2011 Georis Prize recipient - Dr Bassma Kodmani, Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative
At an award ceremony attended by His Excellency Aníbal António Cavaco Silva, President of Portugal, a prize honouring outstanding contributions to European philanthropy was given today to Dr Bassma Kodmani, Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative, an organisation supporting democratic reform in the Arab region.
The 2011 Raymond Georis Prize for Innovative Philanthropy in Europe was presented at the 22nd Annual General Assembly of the European Foundation Centre (EFC) in Cascais, Portugal. His Excellency Aníbal António Cavaco Silva made the keynote speech at the Opening Plenary of the event during which the award ceremony took place.
The Prize was launched eight years ago by the Network of European Foundations’ Mercator Fund, and aims to reward innovative high-impact European initiatives that illustrate European leadership on global and social issues.
“In the context of the Arab Spring, the organisation that Dr Kodmani leads - the Arab Reform Initiative - is now perceived as a key regional institution to support the transition processes and nurture new civil society initiatives,” said Norine MacDonald QC, President of the NEF-Mercator Fund, organisers of the Prize. “Born in Syria and living in France, Dr Kodmani’s dual cultural background gives her a unique understanding of Arab and European cultures and ways of thinking, coupled with a personal and professional ability to straddle boundaries.”
Over the past 30 years, Dr Kodmani has led many important initiatives to establish policy dialogues between European and Arab scholars and activists, on issues of political freedom, democracy, governance and peaceful change. Dr Kodmani’s two areas of unwavering commitment are the promotion of peace between Israel and its neighbors, and the promotion of respect for diversity and the equality of citizens in Arab societies.
“While her work is rooted in the Arab region, she is well connected to the European philanthropic sector and uses her influence to draw attention to urgent issues and trends that would benefit from rapid intervention. She has the unique ability to inspire confidence in even the most trying of times, notably between actors with opposite viewpoints, approaches and beliefs,” said Mr Raymond Georis.
“In her work, Dr Kodmani has fully recognized the role of Europeans in contributing to peace based on justice in the region - both at the level of the European Union and as civil society,” said Emílio Rui Vilar, President of Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian and EFC Chair.
The Selection Committee for the Prize was chaired by Mr Javier Solana, former Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union and President of the Madariaga-College of Europe Foundation. The Committee also comprised Mr Gerry Salole, Chief Executive of the European Foundation Centre, and Mr Raymond Georis. Dr Kodmani was nominated by Mr Massimo Lanza, General Manager of the Fondazione di Venezia.
The award aims to underline the important role that the European philanthropic community plays in promoting peace, security and development across the globe. The Prize’s goal is to annually recognise the innovative work of successive generations which have followed in the footsteps of Mr. Georis. The Mercator Fund’s main objective is to deal with matters related to Europe’s role in global social issues.
About Dr Bassma Kodmani
Bassma Kodmani is the Executive Director of the Arab Reform Initiative, a consortium of Arab policy research institutes with partners in Europe and the US working collaboratively on reforms and democratic transitions in the Arab world. She established the program in 2005 and has developed it into a fully-fledged institution.
She is also a senior advisor to the director of the academic program at the Académie Diplomatique Internationale.
Prior to that she was senior advisor on international cooperation to the French national research council (2007-09), associate researcher at the Centre d’études et de recherches internationales (CERI-Sciences Po (2006-07) and Senior Visiting Fellow at the Collège de France (2005-06).
From 1999 to 2005 Dr Kodmani was a senior program officer for the Governance and International Cooperation program at the Ford Foundation office for the Middle East and North Africa, based in Cairo, where she was in charge of support to research institutions, NGOs and public agencies in the region, and had special responsibility for initiating and supporting joint Israeli-Palestinian projects and track II meetings.
From 1981 to 1998, she established and directed the Middle East Program at the Institut Français des Relations Internationales (IFRI) in Paris and was Associate Professor of International Relations at Paris University.
Dr Kodmani holds a PhD in Political Science from Sciences-Po in Paris. She has authored books and articles on conflicts in the Middle East, the Palestinian diaspora, regional security, political developments in Arab societies, state-society relations, the strategies of Arab governments vis-à-vis the Islamist movements and the relationship between religious authority and political authority in the Muslim world. Her latest book Abattre les murs (Breaking Walls) was published in France in February 2008.
She has also served as a consultant to various international corporations, government agencies, European institutions and ministries, and is a frequent commentator on international radio and television networks and authors regular op-eds in the Arab, French and international press.
About the Arab Reform Initiative
The Arab Reform Initiative is a network of independent Arab research and policy institutes, with partners from the United States and Europe. Its goal is to mobilize the Arab world’s research capacity to advance knowledge and develop a program for democratic reform in the Arab world which is realistic and home grown. The Initiative also aims to produce policy recommendations that can help promote reform in the region.
The initiative is based on three main principles:
1- The Arab world needs to develop its own conception of reform, based on its present realities and rooted in its history. While there are basic universal criteria that apply to a process of democratic reform in any given society, the initiative seeks to generate knowledge by those who are the prime targets of reform.
2- Reform is a comprehensive process which can only succeed if the interaction between the political, economic, societal and cultural spheres is fully recognized. In the quest to build free, just and democratic societies, the initiative privileges issues of democratization and good governance, socio-economic and cultural transformations, and social justice.
3- The network’s conception of reform fully recognizes that Arab countries present very diverse situations and that this diversity is likely to become more salient as societies engage in a path of liberalization. Thanks to its composition, with member institutes and scholars from all countries of the region, the initiative is well positioned to produce analyses and recommend diverse solutions relevant to the specificities of each society.
The Initiative also aims to promote a dialogue between policy institutes in the Arab world, the United States and Europe with a view to forge a shared vision which can advance the understanding of western different groups on issues of reform in the Arab world.
Finally, the Arab Reform Initiative aims to raise awareness in the Arab world about successful transitions to democracy in other parts of the world, and of the mechanisms and compromises which made such successful transitions possible.
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