What is a John Smith Fellow?
On Friday 15th November twelve Fellows from the February/March 2013 Rule of Law Fellowship returned to the UK for the Follow-Up conference. Several participated the workshop sessions for that day, which included Graham Cundy OBE, former Commander of the SBS, discussing the issues of hard vs. soft power and the impact of communications vis a vis the role of the state.
David Muir, former Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s Director of Political Strategy, then talked about the evolution of political communications from Aristotle’s Rhetoric to President Obama’s election campaign. In the afternoon a sparky debate took place over how to measure the Rule of Law; Maya Senussi from Roubini presented a set of Rule of Law indices calculated by specific algorithms to determine the level of risk in any particular country - while Anthony Ellis from Integrity Research presented the debate for a qualitative methodology through local level research.
Graham Cundy on hard vs soft power
JST’s Brian Brivati led the final session of the day, giving Fellows the opportunity to present a 30-second address to the group as if they were running for Presidential office. Lebanese Fellow Maya Terro (a parliamentary candidate) said the following:
“I am the first of my kind in the past and modern history of Lebanese politics as we know it.
I am independent
I am a woman
I am young
I am non-sectarian
And above all, I am Lebanese at heart and not just by identity.
I believe I speak for the most of you out there when I say that we, yes we, have to be the change we want to see.
If YOU elect me, I will make sure that for once You will be heard, that for once You will be truly represented, and above all, I promise you that I will not be the last of my kind!”
On Saturday both cohorts and JST staff travelled to Oxford for a one-day symposium hosted by the Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum (OxGAPS). The day looked at the ‘Old and new challenges in the Arab countries of the Gulf and Levant’ with several Fellows joining UK academic experts on panel discussions around the topic. During the first session of the day, Dennis Sammut (OxGAPS and JST Trustee), Brian Whittaker (former Middle East Correspondent of the Guardian) and Dr Hafiz Khan (Middlesex University) talked about change in the Middle East.
JST Trustee, Dennis Sammut chairs discussion with Baroness Kennedy and JST Fellows
After lunch Baroness Helena Kennedy discussed Human Rights and the Rule of Law with a selection of Fellows. This was followed by Dr Abdel Razzak Takriti (Sheffield University) and Dr Hassan Turunc (Oxford University) talking us through ‘the choices of the past and the challenges of the future’ within a regional and global context. The day concluded with a short tour around Oxford and dinner.
On Sunday 17th the February/March Fellows reported to the whole group on the progress of their action plans. We heard some inspiring stories which motivated the November Fellows.
Maimuna Al Sulaimani from Oman presented a promotional video for her recently launched Law & Life magazine, the first bi-lingual rule of law magazine in the Gulf region. The magazine is accessible and aims to raise awareness to intricacies of the law so that people have better knowledge regarding their legal rights.
Maimuna presents a copy of Law & Life to JST
Lebanese Fellow Tarek Mkanna told us about the development of his plans for community policing in Lebanon. He has already got 60 ISF officers in training and is preparing for the launch of a model Police Station for Community Policing in January 2014.
Fellows then divided into country groups to discuss the question, What is a John Smith Fellow? The answers, while varied, contained the same essence about what the Fellowship provides, for instance:
“An opportunity to be part of a new leadership family which aims to put plans and ideas into practice”
“A platform to connect, lead by example and share experiences – to advocate the values of openness, honesty, tolerance, respect for human dignity and good governance”
“A platform that creates and connects leaders that translates into action”
Fellows then moved into the final week of the Programme. On Monday the last workshop day looked at issues of freedom: Eric King from Privacy International and Gavin Millar from Doughty Street Chambers talked about Freedom of Expression, Carly Nyst from Privacy International led a session on data and identity, while David Livingstone (Cybercloud), Mark Whittaker (Strontium Red) and Sebastian Madden (PGI) talked Cyber-Security, and Nick Fishwick (PwC Forensic Services), Justin Hedges (former Commander of the SBS) and Mark Muller QC (Human Rights Advocate) discusses How far we should go to defend our freedom.
Fellows went their separate ways for one last day of attachment visits, one Fellow describes his experience below:
“Morning coffee: £1.50
Transportation cost to Southwark Council: £2.10
Sushi for lunch from Tesco with drinks: £5
Assist in a three-hour public review at the GLA chaired by London Mayor Boris Johnson: PRICELESS!
There are some things that money can't buy...”
The Programme concluded with Fellows presenting their refined and developed action plan ideas in Westminster.
Bahraini Fellow, Fahad Al Binali presented his plan to shape and establish positive norms, encourage a culture of transparency and improve public confidence in the Bahraini government. He aims to begin this process from within his own Ombudsman office where he will introduce terms of best practice in order to institutionalise values such as transparency and accountability. He hopes that the Ombudsman office will then set an example by which other government offices can follow.
Fahad presenting his action plan
A lack of awareness and limited formal education of politics is creating a generation that is indifferent to political participation in Jordan. Maha Oudat therefore is planning to raise the political awareness of Jordanian youth and educate them of their rights. She will run a series of workshops and training sessions entitled “know your constitution” in at least two universities in the next six-months.
Nezar Chaaban opened his presentation by citing some very sobering statistics: there are currently 2 million Syrian refugees in the region and 800,000 of have been registered or are pending registration with the UNHCR in Lebanon. Projections show that there will be 2 million Syrian refugees in Lebanon alone by the end of 2014. Many of these refugees are protected by international laws on refugees, however there is a ‘protection gap’ in the case of Palestinian Syrians who are not counted under the standard laws. Nezar plans to conduct in depth research into this ‘protection gap’ and mount an international campaign to raise awareness of the issue.
Yousif Raheem from Iraq discussed his vision for reforming Iraq’s medical curriculum. His aim being to train five-star doctors who are aware of both individual and community needs. He plans to set this in motion by establishing a Curriculum Development Committee who will work with Iraqi and international advisors to devise an externally validated curriculum but specifically targeting for Iraq’s health needs. The programme will pilot within the Al Kindy University before being rolled out to medical schools across Iraq.
Omaima Al Marikh from Oman has channelled her entrepreneurial spirit into a new initiative that she has labelled B.IT (Blood.IT). She will devise an online database that will improve the efficiency of emergency blood donations and support the Right to Life. The software will be able to map the location of blood donors and match them to the nearest hospital reducing waiting times and saving lives.
Omaima presenting B.IT
Fellows have now travelled back home but we are already looking forward to meeting again in March!