Political Leaders Up Close

Scholarship holders from German-Arab Masters programmes meet with members of parliament

Water, energy, education and the economy are all central issues for the developing regions in the Arab world. International cooperation is needed to ensure the sustainable management of resources such as water, so that it remains available for the region’s people, livestock, agriculture and industry. Know-how alone is not enough when it comes to making lasting change. Knowing the right people to talk to is a large part of the process. For a development project to take off, good communication with politicians, business leaders and academics is a must.

The four bi-cultural Masters programmes focus on this very aspect, teaching the necessary skills to German and Arab professionals who already have several years of work experience. The DAAD-sponsored Masters programmes are funded by the Federal Ministry for Development and Cooperation.

What’s the key to effective decision-making in a pluralistic democratic system? Who needs to be pulled into the process? The students tackle these questions head on during the ‘Berlin Module’ of their second semester, which is also part of the DAAD ‘Millennium Express’ event.

For one week, between May 9th and May 15th, scholarship holders from four graduate programmes will meet in Germany’s capital city. They’ll talk with members of parliament and learn how an initiative is grown into a full-blown programme. “Experiencing political leaders up close is especially rare for our Arab students,” says Professor Matthias Weiter, the advisor coordinator for all four programmes. Achieving the millennium development goals means gaining access to expert committee members and elected members of parliament. Some 60 DAAD scholarship holders will have the opportunity to do exactly that in Berlin.

In the spirit of intercultural cooperation and exchange, the young Germans and Arabs will work together in mixed groups. “It’ll give them the chance to run through potential conflicts and misunderstandings,” says Matthias Weiter. The programme prepares its students well for their future careers. A parliamentary evening held May 11th and a press conference May 12th at noon will also give students the opportunity to publicly express their own visions to Germany’s political leaders.

The young professionals from the German-Arab academic exchange programme bring together expertise and work experience from many different Arab countries – Egypt, Algeria, Iraq, Yemen, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Mauritania, Syria and Tunisia. Participants come from diverse academic disciplines, with engineers, mechanical engineers, humanities scholars and natural scientists enrolled in the various German-Arab programmes: “Water Resources Management” at Amman University and the Cologne University of Applied Sciences (since 2007), “Economic Change” at the Universities of Damascus and Marburg (since 2009) or “Renewable Energies” at the Universities of Cairo and Kassel (since 2009). Helwan University near Cairo and the University of Education Ludwigsburg will be offering “Education Management” starting September 2011. The professionals are trained to handle the complex groundwork, which often hinges on communication – building networks, managing contacts and opening channels so that down the line, the wind turbines are actually up and running or education is accessible to all.

The German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) has been sponsoring the “Postgraduate Courses for Professionals with Relevance to Developing Countries” for nearly 25 years. These courses provide young professionals and junior executives from developing and threshold countries the chance to engage in postgraduate education and training at universities throughout Germany. The four German-Arab Masters programmes are part of this larger programme.