursuing peace.

We have another thought or problems within the Northern Irish context that we're probably again will have another election here on the 15th of December. We had no devolved assembly from January 2017 to January 2020. People often ask me, "Gary, why do we talk about the conflict?" And I often say quite simply, one of the reasons is, to my mind, that in reality, civic society is actually what I call the social glue that holds our peace process together. And that's why I welcome this initiative that you're all involved in that empowering civic society is absolutely crucial.

From 2010, I have hosted thousands of Israelis and Palestinians in Belfast and in Dublin of all shades of political opinion right across the whole spectrum, as well as key NGOs, as well as academics, a wide range of different people. And I often ask them, tell me as you look at this, it's not utopia, they'll acknowledge that. I actually think that it's good that the Northern Irish situation is not utopia because it gives Israelis and Palestinians a belief that, maybe just maybe, we can find a good ally.

But they often highlight to me, when we do our final debrief at the end of five or six days, they always say, "Gary, there are five lessons which from your peace process standout for us as Palestinians and Israelis." The first one is that political leadership is essential to achieving peace. So, very simply put, leaders on all sides of the conflict must actually sincerely believe that change is preferable to the status quo -- and I underline that word “the status quo” -- and then be willing to take the risk to achieve peace while providing the vision that ensures that they maintain the confidence of their grassroots supporters.

The second thing they highlight is this. There emerged a desire to break the cycle of violence to see a future generation from endless conflict. The kind of technical free is really here in the Northern Irish context. In the early 1990s, we had a mutually [unintelligible]. So, in reality, the British Army were not going to defeat the IRA, the IRA were not going to defeat the British Army, and the loyalist groupings were not going to defeat the IRA. But there emerged, in both Nationalist Republican and Unionist Loyalist communities, a desire to play the important role in creating an environment for peace. And this desire for a better future encourages leaders to take risks, faced accusations of betrayal within their own communities, to achieve peace.

The third thing that Israelis and Palestinians highlight is this. I invariably am always waiting for this comment. They always say, "Gary, you just don't understand." And I say, "Tell me what I don't understand." And they say, "We just don't trust each other." And they often highlight, "What do you really think in the late 1980s, early 1990s as we moved up to the Good Friday Agreement?" Well, a number of people, including myself, were involved in what we call, in the Irish context, uncomfortable conversations. I said, "You were, like, really thinking those first meetings, like, we were popping bottles of champagne. It was all hugs and kisses."

They were people in a room that hated each other. And Israelis and Palestinians, you cannot use a lack of trust as a justification for not beginning the process. And I underline that, categorically, trust does not come at the start of any process but only over time, through dialogue many, many times meeting secretly. And I've often asked the question as a religious leader, "How do religious actors use sacred space for uncomfortable conversations?" And it was crucial that we use sacred space to facilitate those conversations, many times meeting secretly, making meeting commitments by building confidence to concrete actions.

The fourth thing we highlight is this -- so that Israelis and Palestinians highlight. The concept of security. Of how important that is. But I often underline that attempts to resolve the conflict through military force were ultimately few times. In reality, the British forces could have continued to conflict forever possibly for another 50 years. But in reality, military force was futile because it didn't result in sustainable security for either community. We have a cycle of violence. You kill one of us. We kill one of you. You hurt us. We hurt you. So, when did we achieve real security in the Northern Irish context? We achieved real security when dialogue was prioritized, and the root causes of the conflict were addressed by the establishment of new frameworks and political institutions that gives space for each community to peacefully pursue their visions for Northern Ireland.

And the fifth and final lesson they highlight is what my colleagues here, meaning in USAID today, are about and pouring into grassroots organizations and civic society. We have a crucial important role to play. We have a theory in the Northern Irish peace process, developed by a friend and colleague of mine who's a leading sociologist at Queen's University in Belfast, called the political peace process and the social peace process. And those two things need to partner together. I mean, it's absolutely crucial. The Good Friday Agreement really got over the line primarily because of engagement with civic society at women's groups, NGOs, academics, religious leaders. So, we need to realize that even if we sort out problematic politics, let's not assume that societal healing will automatically occur. And that is why we need a social peace process. So, in reality, social peace becomes the responsibility of people who inhabit society at all levels, not just the politicians.

So, look, I'll press the pause button there for the sake of time and take a few questions before your next presentation.

George Salem: Thank you very much, Gary, for a very insightful presentation. I love the five pillars you described. I mean, look around the room and Elliott Abrams has raised his hand. Please turn on your mic.

Elliott Abrams: Thanks. You started with political leadership, is that of the society or can it be external?

Gary Mason: Yeah, it's a great question because we, I say this categorically, we were not going to get over the line without outside help. So, we need to ask what is the role of third parties in relation to building peace. I mean, it's no secret. I often say to American colleagues that the Good Friday Agreement, to my mind, is one of the most successful pieces of American foreign policy in the last 50 years. And both Republicans and Democrats were categorically involved in that in a variety of West or the actual group that was in charge of decommissioning, as many of you know, was headed up by a Canadian general, General John de Chastelain. We had Scandinavian actors and we had Australian actors in that. So, the role of outside actors as my colleague, Elliot, has asked is absolutely crucial. And obviously, the fingerprints of the Irish and British need to be categorically over the peace process. But the role of third parties, to my mind, was absolutely crucial and I say that unashamedly and categorically.

George Salem: Rabbi Cohen?

Michael Cohen: Thank you, Gary, for that. I'm curious, in the International Fund for Ireland, what percentage of the funding went for economic aid and what percentage went for civil society dialogues?

Gary Mason: Okay. Yeah, thank you. I mean, it's pretty much an even divide. Actually, Rabbi, I'll illustrate that with an illustration. And I did a project called Skenos, which is the -- not to bore you with theology -- which is the Greek word for a tent, and ended up a $30 million. And I describe it as a post-conflict shared space urban village. And when I cast this vision, not too long, actually, Rabbi, after the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, the International Fund for Ireland were key. The International Fund for Ireland were key because they believed in the project. And immediately, they put $6 million on the table, which kind of empowered me -- allowed me to go to government bodies, which as many of us know were a little bit more slow and pedantic moving towards funding. But IFI were absolutely crucial in that.

And in that Skenos project, I mean, Google it and it's a kind of an urban village there in a very deprived inner-city area employing 100 people, 150 volunteers, 150 people living on site. We use economic regeneration. We put in mixed income housing which was not my idea. I got it from a good friend, Bob Lupton, who did this in Atlanta, downtown Atlanta, regenerating ground partner in Atlanta. I visited with Bob in I think October 1991 and he mentored me for many years and his idea from downtown Atlanta was birthed also in Belfast, what, 20 years later, actually, almost to today.

So, there was economic regeneration that -- we have an Irish language center there. That it sits very much within a lawless inner-city working-class community bordering on a Catholic community. And language has been very divisive in our space, to put it mildly. But we were saying that this should be a language for all people. So, very much we did a mix of economic regeneration and also what we call uncomfortable conversations and dialogue at the same time, as well as having a -- we had a worshiping center there because it really grew out of the Methodist Church, which I was mission superintendent.

And I often say to some of my Palestinian-Israeli colleagues, and this is just a pipe dream or maybe it is not, I said, "I would love to see Skenos project between east and west Jerusalem, bringing those two folks together for economic regeneration, but also for those very painful, uncomfortable, difficult conversations." A New York journalist once said, "In order to disagree, well, you need to understand well." And how do we create a context as we did in our context and we're still doing it to align people, even though they disagree, to at least humanize and understand the other person's narrative.

A rabbi has asked me a question, I quote back a Jewish rabbi, Abraham Joshua Heschel, as you all know, with Martin Luther King, Jr. during the Civil Rights Movement. He said, "Dehumanization precedes genocide." But he also said this, and I quote another Jewish rabbi, Jonathan Sacks. Jonathan Sacks talks about linguistic violence. And Abraham Joshua said, "It was words, not machines that create ashes." So, we need a language when we disagree, which we will do. But it helps us to humanize and understand the other person. That's been crucial in our peace process, absolutely crucial.

George Salem: Hiba Husseini?

Hiba Husseini: Gary, quick question. The Israelis and Palestinians today, in terms of our leaderships, are saying that the conditions on the ground are not conducive to the restart of dialogue at the political level. I'd like to hear your opinion on that and how we can maybe impart to them that this can change and how we can change it.

Gary Mason: Yeah. Just before I came on here, I just had a conversation with an academic in the Northeast of England at Newcastle University there in Newcastle. I mean, I remember very literally, I mean, honestly, in another church in Springfield Road, literally one of those massive Berlin type walls that separate Protestant and Catholics community, sadly, still to this day in Belfast. It was very dark days in October 1993, Shankill bombing then with Greysteel, very, very difficult.

And yet even during those very dark, difficult days, we kept channels open to those people with whom we disagreed because we knew people, both within both Unionist lawless community and Republican nicest community, were doing their utmost to bring their constituencies into some form of dialogue, which eventually resulted in ceasefires. And even if politicians are not doing this in the public space, it behooves people within the Middle East to create spaces that may not necessarily be in that region, necessarily, but maybe removing people. Like, I often tell the story, and it's a humorous story, where I was in South Africa way, way back in September 1991, just as apartheid was coming to an end, and a group of our key actors went there. It was kind of '95, '96. They wouldn't travel on the same plane. They wouldn't travel them in Boston, South Africa. And the South Africa situation was different than the Northern Irish situation. But they come back with a, as I often say, maybe, just maybe.

I think one of the things we need to do for those of us who take an interest in that region is trying to engender what I call an oxygen of hope. I had a delegation in -- I mean, I've had numerous Israelis and Palestinians in post-COVID -- but my first delegation come in October. And the young Palestinian woman come up to me and said, "Gary, this could be a waste of time." And I said, you know, "You may be right. But when you leave here on Thursday evening, I just want you to be able to say just three words and those words are ‘maybe just maybe.’ I'm not giving you a blueprint for peace in the Middle East. I mean, that's way beyond my skill base." And on a Thursday evening, this young Palestinian woman come up to me with tears in her eyes said, "Gary, maybe just maybe."

So, how do we, all of us in this room, my colleagues who I see virtually in D.C. and my colleagues in Jordan and in Europe, how do we breathe an oxygen of hope into the Middle East -- there's a maybe just maybe?" That's also a crucial role as well as funding.

George Salem: Thank you, Gary. I think we'll take one more question from Congressman Wexler, then we need to move on.

Robert Wexler: Gary, you identify as one of the primary ingredients of all comments on [unintelligible]. I'm curious if you can identify, from your experience, what are the best strategies that address the conflict aspects of identity and are there particular applications in your mind that would apply to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict?

Gary Mason: One of the key concepts is the Good Friday Agreement and I'm not going to go near Brexit today or we'll be having this conversation probably at midnight D.C. time. The Good Friday Agreement actually blurred identity. You want to designate as British, that's fine. Designate as IRA, that's fine. Designate as European, that's fine. So, for me, you know, I could designate as all three and I do because all those different aspects have shaped my life as a person. I often highlight, colleagues, there's nothing wrong with identity being an American, Brazilian, Jordanian, Polish. The difficulty is when you combine ethnic, religious, nationalism. That's where the problem with identity actually starts. So, we spill into things like politics of superiority or theologies of superiority, which actually becomes demeaning.

I mean, if the French historian Jules Isaacs talks about the teaching of contempt, where we make another person contemptible, because they don't share my identity. Within that world of the Middle East, people designate as Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs, but they are people from the Middle East. And, you know, I think many -- I mean, I've had many, even, I've had the rabbis here with me in Belfast and they still hold very, very dear. Many of them are speaking Arabic. I kind of almost teasing a colleague of mine who's an Irish language expert, "I have a great project for you. How do you neutralize language, Hebrew, Arabic, Irish, English?" Because sadly, we can also politicize and sectarianized language as well.

So, it's trying to blur those identities. And the key thing for me, as I finish, is just humanizing that other person. And having the honesty to say, because I've had senior people involved in the IRA, senior people have told me that the three relationships, while not agreeing constitutionally, but have had the integrity to say, you know, "If I hadn't been born 200 yards away from a Catholic neighborhood, my life would have been different and vice versa."

So, hundreds of Israelis and Palestinians begin to say, "If I'm born in Ramallah, instead of Tel Aviv, my life will be different and vice versa." That only comes through relationships. And I would say -- and those early days initially, meeting quietly and secretly, and that was key and moving our peace process forward before we gradually tried to move us into the public sphere and build confidence. But I admire a colleague of many here. I really wish you well in what you're doing. I travel back out to Israel, Palestine on the 18th of November. And I'm actually taking 12 young British, Irish in their 20s and 30s, who I have linked with an organization - Amal Tikvah. Two great words. Tikvah hope in the language of Hebrew and Amal hope in the Arabic language. Let's remember that oxygen of hope colleagues. That's what we need, and I wish you well.

George Salem: Thank you very much, Gary. Congresswoman Lowey, did you have a question or a comment? You need to turn on your mic, please. There we go.

Nita Lowey: Yes, I was thinking as you spoke. The question I have in the Middle East situation, would the leaders in the Palestinian authority support a two-state solution? Is that realistic? Is that a dream? Is that a possibility?

Gary Mason: Great question, but I will not answer in a couple of minutes. But look, I would say, no, I've actually sent this to your colleague last night. I think I was talking to somebody in the Northern Ireland -- Jerusalem yesterday. And I said no one on your committee or in my space is going to wake up tomorrow, we're going to text each other and say, "Gary, I've got this worked out, whether it's two state, one state confederation, whatever." Most of us have some idea of what the possibility may be.

I'm one of those people that don't believe a two-state solution is there, despite what some people say, and I respect their opinion. And I say that, categorically. There were many things happen in our Irish peace process that people said were impossible. I mean, Bertie Ahern, a former Irish Taoiseach has been immensely helpful to me over the years, and we've traveled together and spoken together. I mean, Bertie, I know you wouldn't mind me quoting them publicly, removing articles two and three from the Irish constitution, which claimed territorial jurisdiction over Northern Ireland was incredibly difficult, incredibly difficult, but it happened. And so, I still want to believe that we can have two states people living beside one another. Some people will pour, scorn, and listen, I respect that, and you can do that. But I still believe that is the best model categorically for that region.

George Salem: Thank you, Gary. So much of what you say resonates with us, particularly, in terms of our work at MEPPA building, supporting civil society for a peace process, addressing the trust deficit, which is particularly acute these days with the clashes we're seeing everywhere. And helping people understand the respective narrative of the other side is so very important. Thank you, again, for an excellent presentation.

Gary Mason: Best wishes, colleagues, and thank you so much for your time.

George Salem: Thank you.

Gary Mason: Okay, thank you.

George Salem: For our next presentation, I would like to introduce USAID Mission Director of the West Bank and Gaza, Ms. Amy Tohill-Stull. Amy is a core member of the senior foreign service, has more than 25 years of development experience in countries characterized by conflict transition and humanitarian crisis. In my second trip as Chair, I spent a good bit of time with Amy during this last visit to the region and I can tell you, truthfully, USAID is indeed fortunate to have her running the mission and we welcome her remarks today.

Amy Tohill-Stull: Thank you very much, George, for that kind introduction. And good afternoon, everyone. It's so great to join you here in person today. I arrived in Jerusalem at the end of July and I'm very excited to be in my position for four years and bring to the job indeed a passion and a commitment for the work that we're discussing here today.

It is my pleasure to present on the successes and the progress in implementing the Nita M. Lowey Middle East Partnership for Peace Act or MEPPA during its first year of implementation. And as you know, we launched programs in just March of this year. We've been working extremely hard as a mission to ensure that MEPPA lifts off the ground in a timely and robust manner in order to fulfill the intent of the legislation. And we're really truly excited for the momentum that we are already seeing as we begin to initiate new programming.

Over the past two fiscal years since the pause in USAID funding from 2018 to 2021, we have programmed nearly $250 million in benefit of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza. This has included $46.5 million in FY21 MEPPA funds, as well as $10 million in funding for conflict mitigation and management programming, which also has a peacebuilding focus. The security situation in the West Bank and Gaza remains tense. As you've just heard, we experienced a flare up in August in Gaza. This coincided in fact, with my first week of arrival within country. And today, we're seeing violence in the West Bank at an all-time high since 2015.

Fortunately, the security trends haven't yet impeded our ability to access the West Bank and carry out our programs. Nonetheless, we're concerned about the safety and the security of our partners as well as our staff. And we're monitoring the situation closely to assess any potential impact for the broader portfolio including the implementation of MEPPA. The current tensions and the increased level of insecurity I think underscore why MEPPA is so, so important. Building people-to-people connections by bringing communities together to address common development challenges helps to build that trust and that social cohesion, which is essential to lay the foundation for an eventual two state solution.

In today's presentation, I'd like to focus on the progress of USAID's MEPPA program in the first year of implementation. And as you're aware, there are two tracks to MEPPA. The first is the Partnership for Peace Fund, which is implemented by USAID, and, then, the second is the Joint Investment for Peace initiative, which is implemented by the Development Finance Corporation.

For fiscal year 2021, we managed $46.5 million of the MEPPA funding. As a result of which, we now have awarded, as you've just heard, nine grants to civil society organizations and these grants are of varying amounts and durations and address different sectors. And, then, in addition to that, we've also awarded a five-year contract called Building Regional Economic Bridges or BREB. The small grant solicitation opened on September 2, 2021. And the mission accepted applications under the solicitation on a rolling basis for a one-year period. And during this time, we received 166 applications from 31 U.S. based organizations, 111 Israeli organizations, 21 Palestinian organizations, and three U.S. organizations.

The funding requests range from $40,000 to $5 million and focused on a range of sectors and topics including things like agriculture and virtual reality sports and the like. And I believe we have another slide that, here we are, that shows the range of the various themes of the applications that we received. USAID selected the proposals with the strongest technical merit based on a thorough review process. And from the applications we received, we made, as I noted, five awards and these are direct grants.

Five of -- rather five of these new awards are two organizations that are new partners of USAID and we're hoping to build their capacity over the period of time that we're working with them in order to ensure that they can leverage funds from other donors. For three of the nine organizations, these weren't the first time that they were applicants to the Partnership for Peace solicitation. They have actually applied under earlier rounds, they were unsuccessful. They received feedback from the USAID team and they were able to refine their application, resubmit their proposals and proceed on to win an award in the final round.

And I think this is a very positive story to tell because it actually shows that organizations can successfully receive feedback, strengthen their proposals, and then move on to be able to receive awards from USAID. The awardees represent a broad spectrum of civil society. Three are Israeli organizations and six are American, but they're not the traditional partners that we typically work with. Moreover, there are five Palestinian sub partners. And we're purposely looking for those applications that really allow us to develop ideas and co-create with our partners and work alongside them to, you know, develop their theory of change, and set reasonable targets and outline their budgets in a way that's realistic.

And so, in this regard, we're not necessarily identifying what we see as the shiniest of proposals. But really, those that are the diamond in the rough that have the potential to really generate real change and have felt impact. The nine successful grants total $20 million and, individually, they range from $600,000 to $5 million. With the goal of improving lives, they include a number of sectors including health, technology, engineering, female empowerment, business development, and climate adaptation.

They are among other things, training women entrepreneurs, building bridges between trade associations, supporting youth led startups, bringing together Palestinian and Israeli medical professionals, developing low-cost products for the elderly and disabled, and connecting water scientists to create new joint water models. All of these activities are designed to enhance connection and relationships between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as result in a tangible development impact.

For board members in the room, I believe, we've -- I provided to you ahead of this meeting, the list of the boards. And for those of you who've joined us virtually, I encourage you to take a look at the USAID website where you will find narrative about each of the 10 different awards that we have made. During this Advisory Board meeting, I want to reflect back and appreciate the recommendations that the Board provided in April, including the suggestion to look at sectors such as STEM, health, economic growth, and opportunities with U.S. universities to bring Israeli and Palestinian students together. And you'll find in the current list of programs that we are funding that you will know that each of these areas that I have just mentioned, in fact, have benefited from the award of a grant.

The mission is now focused on ensuring that the various grants started quickly and that they begin delivering results. And recognizing that peacebuilding work is complicated, we created a MEPPA community of practice to regularly convene the MEPPA implementers so they can share progress and experiences, discuss and troubleshoot challenges, and also learn from one another. We've convened this community of practice multiple times to date, including to conduct a media training in August to help our partners with outreach. In November, we will conduct a multiple day performance management training for all MEPPA partners to help them set performance targets and also measure progress toward results.

And then finally, in order not to duplicate efforts across the U.S. government, we've been working closely with our interagency colleagues to coordinate our programs. And I think a particularly salient example of this is how we worked with our State Department colleagues at post. Whereby when we received a recommendation from the Board to train Palestinian journalists, we were able to quickly work with our state department colleagues in order for them to do more work in this particular regard. Because MEPPA isn't the only grant making mechanism that's in place within the U.S. government, I think this type of coordination obviously is very important to continue and to ensure that we're not duplicating efforts.

In addition to the nine grants, the mission also awarded the Building Regional Economic Bridges activity or BREB and obligated an initial $20 million into this contract when it was awarded to Chemonics International in September. BREB's objective is to overcome barriers between the Palestinian and Israeli private sectors and promote joint economic and applied research opportunities at the individual and the institutional level, as well as the exchange of technologies, including with American firms.

And, already, I want to note that we've seen just tremendous potential for BREB and in my interactions in the West Bank just recently heard of so much interest amongst the private sector for BREB and the important type of support that it can provide to companies. BREB will build trust between buyers and sellers in the region through information sharing and will expand market reach including regionally. Through this particular contract, the implementing partner will identify and support cross border partnerships and trade opportunities for Palestinian firms, support research and development collaboration between educational institutions, and increase the competitiveness of firms. Over the course of five years, we expect that BREB will also provide $20 million in strategic grants to strengthen local industry organizations to promote trade and support technology transfer to local firms as well as established mentorship and internship programs.

At the conclusion of BREB, USAID expects that we will have facilitated 75 economic and research partnership agreements between Palestinians, Israelis, and the wider region. We also expect that BREB will increase Palestinian exports by about $350 million. Moreover, we anticipate that BREB will establish 25 educational exchange programs and place 1,500 Palestinian graduates and internships including in Israel.

And then lastly, we are working through BREB to develop a pipeline of investment opportunities for the Development Finance Corporation to take forward up to $50 million in total. As MEPPA programming comes on line, we understand the importance of ensuring that each organization, many of whom are new to USAID funding, have strong program management practices in place. So, following the board meeting and the recommendations that you all made in April, USAID made a commitment to invest in accountability, staff, and communications in the MEPPA programs.

And toward this end, I want to share with all of you today some of the work that we're doing to strengthen the monitoring, evaluation, and learning of our partners to build capacity at the organizational level and ensure a robust communication strategy in order to publicize the accomplishments of the MEPPA activities.

So, to start, regarding monitoring, evaluation, and learning, in recent months, we've invited peacebuilding and monitoring and evaluation experts from USAID center of conflict and violence prevention to the mission to support the development of a methodology to measure MEPPA results and assess capacity building needs of organizations seeking to engage in MEPPA's peacebuilding efforts. We developed a results framework to guide progress toward accomplishment of the metric goal, as stated in the legislation, which as we know is to help build the foundation for peaceful coexistence between Israelis and Palestinians and for a sustainable two-state solution.

The results framework is organized under three baskets of results. These include strengthen grassroots efforts to address common challenges and foster peaceful coexistence, enhanced peacebuilding efforts to affect institutional and policy change, and then finally, improved economic cooperation ties between Israeli and Palestinian firms and institutions to realize opportunities for cross border exchanges of knowledge, technology, and commerce. Program success will be measured in these three areas through regular monitoring of static indicators, as well as longer term quantitative and qualitative evaluation of how, and to what extent interventions have changed the attitudes and the behaviors of individuals and the operations of institutions. This will include measuring change at the personal and the community levels, as well as in local government institutions, and the business environment. Along with the results framework, MEPPA team is putting together a performance management plan. And this plan will serve as a roadmap for monitoring and evaluating program performance throughout MEPPA. And over the coming months, we'll fine tune the various indicators that will comprise that performance management plan.

Regarding capacity building, in September, the mission conducted a capacity building landscape analysis. The primary point of feedback that we received from potential partners is that they want to know how they can work with USAID and are not aware of the resources that are available to them to enable them to do so. So, in follow up, we're promoting existing resources like working with USAID, which is a free global service hub that's dedicated to engaging potential partners and demystifying the process on how to work with USAID.

We're also looking at how the procurement process can be utilized to help generate greater interest and ease the application process. For example, to respond to the difficult application process this past year, we, in fact, you know, stripped away some of the more strict requirements that we see in place in other missions and only required a seven-page concept paper for organizations that are new to USAID processes in order to make the process more easier for them to be able to participate in.

And then, if a concept note was promising, we introduced the applicant to our co-creation process where they were able to work with our technical experts to flesh out the theory of change, set reasonable indicators, refine the scope of their proposal, and discuss appropriate budget levels with us. In this way, we didn't, you know, offhandedly dismiss proposals that had potential, but instead went through this co-creation approach in order to really develop the proposals in order to ensure that we have the best proposals at the end of the day.

Additionally, we're planning for in-person outreach events. And prior to award, Mission -- we'll want to broaden the applicant pool and answer questions about the process and the requirements upfront in order to facilitate, again, that application process. We're also committed to growing our partner's capacities throughout the life of the awards at an institution to each partner having access to our experts in media training. We’re offering financial management and technical support through staff members within the Mission.

Because less than 13 percent of the grant applicants were Palestinian organizations, it's imperative that we build trust and awareness among Palestinian organizations, including by publicizing the results of grants that are already underway. And so, this leads me to the final point that I want to talk about: communications. And we've put into place a three-pronged communications strategy. The first prong is to build awareness of MEPPA as a USAID resource to foster people-to-people engagement between Israelis and Palestinian in order to lay the foundation for a two-state solution. And through this component of the communication strategy, we aim to increase recognition of MEPPA amongst the residents in Israel and Palestinian territories.

And then under the second prong, we're encouraging new partnerships with local organizations to increase diversity in MEPPA partner applicants. Moreover, we're seeking to identify and address existing stigmas associated with participation in MEPPA. And then lastly, we're seeking to maintain the excellent bipartisan Congressional understanding in support for MEPPA and people-to-people engagement.

Overall, as we know, MEPPA is a good news story and we're ramping up our media engagement in order to bring attention to the partnerships that were supporting the development challenges that we seek to address and the personal impact of the people-to-people connections that we will be seeing unfold in the coming years.

Looking forward, my team is building upon the successes of this last year. We're in the process of planning for next year's MEPPA portfolio of which USAID expects the program approximately $45 million in addition to the bilateral West Bank and Gaza program budget of $219 million. We're taking care to ensure that the bilateral portfolio and the microprogramming are complementary. And in this regard, we've completely aligned the results framework for MEPPA and their broader portfolio.

Again, I'd like to take the opportunity to express here my gratitude for the recommendations that we received already to date from all of you and really look forward to understanding how we can better incorporate recommendations including those that will receive from you today. We're also simultaneously looking at ways in which we can enhance capacity of the various organizations with which we're seeking to work. And looking at whether that might be a dedicated capacity building type mechanism or perhaps a kind of mechanism that is combined with a small grant's portfolio in response to a lot of the input that we've already received from you in the past.

Our teams are also looking at how we might internationalize MEPPA. As we've already spoken about here today, we've been having a lot of conversations with other donors. I participated in some of those with Megan in New York just last month. And moreover, we're having a call with the donor community in November of this year. And it really looks to try to generate interest and other donors putting forward funding for complementary peacebuilding activities or even potential provision of funds to USAID to add into the MEPPA mechanism.

And so, with all of that, I think I'll wrap up at this point in time so that we can have plenty of space here for questions and answers. But again, I look forward to hearing your feedback. And moreover, I look forward to you coming to the region in February to witness the progress that we're making firsthand. Thank you.

Nita Lowey: Mr. Chairman?

George Salem: Yes, Congresswoman Lowey.

Nita Lowey: First of all, I want to thank you for that outstanding report. And I would like to respectfully request the report in writing because too many of us don't hear these very exciting examples. During my last visit, when Nancy Pelosi and I were there, we met with some of these groups that are doing remarkable things, and no one knows about it and it's tough. They have a real challenge. So, that, I would like to request that your report, which is much information, details, numbers, et cetera, be distributed to all of us because I'd like to talk about it whenever I have the opportunity. And when we are there in February, these are the kinds of projects you really want to see. So, I thank you for your excellent report.

George Salem: Thank you, Congresswoman. I think that's an excellent suggestion and we look forward to receiving it. The Administrator is with us for another five minutes or so. So, I'm going to open it up for questions for both Amy and the Administrator. She has offered to answer any questions before she has a hard stop. Congressman Wexler, you have your hand.

Robert Wexler: Thank you. I will be quick. I wasn't planning on suggesting this. But your comments, which are excellent, I just want to second what Nita said regarding capacity building mechanisms. I think we could think even bigger. There are some great proposals that come from across the political spectrum, for instance, to help capacity of Palestinians, but it can be done, Palestinians and Israelis jointly, to export products.

For instance, there are elements of the Trump proposal whether we as individuals, good, bad, or indifferent, that have railroad lines that go from the northern part of the West Bank to the port of Haifa, the central or south part of the West Bank to the port of Ashdod. How cool would it be? If not -- but we could even name it the Nita M. Lowey railroad. But how cool would it be if USAID and DFC could not just teach people how to work together as business people, businessmen and women? But how cool would it be if the American government provided the port space at one of the Israeli ports where Palestinians, under security control of Israelis, of course, could actually export millions, countless numbers of projects? It seems to me that's a capacity building mechanism that would be remarkable. But if we're waiting for the Israelis and Palestinians to figure out a way to do it, we'll be waiting for decades.

George Salem: Thank you for that excellent intervention, Congressman. Mr. Abrams?

Elliott Abrams: Thank you. You know, RAND did a product -- a project on that about 15 years ago called the Arc about a railroad worth taking a look. My question or suggestion - we are dealing with an outbreak of violence in the West Bank. And, you know, if the answer is to solve the economic problem, that's going to take a while. I wonder if there are any possible projects that deal more directly with this question of who are the individuals, young men, you know, that are engaging in these acts of violence.

It's a very small percentage of the population so why are they doing it? I don't know whether AID has -- this is more like a state INL thing -- but, has ever undertaken projects that try to deal with this question in other places in the world. Obviously, the question of what leads these individuals into violence, lack of economic opportunity, lack of educational opportunity, family problems. There's a lot of studies of this. And I'm just wondering whether we could conceivably back a project that deals with that.

George Salem: Thank you, Elliot. Excellent points. Oh, is there hands on the screen? Okay. Farah, you first and then Nickolay.

Farah Bdour: Thank you so much, George. I thank you, Amy, for the presentation and the work. I want to touch on the issue of impact. As you know, there are hundreds of organizations that work in the field of people-to-people along the lines of promoting genuine reconciliations. However, the impact of these organizations and shaping the realities of people is either not significant or not felt by the communities. One of the many reasons that tender achieving impact, the fact that these organizations are operating in silos. They are -- there's a lot of competition between the well-established organizations while the smaller ones don't have the chance to compete and they all lack coordination and synergies.

And I was wondering if MEPPA have ever considered the issue of encouraging these organizations to apply as a consortium of multiple organizations and having coordination mechanisms through a cluster of systems that will help focusing efforts where and when it is needed. I know that the issue of, you know, forming consortiums has a lot of criticism in terms of operational, administrative, and financial responsibilities. But also, we know from working in the field that there are many lessons that we can draw on how to use this model to transform the field to demonstrate cooperation in a region that lacks role models for cooperation.

And I truly believe that the cluster system can also strengthen the capacity of smaller organizations and encouraging the formation of new ones and eventually lead to standardize the monitoring and evaluation process that you are referred to. And maybe a little longer term, this model could facilitate the drafting a field-wide strategy and consequently maximize the impact of people-to-people. So, I was wondering if this idea was considered and, if it was, why it was not adopted? Thank you.

George Salem: Amy, you want to tackle those three first and then we'll see what kind of time we have left for the others?

Amy Tohill-Stull: Absolutely, sure. Let me start with the last question. Farah, thank you so much for the suggestion that you made. As we look back over year one and, you know, think about, you know, where we go in the future, your idea of consortiums is one that has occurred to us as well and how, you know, we can bring different organizations together. And so, this is an idea that we're continuing to think through and how this might be, you know, applied under MEPPA. But likely, in this next year, under our public solicitation, this will be a potential for awardees to consider to come together as you know and to leverage the different strengths that they bring.

On capacity building, as I noted, in my formal remarks, we're looking at a couple of things. We're looking at how to expand MEPPA, perhaps such that we can provide the space for smaller organizations to participate. And our thinking through now what kind of a threshold, you know, makes the most sense for small grants component of MEPPA. But as we move in that direction, the capacity building is fundamentally important to make sure that smaller organizations that have never worked with USAID before are in fact successful in doing so.

And so, we're considering, you know, a standalone capacity building mechanism within the mission or potential other options, such as combining small grants and capacity building together. But we can't agree with you more that capacity building is a fundamentally important aspect of MEPPA.

George Salem: I have, as hands raise, Nickolay, Heather, Hiba, and Dina, and Michael, and the Administrator has to leave. Let me, before we go to other questions, ask Samantha if she has anything she wants to say or if any one of the questions is directed at her. If you have a question for the Administrator, raise your hand. Otherwise, Madam Administrator, please, the floor is yours.

Samantha Power: I'm 20 minutes after I was supposed to go, but this is so important. So, I would just say a couple of things. I mean, first of all, within the four corners of this board and this room and this network, we're talking about this incredible fund, this new infusion of resources. It's so rare. As Mark knows that USAID has kind of new money and gets to, you know --- we have these legacy resources. We have earmarks that had been around for a long time. So, it's very exciting to kind of hear the first cut of how this is being implemented.

To look at, I mean, I would just come back to -- maybe this is my Irish way of looking at the world -- but, some of the challenges that we're already seeing, you know, around the stigma, which I'd love the Board to engage on at some point, the disparities Amy flagged at the end, between the number of applicants, 111 Israeli organizations applying, 21 Palestine organizations so far that gets it, probably some trust issues, but also some capacity issues. But unpacking that, I think, would be really, really important, the, what I call, multilateralization, what Amy called internationalization, you know.

Again, we're within this room, I, you know -- as I go out of here, we'll be thinking about famine in the Horn of Africa, the fact that Pakistan, a large portion of it, is still underwater, of course, Ukraine and winterization. And the demands on other people's budgets are so significant. But what's so exciting about this is I think we can be in a position to show this funding also as catalytic in a way that can appeal, you know, even to -- for example, the British who have cut funding dramatically for humanitarian and development resources. But, in making necessity the mother of invention, also have now put forth a vision that is much more about leveraging the money that they invest, you know, for other things.

So, as we go forth to Canada, the United Kingdom, to other countries that have expressed, you know, they've been intrigued by this and expressed interest. And now that we have proof of concept, you know, your thoughts on, again, how to bring other stakeholders in, you know, again, the sort of big picture backdrop. There's many aspects of the big picture outside this challenge. But in general, you just see fund despite, you know, all the knock-on effects of Ukraine. Ukraine itself, you know, the chronic conflicts that just never end and that get more expensive as inflation goes up. And so, the more demands in more places, the UN funding appeals are almost double what they were just a year ago and those had broken all records. But the donor resources for development and humanitarian assistance are at best flat.

And one part of the world that has been very, just in the confines of this room, but very disappointing, you know, are those in fact who've done relatively well with fuel prices going up and, you know, that would be countries in the Gulf that have relationships now mercifully and wonderfully on both sides. So, thinking about internationalization in a very specific way about who might be drawn in as normalization occurs either behind the scenes in a not yet formal way or in the incredibly important ways that are more visible, you know, tapping that network as well because I think we really -- we are creating proof of concept here. It is a bandwagon, I think, that people will want to get onto not least because I think things feel so stuck, you know, in the more high-profile ways in which these issues have been engaged. But I did just want to bring in, again, a view from outside of this issue, which is just how arguably, I don't want to say, unimaginative, but unambitious any, many donor countries are being at this moment.

And so, maybe this can be like a wedge issue, again, to where we get the nose under the tent on this issue -- because, you know, on other crises, other conflicts or other structural challenges could -- just hasn't been an appetite really to go big. And I will say, since all of you were -- who are not our international board members -- were appointed by members of Congress. What our Congress has done in the two supplementals in the wake of the Putin's invasion of Ukraine has put the United States in this incredible leadership position.

This bipartisanship which, you know, probably if you would have predicted, could produce that kind of resource investment is an investment not only in Ukraine and massive budget support. Without which, Ukraine would not be able to keep the lights on. But it's also humanitarian assistance in the broader Middle East which -- and humanitarian assistance we can access here as well because of the knock-on effects of Putin's war on, you know, basic livelihoods and humanitarian conditions in every country, every developing country, or every vulnerable community.

So, we've been incredibly fortunate as America to be such a leader in this moment on Ukraine, but it's less visible. But in the Horn of Africa, you know, on Syria, you know, on food security and like giving people seeds that are more resistant and resilient to drought, you know, the kind of food security work, again, that Mark did so much on when he was in this role. But that backdrop is going to matter as we think about, you know -- as this thing gets going and we start to be very proud, I think, of the work that is going on and break down some of these trust barriers, we're going to want to do more of it. And that's DFC -- I know the Board has made a request for DFC to come and brief -- Scott Nathan and I are on speed dial and the Cice chair of the Board of the Development Finance Corporation.

You know, we should think about other country's development finance institutions as well as their -- but the drain on resources -- the amount of need on planet Earth right now means that we're going to really need your ideas about how we draw attention back to these communities and to this region because there is a sense of kind of, you know, nothing's happening, you know, it's not going anywhere. And this is what's so great about this kind of, you know, this fund is it's refusing to accept that. It is just saying there is always something we can do.

And even though most of us couldn't understand our Northern Irish colleague, when he was saying “maybe just maybe,” I was thinking it's “MEPPA just MEPPA.” But he was saying “maybe just maybe.” And you have to be Irish, perhaps to have known exactly what he's saying. But maybe just maybe, right, we will be more effective than we have been on other files. Because I don't think anybody feels comfortable actually walking away or resigning themselves to the idea that this is the best it can get, right, because it's just getting worse in that circumstance.

So, bringing in that view from outside of this conversation that it's really hard. But that, I think -- the details around impact put us in a position, again, to try to bring stakeholders to this conversation. And again, where the broader normalization conversations are going also potentially could attract interest here, but we will welcome your ideas and your help potentially in outreach in that regard. Thank you so much.

George Salem: Thank you, Administrator Power for your time today and your commitment to our work. We are over time for good reasons -- engagement by board members. What I suggest is, thank you, is that we take our 10-minute break. And when we return, the questions can be raised of Amy in the discussion phase. We'll start with those and then we'll get to the USAID questions that we have outlined for the Board.

And with that, we'll take our 10-minute break. Thank you very much.

George Salem: If everyone could come in and take their seats, we'd like to resume. Everyone, we have a hard stop at 3:45 p.m. so -- because some people have to leave. So, if everyone could please take their seats, we'd like to continue. Okay. Everyone, let's go ahead and resume if we could, please. Thanks to all our presenters. We have a hard stop until to 3:45 p.m. because some people have to catch planes so that gives us a little over 32 minutes. So, I'm going to suggest that the people that had questions raise them in the context of the Board discussion around the USAID frame questions so that we can proceed at pace. We're looking at this section to get feedback for USAID and recommendations.

As I said in my preparations for this meeting and introductions, we're looking to get consensus wherever possible and, where it isn't, to try to get a sense of majority opinion. And rather than going around one at a time like we did in the last virtual board meeting, I will pose the questions that each of the board members received in advance of the meeting and ask if anyone has any comments they would like to make. And I will give priority in the comments to the people that had their hands raised.

The first question is: we're now in the first year of MEPPA programming and we expect that USAID will have at least five years of funding God willing. When MEPPA programs have concluded, what are your hopes in terms of results and what do you want this program to accomplish? And, since it's the Nita Lowey MEPPA fund, I'd like to turn first to Congresswoman Lowey to see if she had any thoughts.

Nita Lowey: Well, let me just thank everyone --

George Salem: Microphone, please.

Nita Lowey: -- you're very kind -- for all of us who were here. We're here because we really care and we're passionate about peace in the region. And there's nothing like economic development investing in people that I think moves the process forward as effectively as we can. So, we're going in February, and I am very enthusiastic about seeing some of the projects that we're funding. And I would say, the last time I was there -- Nancy Pelosi and I were there -- you really see progress. Now many of us get impatient, but we have to, I think, focus on success and try to see -- frankly, have more success in other programs that make a difference in people's lives. So, I just like to see progress towards peace and people-to-people programs.

George Salem: Thank you. Any other comments or questions? Dina Powell McCormick?

Dina Powell McCormick: Habib, too, right?

[laughter]

I wanted to follow up and relate to this specific question on Congressman Wexler's point about capacity building and using this as catalytic capital. I mean, this is obviously a significant amount of funds, new funds, which is very rare these days. But how do we really think about leveraging it most effectively? I just returned from the region two days ago. And ironically, the Middle East right now has more economic potential, you know, just given the underlying foundations there, than Asia does than Europe does. You know, our economists are really predicting economic downturns in other parts of the world. And yet the Middle East has some opportunity.

And just, you know -- I know we're working with DFC, but is there an angle where we might be able to work with the private sector? You know, there's a lot of commerce now that's happening between Gulf countries and Israel and a lot of people on the ground who are really interested in supporting efforts like these but don't know how, and frankly would love to have as a partner of the U.S. government because they're very anxious about supporting organizations on their own that they have to bet. So, you know, $50 million is wonderful, but have we thought about how you turn that into $100 million? I mean, is there even statutorily an ability to match funds or to think about some public-private partnerships?

George Salem: The answer to your question is there is statutory flexibility and internationalization is a goal that many of us articulated at the outset. Now, I know in my trips to the region, I like to travel there recently, I had conversations in the UAE, in Saudi Arabia, and in Qatar. Everyone's interested. Everyone wants to get involved because it's helping the Palestinian people and helping the Palestinians, Israelis work together to create a two-state solution. We have got to get our act together as AID, seems to me, to be able to take full advantage of the interest and you also have governmental money that could be available.

I know Megan has had extensive meetings in the HLC and elsewhere and there is interest. And I think we should work to take advantage of that internationalization, to my mind, whether it be private government or both. We should be able to leverage 250 to something significantly more. Any other comments or questions on this? Mark and then Michael, yeah. Oh, and Nickolay had his hand up. So, Nickolay, you are from before so I'm going to recognize you first.

Nickolay Mladenov: Oh, thank you, Chair, and thanks Amy for the excellent report as well. I had a list of questions which you happily answered as you were presenting yourself. Just, firstly, a couple of brief comments. One is I was very glad to see that there are a number of projects that have on women on economic opportunities and on common challenges related particularly to the environment which are in place. I think there's great scope for stuff to be done in these areas.

One thing, however, that I hope we can see more of is projects that actually bring Israelis and Palestinians together to think through what are the political options for finding a solution to this conflict. We all know that it is, you know -- the core of it is the two-state solution. But I think there is a general lack of ideas out there currently given the circumstances on the ground and the difficulties that are being faced and the violence that is now reemerging. And some thought needs to be put by Israelis and Palestinians possibly together on identifying new avenues, new narratives, new opportunities for finding a political resolution to the conflict that would supplement the work that we are doing on the ground on the economic front and others.

Secondly, I was also wondering to what extent the projects that have been approved, and perhaps future projects, would be able to address some of the huge divisions that exists between Gaza and the West Bank. We face a situation in which the people in Gaza live in horrendous circumstances under commercialism oppression on the top and with very, very difficult economic conditions, difficult movement restrictions and all that we're all very aware of. But certainly, there are -- there is a need to try and find ways in which you can break some of the divisions that exist within both the Palestinian and Israeli society separately. And indeed, that is one of the priorities.

And lastly, I think, the point of internationalization, a lot has been said about that. And clearly, natural partners would be Europe and I would encourage both USAID and, hopefully we can all work together as an Advisory Board, to reach out to partners in the European Union, both as Member States and the European institutions. The European Parliament is obviously a natural ally, I would imagine, for MEPPA in the future, but also the Gulf countries has been said. So, why not consider in the future as we get more traction on the projects? As we said earlier, we have already proof of concept, why don't we consider actually reaching out as an advisory board to our partners in the Middle East -- in the region?

There are endless, I think, emerging opportunities that are stemming from both the Abraham Accords and other existing formats between the country -- between Arab countries in Israel. Why not consider opportunities where we see Jordanians, Israelis, and Palestinians working together on projects or Egypt or further beyond? So, perhaps we may want to consider also an Advisory Board visit downline to the Gulf countries to make the sales pitch if you wish, for lack of a better word, for the achievements of map and to seek support for funding. I think that would be very welcome and I think partners in the Gulf would very much appreciate that outreach.

George Salem: Thank you, Nickolay. That's very intriguing because a number of board members have been out to the region individually and making pitches -- have been interesting if we could make coordinated pitches abroad. Any other -- yes, please, Jen. Is your mic on?

Jen Stewart: Two points on internationalization I just want to offer -- and I hope my comments are construed as advancing the energy around the topic, so please just take it in that spirit. But looking across the makeup of the Board, I strongly encourage we identify this as an early topic of socialization on the Hill, particularly with the Appropriations Committee. The reason I say that is the fluid nature of politics in D.C. right now means that there's going to be sensitivities on partners and on potential conditions. And usually, when money is tight, people are more comfortable lobbying conditions on their money. So, making sure that we're keeping the bipartisan, bicameral spirit which Congresswoman Lowey first developed and then get buy-in for the program is something that, as I listen to the conversation, I'm just saying is a little bit of a -- is a red flag for me.

The second thing and I'll be brief, it's just a request for information. I really did enjoy Gary's presentation. And I had a follow up question to Elliot's question about external political leadership. And this gets back to Amy and the Administrator talking about looking at the credibility of the breadth and the spread of our partnerships. And I'd be curious if Gary could provide back to the Board, both from organizationally what actions in the governments such as the United States and Canada take with respect to the Good Friday Accords, particularly after three decades of conflict that made them credible external partners. I think that's a relevant point for this.

And, then, when he mentioned the Canadian General, whose name escapes me right now, but what personal leadership attributes made him a credible partner on the ground I think would be useful as we also, George, from the lunch discussion also talked about over time developing the right ways of measuring ourselves against impact and success. Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you, Jen. Shall I move? Oh, Sander and then -- oh, Mark, Sander, Michael, and Hiba her hand up earlier and Harley. Okay. Remember, we have another three questions to get through as well.

Mark Green: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. And the time is short, so I'll keep my remarks brief. And perhaps, we can follow up after this session and I can provide greater explanation. So, just a few quick points. Number one, to my friends at USAID who know me well, this won't come as a surprise. I urge us to not use funding mechanisms in which we enter into multiyear contracts with D.C. based contractors. I don't think that that gets us what we're all hoping for in terms of community-based leadership and projects. And this has meant more forward looking and not commenting on steps that have been taken as a recognized limited role of this board.

Number two, I think it's also important for us to not roll this money into other development projects. Why? Because then it'll get lost. I think there's such tremendous potential with this fund in this program -- its separation from other development projects. This is not simply another stream of money for water projects and food security projects. Projects, I care about a great deal. This is something different. This is something special. It's named separately. In honor of Nita, I would encourage us to maintain that special nature in separation.

And then just finally, pick the hardest projects you can possibly find. Don't go with the easiest projects to move money. Pick the hardest projects you can possibly find because this is hard, right? We all recognize this is really hard and we should all look at the great work and leadership that Congresswoman Lowey has provided as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to do big, difficult things that move the needle. So, the more we can keep it distinct and separate from the other great work that the Agency is doing, quite frankly, the better off we are, I think. Thank you.

Sander Gerber: Well, I'd like to echo Mark as well as the Congresswoman who said we should invest in people. And I think the difficult thing is to build a civic society over in the territories. And we have to break down the barriers to trust. Trust is impossible when a government advocates violence, glorifies violence, pays for violence. And the PA corruption is stealing the future from the Palestinian people.

So, we should empower civil society, which means civic organizations that provide oversight and spotlight and call out the bad governance. And hopefully -- and to me, that's a difficult thing to do. That's a unique thing to do. I think it's a new avenue that I don't believe has been done before. There are a few domestic organizations and the territories, but they're very constrained in what they can do and how they can go about. And I think that, that would be a tremendous thing if MEPPA can help to spotlight the Palestinian authority corruption is stealing a future from the Palestinian people.

George Salem: Thank you. Hiba Husseini and then Michael.

Hiba Husseini: Thank you, George. I very much agree with Sander on the issue of the civic society. And it is very hard. And it's one of the hardest really to change. So, if we invest long term in that, I think we are looking at a potential for sowing the seeds for the foundation for the change that we're looking for, especially when we focus on youth, which ties into the other area that I want to borrow from Mark's presentation, the aspect of religion and the narratives. I think it's very, very important for us. Also, it will tie in with the civic society changes and the civic education because they're all connected in the Palestinian youth that feels so disadvantaged, so dehumanized, so left alone can start garnering the hope. And we, again, create the momentum for long term change. This is long-term change.

The other issue is, I think, we cannot invest enough in women and gender issues and women's health and educating, also, young, female education as well, because you also see that women hold their sons -- that women do not send their sons to the streets to, you know, to engage in violence and the sisters don't do that. So, again, empowering women to continue to empower their children. And I think focus on the health and also focus on the welfare and the wellbeing of women.

One little project, I think that could also give us some continuity is to -- as we develop more and more projects and get more and more results and impact, I think, to get the alumni of USAID projects together and to also, you know, benefit from their experience, and create a dialogue with them so that they can also impart their knowledge to other organizations. There's a whole list of other issues, but I'll leave that for later on the other question.

George Salem: Thank you, Hiba. Michael?

Michael Cohen: I have a separate question, too. But since we're still in question one, I want to tweak the notion of conclusions of this program. I don't want this program to ever end. The International Fund for Ireland allowed for the Good Friday accords to happen. The International Fund for Ireland still exists. When peace is achieved, it doesn't mean the work is over. It means you've reached the critical stage to really work on the hard issues. So, I hope that the Nita Lowey Middle East Peace Partners Act outlives all of us very seriously.

George Salem: Thank you, Michael. Inshallah. Yeah, Harley, thank you.

Harley Lippman: Sorry. We're a bipartisan group. That's part of the strength of this effort. And I just, in a bipartisan way -- wanted to just second what Jen said earlier because I think it's very important -- the strength of MEPPA is that whether or not a person supports a negotiated two-state solution as the preferred outcome or any other outcome, that individual or that group should be able to embrace the objectives of what we are doing. So, if we define what we're doing, as being towards only one objective, even if I happen to agree with that objective, we may lessen our ability to attract support from those who don't. So, I would just like to join in Jen's comment.

Second, I was in Ramallah two days ago. Palestinian leadership, I think it's fair to say, wants nothing more than to participate in the fruits of the new regional dynamic ushered in by the Abraham Accords. But they have enormous political sensitivities, many of their own doing, which prevent them from doing that. The American umbrella not only provides incentives for other countries to join, like Dina said and Nickolay said, but it also allows, possibly, the Palestinians an entry point that avoids some of their political sensitivities.

George Salem: Thank you all, very salient comments and I think the comments largely apply to each of the questions. I'm going to turn now to question two to see if anyone has anything they wish to add. Which -- while many of the first-year grants have just launched, what is your feedback on the sectors and focal areas? And what do you think USAID should prioritize for year two?

For context, the Agency has taken the Board feedback from the first board meeting and attempted to implement the Board's suggestion like expanding public outreach and developing the peacebuilding metrics, which Mark Green articulates so well. And they're looking for guidance on how to structure the programming for next year. Therefore, are there any elements, sectors, or approaches that you would like to see? And should we promote any specific approaches with a consensus recommendation to the Agency?

I have one thought I would like to share. One of the projects that Ambassador Nides and I both wholeheartedly support is developing an innovation hub in the West Bank that is taking the U.S. companies to do business in Israel. The Microsoft's, the Google's, the Intel's, many of which have Palestinian citizens of Israel in senior ranks, and have them open an innovation hub in the West Bank to create an ecosystem for innovation in the West Bank. There are efforts ongoing now, but it would be great to have a structured program through MEPPA to bring these different efforts together and have them coordinate and have them achieve their maximum potential.

Nides and I -- Tom and I would like to have a $100 million program. I don't know whether that's achievable or not. USAID contributes some. But clearly, these corporations and some of the other international sponsors would need to do it. And I believe there could be support in the Gulf for these kinds of things. And we should be able to get the kinds of money together to have that kind of innovation there. And, as a result, more partnership on a more equal basis with their Israeli brothers and sisters in connection with this thing. But that's just my side.

Michael, please.

Michael Cohen: So, in the interest of time, I'm going to bullet point this and I'm speaking from my work with Arava and Chemonics in the field for 26 years now. The first awards were great. They were -- there was a disproportion of economic, and we talked about, more of a balance between economic and civil society. And also, economic -- there's also economic and BRP of which programs can apply for.

So, having said that, I'll make a couple of recommendations. When we should try to focus more directly on conflict transformation at this -- programs that teach the dual narrative, programs that teach dialogue and conflict management skills. Programs that allow, as we heard earlier, for those uncomfortable conversations to take place and there's other under that, that I will send in. I recommend that MEPPA should support programs that encourage systematic change. That is working with political parties, government departments, municipalities. I recommend that MEPPA should support peacebuilding work in Jerusalem where there's a tremendous amount of work that needs to be done there.

I recommend that USAID should create an outreach strategy to build strong relationships within Palestinians and peacebuilding organizations increase their capacity to civil society of Palestinian organizations. I believe -- I recommend that MEPPA should fund programs that support peacebuilding program graduates, as we've heard that earlier, and I highly recommend that. I recommend that MEPPA support small and medium peacebuilding grants and shifting and maybe have the larger programs work with the smaller programs in terms of the partnerships. I said something about that. I don't want to get lost in that.

I recommend that religious peacebuilding -- peacebuilders should be a priority for areas of MEPPA. And I say that because of Chemonics, in my head -- but because there is a -- those voices speak across borders and have lots of followers. And finally, what's also been said already, I recommend that MEPPA should invest in female peacebuilders and women led organizations and movements. Thank you. And I'll send details of all of that later.

George Salem: Thank you, Michael. Elliot?

Elliott Abrams: Really briefly, and this is actually disagreeing with Nickolay, I don't think we should be supporting talk shops at all. I think what's great about all of these is that they're doing things -- medicine, trauma, entrepreneurship. They're not sitting there talking about, “Gee, how do we get to peace?” I think that's a waste of the money. I think this has got to be done by getting people to do things together, not sit and talk.

George Salem: Thank you. Anyone? Hiba?

Hiba Husseini: Just not on Jerusalem -- just to -- because this is -- we have a -- you know, the east Jerusalem residents already are to some extent somewhat integrated in the business activities of east or west Jerusalem and Jerusalem at large and some work in Tel Aviv, some work in Eilat, and so forth and so on. So, I think if we also focus on improving -- on providing opportunities for them to improve skills in innovation and other areas of the health sector, many of them work in the Jerusalem hospitals. And I know we have a large part of the fund that goes to the Jerusalem hospitals.

So, I think this will create a lot of more integration between the east Jerusalemites into the Israeli society on a professional level. And also, it would provide a good example of the potential for more integration between the Palestinians of east Jerusalem and the Arab Israelis and bring them -- and bringing them together and creating an opportunity for everybody to have the good example of working together. So, I think that could also provide some impetus for a change in the attitudes.

George Salem: Thank you. Anyone else other than Michael? Okay. Michael, go ahead.

Michael Cohen: So, I just want to thank Amy for all of her work of trying to get media coverage and part of my gray hair’s from trying to do that for 26 years because we're considered soft news. And it's like the tree fell in the forest and no one heard it with all of this great investment. If Israelis and Palestinians don't know about this work, we'd lost a lot. And I know there's been successes more than in the English-speaking newspapers. And we have to do somehow get -- the real audience is the Israeli, Hebrew, and Arabic newspapers, and the Palestinian and Jordanian newspapers, which you know, is a lot easier said than done. But that's where we need to somehow get some breakthrough. So, they -- those -- the people who need to hear about these programs, get to know about them.

George Salem: Thank you, Michael. We're going to take the last two hands on the screen. And then we only have about three minutes left. I'm going to try to summarize the consensus because the other two questions have been largely addressed by the comments that have been made. Farah, turning to you first, any quick thoughts you wish to share?

Farah Bdour: Very quickly, everyone has been talking about the dialogue models and the importance of integrating dialogue in programming. And I just want to say that as someone who worked in the field, whether in well-established organizations or not, the dialogue models that we adopted as practitioners have distorted the understanding of concepts like power, asymmetry, human rights, and even agency, where youth on both sides of the conflicts have been forced to process these collective identities of either victims or perpetrators. Therefore, I recommend that MEPPA partner with existing institutions to provide tailor made training for organizations in the field. The guiding principles of this training is to prevent escapism and apathy among Arab and Jewish youth and encourage joint action. Thank you.

George Salem: Thank you. Nickolay?

Nickolay Mladenov: Thank you. I would say the three priority areas from my perspective would be, certainly, the economic field where we create the economic opportunities, particularly for Palestinians that bring together Israelis and Palestinians together potentially with other Arab countries in the region, Jordan, of particular interest. Secondly, focus on women is extremely important. There are some fantastic works that has been done on the ground both by Israeli and Palestinian women peacebuilders. And I encourage the council to support that.

And lastly, I will agree very much with Elliott. We don't need to talking shops, but we do need to support people who are actually thinking out of the box of how to get out of the conundrum of the impasse that we have on the ground politically on all sides. And I think there are certain opportunities and certain good initiatives out there that we ought to look at. We're -- actually, Israelis and Palestinians together come up with solutions belayed to small "conflict" situations or the larger issues of the conflict and perhaps out of there, the international community of the future can see its guidance as to what to support that will be actually sustainable and accepted by people on the ground.

George Salem: Thank you, Nickolay. Let me try to summarize some consensus recommendations as I have been taking notes during the course of this meeting. And thank you all for your interventions. They were really all exceptional. I think there is enthusiasm about the site visits for the Board trips so we should really prioritize that. Internationalization came up in several comments. It was discussed at the last board meeting. But there really needs to be a focus by the Board as well as the Agency on how best to internationalize this, whether we include the private sector. I think in the Gulf, that's a real opportunity in addition to the government's in the sovereign wealth funds. As well as looking at Europe, which is the traditional source for this sort of thing.

The possibility of a gulf trip for the Advisory Board is interesting and we should consider that in the concept -- in the context of internationalization. I sense from a number of people the desire to keep as many projects as possible crossborder, keep them employing people and training people and keep them local. Nobody likes giving big projects to USAID big contractors. I believe that I questioned USAID about it when they initially did it. It was because they needed to get the economic component with someone that they've done business with, because they don't have the staff on the ground to implement.

As we go forward, I think -- and I think there was justification for that this year, but as we go forward, to the extent that we can, have more local organizations on both sides, including hopefully an increased participation by the Palestinian side, now that we've built up some credibility, that would be extremely useful. Any program that we can find that addresses the trust deficit on both sides is very important.

Remember, the site visits that we did in the last trip, Amy, you know, like the that Tomorrow's Youth program with women on both sides, joint venturing together. That sort of thing is very important. Focusing on youth seems to be something that was addressed by a number of people. I think Harley's point about getting some quick wins on the Hill and talking about it would be particularly important. I think some of the stuff that we've dealt with so far gets -- that a number of people supported Sander’s concern with corruption. And it's something I hear all the time when I'm there and we see it, those of us who travel there so frequently.

So, how we can give people hope notwithstanding the corruption and empowering civil society and civic grants is very important. Conflict management, you know, there's a CMM program, conflict mitigation program, that USAID runs. A lot of what MEPPA is doing, my experience is when you bring people together, they do business together or they go to school together, it overcomes a lot of the distrust on both sides. So, the more joint programs we can have like this, the better.

I tend to side with Elliott. I think the record would need to reflect that some, I would call, strong disagreement about having programs that focus on people getting together and talking and people getting together and doing business. I tend to favor the latter. But I understand the value of the former, which was what Nickolay is articulating. And to the extent that there are existing programs and institutions that we can partner with on the grounds as far as I suggested, I think that would be important.

And the final points of focusing on economic opportunities for Palestinians and the opportunity to bring Palestinians and Israelis together is something you have been doing -- we have been doing very effectively for the last year. And the focus on women -- so many of our projects focus on women and youth -- and I think the Board has a consensus recommendation to continue and expand that.

I hope I've captured everyone's sentiments.

And with that, I believe we are -- we have exhausted our time. Let me conclude by thanking you, again, all of you for your input. And I'll turn the closure of the program officially over to Megan.

Megan Doherty: Thank you so much. I am legally required, I believe, to close the meeting. But I will do it briefly. First of all, if there were any questions that you did not get an answer to, please send them to us. We will make sure that you have that. Jen, we noted yours as well. I want to again thank the USAID team and Amy for being here with us and for all of their work to bring MEPPA to life. I want to thank George, our fearless Board Chair, for keeping us moving throughout the conversation. And I want to thank all of you for your time, your energy, and your commitment, and your good ideas. We are very grateful.

With that, we will conclude the formal meeting. To our board members that are online, please jump off and then there's a Google Hangout link for you as well as we discuss some logistics. Thank you, everyone.

George Salem: And a final shout out to Megan and the MEPPA team. They've done a marvelous job and we really appreciate all their support.

Issuing Country 

Last updated: November 16, 2022

Share This Page