Back from Egypt
Increasingly, I believe that none have fully tapped the potential of cultural diplomacy to ease the ability of development organizations to communicate their message. Too often, the messages of development are received with suspicion, because development is unfortunately viewed as an externally imposed concept, rather than an internally exigent series of paradigm shifts in health, education, and gender roles necessary for societies to maximize their potential.
While fighting this stereotype is one option for development organizations, it will be more productive in the long run to encourage people not to view "development" as a West/East issue, or to view "West" as a pejorative. This can be partially accomplished through increased levels of person-to-person interaction between American musicians and youth groups, musicians, diplomats, humanitarian workers, and educators in other nations.
By partnering with outstanding development and rights organizations at the international (such as UNICEF-Egypt) and national (such as the NCCM) levels, Cultures in Harmony hopes to deepen the capacity of cultural diplomacy to effect positive social change. Our mission (ameliorating the American image abroad through music) and development are inextricably linked, since negative perceptions of the U.S. impede development.
If I'm starting to sound like a UNICEF project report, it's because I've just been reading UNICEF project reports off an on for twelve hours on the plane back from Cairo! They make urgent, if dense, reading. While the percentage of young Egyptian women still undergoing female genital mutilation is an alarming 74 percent, this is down from their mothers' generation, of which nearly all were circumcised.
The anecdotal evidence that negative perceptions of the West have prevented the number from falling faster speaks to the need to act now.