Lessons of the Arab Spring: Building on Gains Already Made

What are the lessons to be learned from the waves of democratic uprisings in the Middle East? Will they encourage similar movements elsewhere? How can these gains be consolidated?

Oula Alrifai (Abdulhamid)

Syrian Democracy Activist and Political Asylum Refugee

Oula Alrifai and her family are political refugees from Syria. Since the revolution started in Syria , they have been deeply involved in political protest particularly through social media – spreading the word both within and outside Syria, and keeping protesters motivated. Oula is currently a university student majoring in Political Science and International Relations. In 2009, she co-hosted and organized “The First Step”, a breakthrough academic television show that focused on promoting democracy, development, and stability in the Middle East. She has also worked at The United States Institute of Peace and for the Terrorist Propaganda Project.

Tara Bahrampour

Reporter with the Washington Post and author of “To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America”

Tara Bahrampour has been a staff writer for the Washington Post since 2004. Based in Washington, she covers immigration and has also reported for the Post from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Republic of Georgia. She is the author of To See and See Again: A Life in Iran and America, a memoir about revolution and growing up between two cultures. She has written for the New Yorker, the New York Times and The American Scholar.

Carl Gershman

President of the National Endowment for Democracy

Carl Gershman is President of the National Endowment for Democracy, a private, congressionally supported grant-making institution with the mission to strengthen democratic institutions around the world through nongovernmental efforts. In addition to presiding over the Endowment’s grants program in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union and Latin America, he has overseen the creation of the quarterly Journal of Democracy, International Forum for Democratic Studies, and the Reagan-Fascell Democracy Fellows Program. He also took the lead in launching in New Delhi in 1999 the World Movement for Democracy, which is a global network of democracy practitioners and scholars.

Mr. Gershman is currently encouraging other democracies to establish their own foundations devoted to the promotion of democratic institutions in the world. Prior to assuming the position with the Endowment, Mr. Gershman was Senior Counselor to the United States Representative to the United Nations, in which capacity he served as the U.S. Representative to the U.N.’s Third Committee that deals with human rights issues, and also as Alternate Representative of the U.S. to the U.N. Security Council. While at the U.S. Mission to the U.N., Mr. Gershman also served as lead consultant to the National Bipartisan Commission on Central America, and helped draft the final report.

Prior to his assignment at the United States Mission to the United Nations, Mr. Gershman was a Resident Scholar at Freedom House and Executive Director of Social Democrats, USA.

Mr. Gershman has lectured extensively and written articles and reviews on foreign policy issues for such publications as: Commentary, The New Leader, The New Republic, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, The New York Times Magazine, Democratization, The Whitehead Journal of Diplomacy and International Relations, The Washington Quarterly, and the Journal of Democracy. He is the co-editor of Israel, the Arabs and the Middle East (Bantam, 1972) and the author of The Foreign Policy of the American Labor (Sage, 1975). He is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and the Council on Foreign Relations.

He received The Order of the Knight’s Cross, Government of Poland; President’s Medal, George Washington University; The Distinguished Person for Advancing Democracy in China, Chinese Education Democracy Foundation; International Campaign for Tibet’s 2005 Light of the Truth Award and Romania’s National Order of “faithful service.”

Mr. Gershman was born in New York City on July 20, 1943. He graduated Magna Cum Laude from Horace Mann Preparatory School in 1961; received a B.A. degree from Yale University, Magna Cum Laude in 1965 and M.Ed. from Harvard Graduate School of Education in 1968.

Full Transcript at: Ideas in Action 

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