University of Jordan Proposal:
The Leonel Fernández Center for Latin American Studies
“Working together, we can help channel a grand partnership – not just governments, not just regional and international forums, but private sectors, NGOs, academic and cultural leaders, and citizens.” -HM King Abdullah II
The Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan is a nation in the midst of a transformation. His Majesty King Abdullah II is at the forefront of reform and development as he oversees one of the few stable emerging democracies in the Middle East. HM Abdullah II looks to continue Jordan’s trajectory of growth and progress. As globalization has restructured social and political connections around the globe, each nation state must reform, reach out, and work together. Realizing this, HM King Abdullah II has promoted Jordan’s development through investments in economic, educational, and social capital. Jordan’s continued integration into the globalized economy has resulted in increased trade partnerships, liberalization, and social, political, and fiscal development. HM Abdullah II has also promoted educational development as a local and international venture. As a result, the Jordanian government has built stronger relations with various transnational networks. The first Arab nation to sign a free trade agreement with the United States, Jordan is now forging bilateral and multilateral economic alliances with both Asia and Latin America.
The Dominican Republic, under the leadership of former President Leonel Fernández, stands as a model for a successful democratic developing country. President Fernández led the country in many efforts to promote sustainable development and progress within its country. Like Jordan, the country has worked towards restructuring and promoting economic, educational, and civic developments. President Fernández has been one of the predominant forces in the Dominican Republic behind increasing democratization, sustainable development, and education policies. President Fernández helped the Dominican Republic to become one of the fastest growing economies in the region. He also promoted international relations through trade agreements, various country summits, and educational initiatives.
Rationale and Justifications
The Arab and Latin American regions constitute a major part of the Global South and as such, share similar economic goals and challenges. Both regions have and continue to deal with problems of underdevelopment and poverty. Efforts to promote sustainable development can only benefit from healthier relations between the two regions, from increased bilateral trade as well as collaboration on various developmental initiatives. Last year, over 30 billion dollars (JD21.2 billion) was commercially exchanged between the Arab League countries and the Union of the South American Nations. Between Jordan and South America, the trade was JD345 million, with imports totaling JD340 million. Brazil and Argentina are Jordan’s top exporters, with Peru and Venezuela as its top importers.
More fundamentally, both of these societies share important cultural similarities that would facilitate intercultural relations between the two regions. Indeed, Latin America has large populations of Arab communities. Both regions have shared fundamental core values centered in conceptions of social justice and peace. Both societies also have strong religious traditions, promoting respect for humanity and other cultures of faith. These moral values as well as a similar historical past shape these countries as natural allies for promoting their mutual goals.
Since his ascendancy to the throne in 1999, HM Abdullah II has visited various countries in Latin America. This continued familiarization resulted in membership and participation in the 2005 Summit of South American-Arab Countries (ASPA). The Summit is a bi-regional mechanism that seeks to enhance political, economic, cultural, and scientific cooperation between Arab and South American countries. Within Jordan itself, King Abdullah II has called for increased cooperation between South American and Arab countries, saying “deeper cooperation is essential, within and between our two regions.”
The third Summit was recently convened in October 2012 in Lima, Peru. This Summit resulted in the shared calls for the formation of a joint committee to bolster bilateral cooperation in economics and tourism. These summits and partnerships with organizations create open channels of communication and purposive efforts between Latin American and Arab intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and decision makers. Ultimately, the objective of Jordan is to establish more direct South-South partnerships for the betterment of the numerous member states. Through this and other actions, particularly in academia, these states intend to continue progress and expansion in ways that benefit these countries.
Aims and Objectives
As a thriving economy begins with knowledge, educational reforms have increased the capacity, diversity, and research methodologies of the oldest and most influential institution of higher learning in the Kingdom, Jordan University. University President Dr. Ekhlief Al-Tarawneh, has insisted on globalizing the university. Celebrating its fiftieth anniversary in 2012, the University aims to become a globally recognized center for rigorous research and international education. Jordan strives to enhance opportunities for both Jordanian and international students through an expansion of research ideas, cooperating institutions, and intellectual excellence. In order to obtain these goals and to further promote the increasing relations with Latin America, Jordan University (UJ) seeks to establish a world class think tank and global forum called the Leonel Fernández Center for Latin American Studies (LFC).
The LFC will unite with President Fernández and his Dominican based FUNGLODE organization, an institution that is a pioneer in the realm of scientific research and specializes in the establishment and promotion of Latin American Studies in the Middle East. It is the mutual aim of FUNGLODE and UJ to internationalize sustainable development, good governance, and human rights through peace promotion and educational and cultural exchange. This partnership has evolved and solidified since the Forum on Middle East Peace was held in July 2010 in the Dominican Republic. Pragmatic and goal oriented dialogue has continued since at various conferences, sponsored by FUNGLODE and other respected Latin American organizations. In 2011, the Cartagena Conference set the stage for more purposive efforts that have had a positive impact on global developments. As unprecedented political and social changes take place across the globe, particularly in the MENA region, the commonality of experiences between Latin America and the Middle East begets the need for broader alliances. UJ names this Latin American Studies Center after President Leonel Fernández to commemorate his numerous and continuing contributions and efforts in this area.
These extraordinary shifts taking place around the world, the Arab Spring, the financial crisis in the West, and the rise of Latin America in the South; facilitates more prospects for Global South direct interchange and scholarship. Long aware of their unique histories, and the role of external actors in their development, Global South scholars have never before cooperated in such an intensive way. Previously hindered from open communication by the West, there lacks a true plethora of inter-relational knowledge. Establishing the LFC at the University of Jordan is an effort to correct for this lack of knowledge. Utilizing intensive language studies as well as study abroad opportunities; both Jordanian and Latin American students will develop a broader knowledge of the Global South partnership. Visiting scholars, entrepreneurs, and decision makers will inform a larger audience of the various mutual issues relevant to both the Arab and Latin American regions. By spreading this knowledge and awareness, the Center will create educated global citizens better prepared to participate in the development of international as well as their respective civic and education sectors.
As the only institute in the region to host a Latin American Studies Center, the University of Jordan will establish itself as a pioneer institution of intercultural relations. In the beginning stages, the LFC will hold diverse, debate-oriented public lectures and discussions focusing on cultural, societal, and political issues relevant to both the Latin American and Arab societies. The forums will engage experts and students from both societies to promote intercultural collaboration, awareness, and research.
As the Center develops, it will publish monthly newsletters and annual journal publications detailing its events and investigative findings. The emphasis of these papers will be on promoting and exploring a variety of identities, issues, themes, and philosophies. The need for language immersion and cultural exchange is crucial in this endeavor in order to produce better-informed research. Accordingly, the Center will sponsor Arabic and Spanish classes. Working with FUNGLODE, students will be encouraged to engage in study abroad opportunities in the Dominican Republic and other CARLAC affiliated Latin American nations. Students from the Dominican Republic and other Latin American countries studying Arabic, Middle Eastern or Islamic Studies will also be welcomed at UJ.
Latin America, like the Middle East, is not homogenous. As such, the Center’s efforts must depict the array of socio-cultural, political, economic, and theological characteristics relevant to the regions. The newsletters and journal publications of the LFC will investigate and analyze various viewpoints and ideas relevant to the two societies in Arabic, Spanish, and English, so as to inform a multinational audience. As these research papers and projects develop, the LFC will hold an Annual Conference, hosted at either UJ or FUNGLODE, detailing the progress of students and staff in all areas of research. Through initiatives such as this, UJ strives to create a fluid, pioneering environment.
The Center will also introduce a variety of certificate training courses on issues related to Latin American Studies. The ultimate goal of the Center is to offer undergraduate and graduate degrees relating to Latin American Studies. The focus will be to prepare young scholars to promote relations between Latin America and the Arab region by emphasizing the globalized nature of world issues through these strenuous and relevant courses. These training courses and degrees will create educated men and women, better equipped to advance and contribute to Latin American areas of academic and civic society.
Activities and Budget Development
The completion of this Center will be a gradual process. FUNGLODE is generously donating $100,000 to ensure the establishment of the LFC. This money will be allocated towards the necessary launching steps. However, there is a crucial need for other investments in the Center. Since UJ already hosts a wide array of research centers, impetus is placed on contacting previous like-minded investors and researchers. Direct investment will be spurred by raising awareness of the Center’s aims. FUNGLODE has a multitude of cooperating institutions that may be viable donors, including the Global Learning Network, the Center for Strategic and International Studies, among others.
In the second year, the Center will allocate $200,000 in funding. The LFC seeks to transition to self-sufficiency through a number of its offered initiatives. Courses will be priced in accordance with UJ price standards. The Center’s journal publications will be priced according to international standards regarding similar institutions. As the Center continues to develop, the implementation of certificate programs, training, and workshops will aid the Center’s financial capital.
In the third year, the Center will begin to consolidate its influence, with a budget of $500,000. Certificate programs as well as language training and workshops will educate students and serve as a tenet of our global reach. Emphasis is on creating globally recognized progressive and innovative programs. By doing so, the Center will ensure growth in fiscal and influential areas.
As the Center further develops in four to five years, op-eds, think-tank consultation, and excellent scholarship will assist in financial development and stability. The ideal budget for this time period is $1-2 million. At this point, joint degrees and study abroad opportunities will take precedence. The Center will cooperate with study abroad programs such as Amideast, CIEE in Jordan and the Dominican Republic, ISA in the D.R., among others, so as to further the scholarly environment, research, and legacy of the Center. Joint degrees and international research opportunities will also take place during this time. The Center’s aim is to become an independent, objective, think tank that operates with the goals of democratization of information, promotion of peace, sustainable development, and intercultural educational collaboration.
President Fernández, through FUNGLODE and CARLAC institutions, is currently organizing the Arab – Latin American Forum to be held in Abu Dhabi from 15 to 18 December. This forum brings together social, development, and academic leaders from both regions “to develop a strategic vision on issues of mutual interest to both regions.” This international forum is just one example of the crucial ways in which the Latin American and Arab regions are increasing their collaboration in ways to promote intercultural interaction, understanding, and development.
At the Summit of South American-Arab Countries in 2012, HM King Abdullah II ended his speech on this note:
“My friends, the challenges ahead are real. To reach our goals, to create the future our people deserve, we must use all our capabilities…It is teamwork that will multiply our strength…help us level the playing field…give us a voice in writing the global rules…and deliver success.”
Global South partnerships can now remake the world in radical ways. The University of Jordan and FUNGLODE seek to lead the global South into the future. Development and peace promotion do not come easy. However, working together in many fields, particularly in academia, allows the LFC to influence the international narrative in decisive ways. Once the Leonel Fernández Center for Latin American Studies is complete, it can begin to create a new frame of reference and a rich source of knowledge. Through this, and other strategic actions, the global South will continue on its trajectory of success.