Korbel Students Visit Israel and the West Bank

PRESS RELEASE

Korbel Students Visit Israel and the West Bank

Master’s students from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies recently returned from a two-week multi-perspective journey through Israel and the West Bank

July 2018

DENVER— Master’s students from the University of Denver’s Josef Korbel School of International Studies recently returned from a two-week multi-perspective journey through Israel and the West Bank. The trip was organized and sponsored by the Center for Middle East Studies and was made possible by GPD Charitable Trust and a well-known Denver-based surgeon.

During the trip, students engaged with activists, government officials, educators, UN observers, NGOs, and many more to better understand the complexity of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Just as important, the students were able to experience daily life in Israel and the West Bank, and spoke to families regularly impacted by violence and occupation. There were also plenty of inspiring moments, as students met with Israelis and Palestinians working together to protect environmental resources, Palestinians working toward peace through agriculture, and educators at Arab-Jewish bilingual schools.

The trip was led by Mejdi Tours, based in Jerusalem, which offers a multi-narrative experience to visitors. The tour was led by both Israeli and Palestinian guides, who provided thorough histories of the country and fostered an inclusive environment of thoughtful dialogue and reflection. Professor Micheline Ishay served as the faculty leader of the trip.

“My hope for the trip was not to have students return home feeling as though they’ve ‘figured out’ the conflict,” said Gina Jannone, program manager of CMES. “The hope was to allow students to better understand just how complex the situation is and the many narratives that form the history of this tiny country. I believe these students will keep asking questions, and will continue to engage with each other and their connections in Israel and the West Bank for some time.”

Founder and Executive Director, John DeBlasio said: “Having worked and lived in the Middle East for 10 years, I was inspired to develop academic centers that focus on the potential for positive change in the Middle East. This program brings students into the heart of what it means to influence social, cultural, and political developments in the Middle East region.”

“Having worked and lived in the Middle East for 10 years, I was inspired to develop academic centers that focus on the potential for positive change in the Middle East. This program brings students into the heart of what it means to influence social, cultural, and political developments in the Middle East region."

- John DeBlasio, Executive Director of the GPD Charitable Trust

Background: The first institution of its kind in Colorado, the University of Denver’s Center for Middle East Studies (CMES) is dedicated to promoting and strengthening the study and understanding of the societies, political systems, and international relations of the Middle East and broader Islamic world, both at DU and throughout the Mountain West. Housed within the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, the Center seeks to generate scholarly research and foster public understanding of this critical and changing part of the world.

Trump Withdraws US from Iran Deal as North Korea Nuclear Talks Loom

Trump Withdraws US from Iran Deal as North Korea Nuclear Talks Loom

May 9, 2018

“A horrible one-sided deal.”

That’s how President Donald Trump described the nuclear agreement between Iran and world powers when he announced Tuesday the U.S. is pulling out of the deal.

Signed nearly three years ago, the deal requires Iran to drastically reduce its stockpile and production of enriched uranium over a 15-year period in exchange for the lifting of economic sanctions. Trump has said he would restore those nuclear-related sanctions.

European allies such as France, Germany and the United Kingdom disagree with Trump’s decision to quit the agreement and have signaled they will stick with it.

As historic nuclear talks with another rogue nation – North Korea – loom, what could a U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal mean for international security and nuclear disarmament?

Joining us to provide their perspectives are Chicago Council on Global Affairs President Ivo Daalder, who disagrees with the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal; and John DeBlasio, a US Army veteran and founder of GPD Charitable Trust. DeBlasio agrees with the decision to pull out of the agreement, saying, “Beneath the surface, we need to push for regime change.”

Read the article on Chicago Tonight

Syria Direct Graduates Ninth Class of Journalists

PRESS RELEASE

Syria Direct graduates its 9th class of journalists

Graduates complete three-month course on the basics of journalism

January 2018

Syria Direct graduated its ninth class of aspiring Syrian journalists Sunday after they completed a three-month course on the basics of journalism at the organization’s office in Amman, Jordan.

The latest class of 12 trainees—six men and six women—took several weeks of classes on producing ethical, transparent reporting before putting what they learned into practice,working alongside Syria Direct’s American and Syrian staff.

By creating a program focused on reporting and training journalists, we are able to inform decision-makers and build the basis for what will hopefully become a free press in the future.

- John DeBlasio, Executive Director of the GPD Charitable Trust

The dozen journalists, now in Amman, are from across Syria, including Damascus, Daraa, Latakia and Homs. They come from different religious, cultural and economic backgrounds, which hopefully was reflected in Syria Direct’s coverage.

The current training program is made possible by a grant from the US Department of State. Syria Direct has been training journalists since 2014. Most of the full-time staff were once trainees. In fact, nearly 60 percent of Syria Direct graduates now work in journalism and media.

Training the Next Generation of Iraqi Leaders

PRESS RELEASE

Training the Next Generation of Iraqi Leaders

GPD Charitable Trust Partners with American University of Iraq, Sulaimani and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung to Train Young Iraqi Leaders in Advocacy and Campaigning Skills

October 2017

On October 24 – 25, 2017, GPD Charitable Trust partnered with Konrad Adenauer Stiftung and the American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) to train twenty-two emerging Iraqi leaders in advocacy and campaign skills.

The young leaders came from a diverse range of backgrounds, but were united in their passion and dedication for improving governance in Iraq. The participants included Kurds, Arabs, Yezidis, a range of religious and sectarian affiliations, and adherents to an array of ideological outlooks. The young leaders encompassed a variety of different approaches towards political activism, including those who had chosen to join existing political parties, those who were creating their own political parties, as well as civil society actors, and protests movement leaders. The workshop took place against a highly charged political backdrop in Iraq, just after Baghdad retook disputed territories from the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government. Yet the participants from opposing sides of the conflict engaged with each other with curiosity, openness and respect, and friendships and networks were developed between different groups of Iraqis who rarely have the opportunity to interact.

We are excited to be part of a great program supported by both the American University of Sulymaniyah and KAS. Developing the next generation of leaders in Iraq is critical to developing a better future for both Iraq and the region. We hope to create a world-class leader-development program along the lines of the Aspen Institute’s Global Leadership Initiative which seeks to develop policies that lead to positive change by inspiring leaders to participate in civic action.

- John DeBlasio, Executive Director of the GPD Charitable Trust

The young leaders participated in a series of teambuilding exercises, and in interactive sessions exploring effective advocacy techniques, including how to define goals, identify support bases, address spoilers, reach decision-makers, and building sustainable campaigns. Participants then created mock campaigns, based on a template outlining a range of laddered campaign strategies, and presented them to the group. Based on this learning, participants are now engaged in creating campaign plans for real life campaigns that they will launch, with ongoing mentoring from our team. The young Iraqis also met with activists from Beirut Madinati, a new political movement in Lebanon which upended Lebanese politics by participating in municipal elections in Beirut with a radically governance focused agenda. The Iraqis were inspired by the strategies used by their Lebanese counterparts, and participated in a lively exchange of ideas.

‘Change the Arc of History… Just a Little’

'Change the Arc of History... Just a Little'

October 4, 2016

In the 1990 movie “Joe Versus the Volcano”, Tom Hanks’ character, Joe Banks, works in a rather dehumanizing job and is diagnosed with an incurable disease and given 6 months to live. Joe accepts an offer from a greedy industrialist to live his remaining days “like a king.”  All Joe has to do is throw himself into a volcano to help appease a local tribe’s need for a sacrifice to their fire god so the crooked businessman can get access to the valuable minerals on the small volcanic island.

Marketed as “a story of love, lava and burning desire,” the romantic-comedy is really an allegory for Joe’s search for the meaning of his life and his place in the world. It is symbolic of the struggles most of us go through at some point in our lives. Why am I here? What is my purpose in life? Am I meant to make an impact on the world?

Under the category of “God incidence,” I got a phone call in mid-August from a former Junior Penguin hockey player and retired Lt. Colonel, John DeBlasio, who I had coached 34 years ago. We have remained friends with John and his family ever since. His mother Janet is like a second mom for me and was the general manager of the Junior Penguins. She still does our taxes 34 years after we first met. Her husband Pat was the Mayor of Bridgeville, Pa., for several terms and they instilled a strong sense of family, community and philanthropy in their kids.

So John’s initial purpose for calling was that he was dropping off his son Jack at Penn State. Jack is a freshman majoring in engineering and also plays for the Nittany Lion rugby team. We got together with our families to relive some old stories, talk about the future, and to help make Jack feel like “family” was closer than his Chicago home.

As we discussed careers and the twists and turns that life throws our way, an interesting opportunity presented itself. John had sold his very successful business that helped with post-war reconstruction in Iraq. In his effort to make a difference he accepted the Gates-Buffet “Giving Pledge” challenge and established the Global Peace and Development Charitable Trust (GPD).

Read the full article on StateCollege.com

Syria Direct’s Journalist Training Program Highlighted in Washington Post

Syria Direct's Journalist Training Program Highlighted in Washington Post

August 4, 2016

Syria Direct received national attention for its efforts to bring timely, accurate and on-the-ground news from Syria to the rest of the world through their breaking news website, journalist training program and research service.

Founded in 2013 with support from GPD, Syria Direct is an Amman-based nonprofit organization that trains highly talented, aspiring Syrian and American journalists in professional news-gathering and accurate, in-depth reporting on the civil war in Syria.

To read the full article, go here.

Ukraine’s Army FM Radio Station is Featured on National Public Radio

Ukraine's Army FM Radio Station is Featured on National Public Radio

August 1, 2016

Jim Hake, CEO of Spirit of America, was interviewed on NPR about his organization’s efforts to support Ukraine’s Defense Ministry in countering Russian propaganda by launching a military radio station, Army FM. For the full transcript of the conversation, go here.

Army FM Draws Attention for Innovative Approach to Political Discourse in Ukraine

Army FM Draws Attention for Innovative Approach to Political Discourse in Ukraine

May 26, 2016

In March, Ukraine’s army launched Army FM, a radio station for soldiers created to provide content that counters the pro-Russia and pro-separatist programming from other local stations. Using a mix of humor, music and political satire, Army FM will seek to attract, engage, and inform an audience with limited access to credible news sources. Spirit of America, with support from the GPD Charitable Trust, worked with Ukraine’s Defense Ministry to get the project off the ground. For the full article in the Wall Street Journal, go here.

Interview with Head of the Task Force on the Future of Iraq

Interview with Head of the Task Force on the Future of Iraq

July 28, 2016

Nussaibah Younis, Resident Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council, spoke on NPR today about how the U.S. intervention in Iraq affected our involvement in Syria. To read the full transcript of her interview, go here.

Nussaibah Younis directs the Task Force on the Future of Iraq chaired by former Ambassador Ryan Crocker. The Task Force identifies ways to support the Iraqis in stabilizing their state, reconciling their warring communities, and building the basis for long term stability in the country.

GPD Supports the Launch of Atlantic Council Task Force on the Future of Iraq

PRESS RELEASE

GPD Supports the Launch of Atlantic Council Task Force on the Future of Iraq

New task force aims to identify ways to support Iraqis in stabilizing their state, reconciling their warring communities, and building the basis for long term stability in the country

February 2016

The Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East has established a Task Force on the Future of Iraq chaired by former Ambassador Ryan Crocker. The Task Force will identify ways to support the Iraqis in stabilizing their state, reconciling their warring communities, and building the basis for long-term stability in the country.

The Task Force comprises twenty-five top Iraq experts from around the world. They will convene in Washington, DC for the launch, and will conduct fact-finding missions in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, Baghdad, and Najaf. The Task Force will consult European policymakers in Berlin. Finally, they will report their findings in November in order to recommend to the incoming US administration a long-term approach to the stabilization of Iraq. The Task Force on the Future of Iraq will tackle the following key issues:

  • The Future of the Popular Mobilization Units
  • The Status of the Kurdish Regional Government in Iraq
  • Re-integrating Internally Displaced Peoples
  • Rehabilitating Iraq’s Sunni Community
  • Building Effective Governance
  • Reforming the Iraqi Economy
  • Re-Establishing Boundaries between Iraq and Regional Powers

GPD funding contributed to the creation of this task force.