2015 Keynote Luncheon at the 69th Annual Conference
Luncheon is 12:30-2:00pm
Conference is 9:00am-5:15pm
In the fifth year of the Syrian conflict, the situation continues to deteriorate with no hope for a solution in sight. Despite the ongoing fighting between pro-regime, rebel, and ISIS forces, among others, Syrian civil society continues to operate on the ground in areas free from government control. Brave individuals risk their lives on a daily basis to provide medical care, education, and good governance to the Syrians who remain behind.
The Middle East Institute’s Annual Keynote Luncheon panel, Syrian Voices, Policy Choices, will feature Syrian civil society activists Bassel Junaidi and Sandra Bitar, who work to provide civic services and humanitarian relief to communities in Aleppo and Homs, respectively. They will be joined by Assistant Secretary of State Anne C. Richard and MEI Senior Fellow Amb. Robert S. Ford for a discussion about civilian life in Syria, the internationalization of the conflict, and the role of the U.S. both in finding a solution and in aiding the country’s refugees.
Anne C. Richard
Assistant Secretary of State for Population, Refugees, and Migration, U.S. State Department
Anne Richard assumed leadership of the State Department’s population, refugees, and migration bureau in April 2012. Prior to her appointment, she was the vice president of government relations and advocacy for the International Rescue Committee (IRC), an international aid agency that helps refugees, internally displaced, and other victims of conflict. She has been a non-resident fellow of the Center for Transatlantic Relations at Johns Hopkins University and a board member of the Henry L. Stimson Center. From 1999 to 2001, Ms. Richard was director of the secretary’s office of resources, plans and policy at the State Department, and from 1997 to 1999 she was the deputy chief financial officer of the Peace Corps. Earlier, she served in the State Department’s office of policy and resources and as a budget examiner at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. Ms. Richard has authored several monographs and reports for think tanks and numerous opinion pieces on topics related to foreign policy and foreign aid.
Amb. Robert S. Ford
Senior Fellow, The Middle East Institute
Active now as a scholar and university lecturer, Robert Ford served for 30 years in the State Department and Peace Corps, concluding his career in 2014 as the U.S. ambassador to Syria. He served as U.S. ambassador to Algeria (2006-2008), deputy ambassador in Iraq (2008-2010), senior political advisor to the U.S. ambassador to Iraq (2004-2006), and deputy chief of mission in Bahrain (2001-2003). Ambassador Ford held postings in Egypt, Turkey, Cameroon, and in Algeria during its civil war. He was awarded the Presidential Honor award for his leadership of the embassy in Damascus, and the Secretary of State’s Distinguished Service Award, the department’s highest award. In 2012, he received the annual Profile in Courage award from Boston’s John F. Kennedy Library for his defense of human rights in Syria. Ambassador Ford has appeared on CNN, PBS, MSNBC, Fox News, NPR, the BBC, and Arab networks, and has been published in The New York Times and Foreign Policy, among others.
Activist and Board Member, Emesa
Sandra Bitar is a board member of the Emesa organization, a Syrian NGO which has projects in the city of Homs to provide humanitarian aid and educational services. Ms. Bitar has been involved in organizing and conducting campaigns to promote human rights, democracy, and political pluralism. She is based currently in Gaziantep, Turkey, and travels regularly to Beirut in her work with Emesa (the name of Homs in ancient Greek).
Co-founder and Board Member, Kesh Malek
Bassel Junaidi is an activist from Aleppo. He is currently based in Gaziantep, Turkey, and travels to Aleppo on a regular basis. He is a co-founder and board member of Kesh Malek (“Checkmate”), a civil society organization established in 2011 to organize protests and advocacy campaigns. In 2014 and 2015, Kesh Malek founded eight schools and three community centers in Aleppo. Junaidi is also a policy analyst and has conducted studies about armed groups, the consequences of the Syrian conflict on minorities, and the structure of the Syrian state.