Philadelphia's IVC Joins 'Partners for Peace' Project with Iraq

6/28/2005 11:34:52 PM

International Visitors Council of Philadelphia to Partner With the City of Mosul in Groundbreaking Project

PHILADELPHIA, June 28 /PRNewswire/ -- The IVC of Philadelphia announced today that it is participating in the U.S. Department of State's "Partners for Peace" project with Mosul, Iraq.

Through IVC, officials from Iraq's third largest city will visit Philadelphia to learn about democratic governance. Committees in both countries will work to improve humanitarian conditions in Mosul.

"The IVC of Philadelphia is eager to partner with Mosul's leaders and citizens to support their transition to a democratic society," said Nancy Gilboy, President of the IVC of Philadelphia. "We've spent 51 years administering democracy-building programs and the past eleven years working with the former Soviet Union. That experience means we can hit the ground running with Mosul. We have humanitarian aid waiting to be shipped and a committee of Iraqi-Americans and generous citizen diplomats ready to help. For years, citizens in the Philadelphia area have shared their professional expertise and opened their offices and homes to guests from emerging democracies. We now look forward to engaging them with this important Mosul partnership."

Mosul has a rich ancient Assyrian history. Known as the "pearl of the North," the city rests on a centuries-old trade route linking Persia to the Mediterranean and is located 400 kilometers north of Baghdad on the Tigris River. Mosul's residents are a diverse group that includes Arab and Kurdish, with a large minority of Aramaic-speaking Christian Assyrians, as well as Turkomans. The city has the largest number of Iraqi Christians of any city in Iraq and is home to well-known churches and mosques.

The IVC has begun creating partnerships to support the program. In place are partnerships with Mission Relief Services for humanitarian aid, the Philadelphia Bar Association for describing the "rule of law" with an independent judicial system, the Freedoms Foundation for civic education, and the Girl Scouts of Southeastern Philadelphia and the Boy Scouts of America's Cradle of Liberty Council for support to Mosul's youth.

How can others help? According to Gilboy, "We need volunteer Arabic- speaking translators and interpreters as well as funding to house and feed government officials. To bring students from Mosul to Drexel, Community College, La Salle and other area schools we will need scholarship funds for them."

IVC's Mosul committee includes Majid Alsayegh of Alta Management who was born in Mosul; Dr. Nawal Khafarji of Philadelphia International Medicine who was born in Baghdad and who received her medical degree in Mosul; and Dr. Mohammed Al-Maliky of Drexel University College of Medicine and Abington Hospital who was born in Basra, Iraq. Also on the committee are Pat Dugan and Lee Bowie who were both recently in Iraq. Dugan, an attorney working for a member of Philadelphia's City Council, served for ten months in Mosul with the 416th Civil Affairs working with Mosul's Provincial Council. Bowie, a professor at Penn State's Ambler campus, worked with the Baghdad City Council for eight months.

Philadelphia already has significant partnerships with Iraq, including the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. This museum has enjoyed a 110-year relationship with Iraq, collaborating with Iraqi archaeologists exploring the royal tombs of Ur in the 1920s and housing significant artifacts from Iraq.

Philadelphia becomes the fourth U.S. community to join the Partners for Peace project with Iraq. At last year's G8 Summit, First Lady Laura Bush announced the first three pairings: Dallas with Kirkuk; Tucson with Sulaymaniyah; and the Denver Regional Council of Governments with Baghdad. The U.S. government is contributing initial funding for the project, and each partnership receives a $20,000 seed grant for air transportation, housing and administration.

The IVC of Philadelphia was chosen for the project through a competitive grants process managed by Sister Cities International in cooperation with the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs at the U.S. Department of State. Although the partnerships are administered through Sister Cities International, the IVC & Mosul partnership does not create a Philadelphia Sister City relationship.

The IVC of Philadelphia was formed in 1954 as a public/private partnership with the U.S. Department of State and the citizens of the Philadelphia region. IVC is the official local host for the State Department's prestigious "International Visitor Leadership Program," which brings 4,000 emerging leaders in many fields to the U.S. each year to meet their counterparts and gain an understanding of U.S. policies. Philadelphia's IVC competes with 93 other Councils across the U.S. to host the emerging leaders. This network of 94 Councils was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2001.

IVC's work is known as "Citizen Diplomacy," which is the idea that individual citizens have the right - even the responsibility - to help shape U.S. foreign relations "one handshake at a time." By opening their homes, offices, and schools to foreign leaders IVC's volunteer citizen diplomats foster international understanding and cooperation, build relationships and economic connections, as well as peaceful interaction.

Annually, the Philadelphia IVC arranges professional itineraries for more than 200 delegations, 100 of which come from more than 120 countries on the International Visitor Leadership Program. Past well-known people who visited Philadelphia on this program early in their careers include Germany's Willie Brandt, South Africa's F.W. de Klerk and Poland's current president, Aleksander Kwasniewski. Additionally, Philadelphia alumni include hundreds of mayors, cabinet level ministers and members of parliament.

To support the Mosul program or to learn more about it, call Nancy Gilboy at 215.683.0997 or email her at nancy.gilboy@phila.gov.