AMIDEAST is a leading American non-profit organization engaged in international education, training and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa.
Founded in 1951, AMIDEAST in its early years focused on promoting U.S. study to students in the MENA region and managing U.S. scholarships and exchanges such as the flagship Fulbright Foreign Student Program. While these important programs continue apace, their work has expanded significantly.
Today AMIDEAST programs and services touch the lives of half a million individuals a year – improving educational opportunities and quality, strengthening local institutions, and developing language and professional skills critical for success in the global economy.
By the end of World War II, the United States’ economic and strategic interests in the Middle East and North Africa had become considerable. Some prominent Americans were concerned by the lack of knowledge in the U.S. about the region and, in particular, misconceptions about the Arab world and the greater Islamic Middle East. In 1951, twenty-four distinguished American educators, theologians, and writers met to address these concerns and envisioned an organization that would bridge knowledge the gap. The group founded AMIDEAST to improve mutual understanding between Americans and the people of the Middle East and North Africa.
Headquartered in New York City, the new organization quickly generated widespread interest, attracting hundreds of members nationwide. Personal contact was seen as one of the most effective ways to promote cross-cultural interaction. AMIDEAST organized visitor exchanges and exhibition tours for leading contemporary artists. The Muslim-Christian Convocation, an international conference of theologians, was hosted by AMIDEAST in 1954 to encourage productive dialogue on contemporary issues of concern to both religions.
From the beginning, AMIDEAST gave high priority to providing accurate information on the Middle East to Americans, and on the United States to the people of the Middle East. They produced publications and films covering current affairs, basic facts on every Middle Eastern country, U.S. policy in the region, Arab history and culture, and Middle Eastern educational systems. Their library contained one of the most comprehensive collections on the Middle East, North Africa, and Islam until it was destroyed by fire in 1971.
Education was the underlying theme of all AMIDEAST’s efforts . They visited campuses and awarded scholarships for exchange programs.
As early as 1952, AMIDEAST was active in educational exchange organizations such as the National Association for Foreign Student Affairs (NAFSA, now the Association of International Educators), through which they arranged tours of the Middle East for selected college advisers. Orientation programs on American culture helped ease Middle Eastern students’ transitions into U.S. academic institutions. AMIDEAST also helped create national associations of Middle Eastern students in the United States.
In 1953, AMIDEAST solidified its commitment to educational services by opening two student advising centers in Tehran, Iran and Baghdad, Iraq. By the end of their first decade, they had opened nine country offices throughout the Middle East and as far east as Pakistan. These offices served mainly as resource centers for students seeking information and advice on academic programs in the United States.
During 1960–61, over 10,000 students visited AMIDEAST country offices, of which almost 2,000 were placed in American universities. AMIDEAST also helped locate scholarship aid for successful applicants. Educational support went beyond offering academic opportunities. A job placement service was initiated in 1956 to help Middle Eastern graduates of American institutions enter the work force upon their return home. By 1960, AMIDEAST was exploring programs to enhance the technical and administrative skills of professionals in the region.
Within ten eventful years, AMIDEAST had established itself as a respected, dynamic institution dedicated to encouraging constructive dialogue between Americans and the people of the Middle East. The seminal efforts of the 1950s essentially defined their philosophical and programmatic direction for the following four decades. Understanding and cooperation would continue to be promoted through education, information, and development programs.
Institutional Development and Capacity Building
Societies require effective public and private institutions in order to meet the social, economic and civic needs of their people. Programs focused on building the capacity of institutions to effectively implement their missions and respond to local demand for quality services are at the heart of successful development.
They are working with local, regional, and international partners to assist efforts to strengthen and build institutional capacity across the Middle East and North Africa region. These efforts are concentrated in four vital areas: education, legal and judicial reform, public administration, and civil society.
-Improving the Education Sector. Education provides the critical foundation for a better future. With this in mind, AMIDEAST has engaged with public and private partners in the Middle East and North Africa to advance a wide range of projects targeting improvement of education at all levels.
-Legal and Judicial Reform. Working with local judicial and legal authorities, AMIDEAST is supporting efforts to reform and modernize the judiciaries in Egypt and Lebanon.
-Strengthening Civil Society. Training, technical assistance, and grants are helping to build the capacity of citizens to engage in their local communities.
-Advancing Good Governance. Public sector efficiency, transparency, and accountability is lacking in many countries in the region. Programs designed to train public administrators are making a difference.
English Language and Workforce Skills
Through English language training and professional skills development, AMIDEAST is helping to develop global communication and workforce skills necessary to support successful regional economies.
They work with men and women of all ages who are eager to expand their opportunities. They also partner with businesses and public agencies to train workers in specialized English and provide basic business skills to youth and others seeking to transition into the job market.
Academic and Cultural Exchange
For over 50 years, AMIDEAST has been a leader in the area of fellowship and scholarship management. They have supported thousands of individuals from the Middle East and North Africa who have come to this country on scholarship and exchange programs to study for long and short periods of time.
These cross-cultural programs remain unparalleled as a means for improving and advancing understanding and dispelling stereotypes and misinformation.
Through their 23 offices in 13 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, AMIDEAST provides a number of additional services to American and local educational institutions, individuals, and public and private organizations.
Education Abroad for Americans
AMIDEAST Education Abroad Programs in the Arab World offers semester, academic year and summer programs designed for undergraduate students who want to
-Accelerate their acquisition of Arabic language proficiency
-Deepen their understanding of the peoples and cultures of the Middle East and North Africa
-Expand their intercultural and global competence See more