An Arab Peace Corps And Why Now?

01 March 2016

By Tariq A. Al-Maeena

Sometimes a fresh idea comes along that makes one wonder why it wasn't thought of before. While it is not unique, it certainly deserves some thought and sustenance. And it is in times of wars, conflicts, chaos, terrorism and despair that investments in peace and development become more urgent.

That is what has driven Sami Jamil Jadallah, the founder and executive director of the New Arab Foundation, to channel the energy of Arabs into new productive ventures. Jadallah is alarmed at the current direction of the Arab world which he feels is ''in deep, deep trouble,'' especially in hotspots such as Iraq, Yemen, Syria, Libya and Sudan.

Jadallah claims that ''tens of thousands of ‘jihadists' recruits are joining Al-Qaeda, Daesh (the self-proclaimed IS) and Jabhat Al-Nusra. They are coming from Europe, the US, North Africa and certainly the Arab Peninsula. Even non-Arabs from Chechnya, Maldives and Indonesia are joining the fight. They are joining ''Islamist'' militias to kill and get killed, to destroy but never build.''

He continues: ''The Arabs are experiencing turmoil and conflicts not witnessed since colonial times, with nation states threatened from within and without. The rise of military dictatorship in the 50s, the Arab-Israeli conflict, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan (the birthplace of the ‘jihadist' movement), and the Iran-Iraq War, First and Second Gulf Wars, all these combined events helped form a watershed in the Arab world.
Trillions in fortunes and livelihoods were diverted from society building to regional and ‘sectarian' wars, destroying nations and threatening the existence of others.''

''Military, nationalistic, secular dictatorship and jihadist ideology, combined with corruption, incompetence, inefficiency, looting of people's assets and state wealth, nepotism, lack of transparency and accountability, lack of fairness and equal opportunity, lack of mentoring and inept bloated abusive humiliating bureaucracy are all responsible for the failure of many of the Arab states, with investment in ‘winless' wars, and conflict that produced the dire results we see today.''

Jadallah cautions that ''in the Arab world youth who for the most part are marginalized, unemployed, humiliated at home and by governing institutions, living in poverty with no hope to escape a miserable life, are compelled to join ‘jihadists' as a way out of this hell hole they find themselves in, putting the entire society and nation at risks.''

In a fresh approach, Sami Jadallah believes the tide toward destruction can be stemmed. The New Arab Foundation, an organization and think tank with a mission wants to change all of that and introduce a road map of achievable goals toward a New Renaissance for the Arab world.

Inspired by President John Kennedy's Peace Corps, the New Arab Foundation's Arab Peace Corps vision and mission is first ''to break the negative, self-reinforcing spiral of vulnerable youth being mobilized by ‘religious actors or terrorists' to go fight against what they are told is the cause of their suffering (secular, sectarian opponents and ‘infidels'). And as a result, they are often killed in the fight, a situation that is advertised in order to reinvigorate the negative spiral and to recruit.''

He explains that the Arab Peace Corps would then work ''toward implementing development programs for marginalized communities not only in the Arab world but in Europe, the US and Canada. Transforming the power and innocence of youth into positive, self-reinforcing contributions for the better good of themselves and their society will increase their sense of belonging to their community, society and nation.''

''The Arab Peace Corps would be a voluntary two years service utilizing the commitment, skills and dynamism of college graduates and retirees from within the Arab world and from the US, Europe, Canada, Australia among others to help build and rebuild shattered or marginalized communities in education, health care, agriculture, artisan and small industries, community development and participation, tutorial and mentoring programs among many.''

''This community service would not only make a positive difference to those communities, but would also provide valuable skills and life experiences to the Arab individuals who volunteer and serve as members of the Arab Peace Corps. The New Arab Foundation, through its first initiative the Arab Peace Corps, intends to turn around the current negative dynamic, by challenging young minds and talents to contribute to life not death, to contribute to building not destroying.''

To help achieve that dream, Sami Jadallah will be seeking the support of nations, private and governmental institutions and the private sector toward the success of the Foundation's bold venture, the Arab Peace Corps. He explains that ''we will also seek the partnership of corporations to commit to give priority of employment to our alumni, airlines to provide free tickets, universities to provide full or reduced tuition for graduate schools, in part to give recognition to all those who sacrificed and made the commitment to serve others.''

This is not a far-fetched vision or dream. This is perhaps the best thing that could happen to the Arab youth of today. It will challenge and channel their energies toward building and not destruction. And it can happen. It's time is now. Sami Jamil Jadallah intends to make it so.

– The author can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @talmaeena

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