Saturday, August 3, 2013

The second Egyptian revolution

In the past month, the world's attention has turned towards Egypt. The struggling country has experienced its second revolution in two years, bringing hope to many and worries to a lot more.

While the situation remains tense, unpredictable and dangerous, I nevertheless wanted to weigh in on it, in particular with regards to Egypt's new interim Vice-President, former IAEA Director and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Mohamed ElBaradei.

There are moments in life where you encounter an exceptional individual which gives you that one piece of advice, that one revolutionary idea, that one pat on the back and that one mentor's blessing, giving you the confidence to go all the way and changes your life. That's how I would describe my encounter with Mr. Elbaradei.

When I met him in Port-Louis, Mauritius, in November 2010 at a conference organized by the Mo Ibrahim Foundation, I felt very intimidated at first. How could I, a recent Master's degree recipient with an "extended" diplomatic experience as a 25 year-old, could hold my ground against the former director of a massive supranational organization who was awarded a Nobel Peace Prize, holding credentials I could only dream of having?

Well, perhaps the alcohol helped. After a beer or two, I noticed he was sitting by himself in the gazebo of the resort we were staying at, by the Indian Ocean. I thought to myself, what the hell, let's just go for it. I had met him briefly earlier in the day and we had been briefly introduced. But I decided to try and push it further and engage him on my recently published thesis on the need to expand the G20's mandate to Foreign Ministers and for them to handle global security matters, especially when it came to fighting nuclear proliferation in rogue states.

A good talk with Mohamed ElBaradei

Within the first ten seconds of our talk, I could feel he was genuinely interested in the idea, engaged in the discussion and wanting to share his thoughts. He listened carefully with an open mind, and we then went back and forth for a good thirty minutes, as equals, as people who believe in peaceful resolution of conflicts. It was nothing short of the most inspiring, most uplifting and most motivating discussion I have ever had over a political or academic concept, and it gave me the courage and the confidence to continue to push for the creation of a G20 Foreign Ministers' group.

My point is that there are understandable worries about the political situation in Egypt at the moment, with the interim government backed by the military. But I think that with a liberal, intellectual, open-minded man like Mohamed ElBaradei in the upper echelons of power, we should be comfortable to trust that it will do good and deliver on its promise to hold democratic elections in 2014. If anything, it is time to build new bridges between the West and the Middle East so that we can all enjoy a safer, more prosperous future, and deliver on the promises on the Arab Spring.

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