The Brussels Forum had a series of very interesting sessions on Friday. Perhaps the most interesting was the first session:
BBC World Debate (On the Record)
Have the Western policies failed North Africa and the Middle East?
Baroness Catherine Ashton, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy and Vice President, European Commission
Amb. Nabil Fahmy, Dean, American University, Cairo
The Hon. Jeanne Shaheen, Member, U.S. Senate
The comments and questions from the audience were very challenging, and we even had a young blogger from Egypt in the audience who pleaded for help with political capacity building.
Although you'll have to wait for the BBC to post the debate from the first session, there is video of all the other sessions that were on the record on the Brussels Forum website: http://brussels.gmfus.org/archive.html
It was a very stimulating set of discussions, although a bit frustrating at times. I happened to sit next to Barry Eichengreen at dinner, an economics professor from Berkeley, and we both complained that the session on the economy didn't point out that education in general, and higher education in particular is suffering from major cuts in the U.S., threatening both our economy and place in the world. Both of us had tried to make a comment about this when the issue of education came up, since the commentators stated the importance of education in growing the economy.
Immigration also came up as a topic, with Richard Fischer and Senator Mark Warner pointing out that we need skilled immigration, and that we are making a mistake by training foreign students and then sending them back to their home countries -- they agreed that we should offer them a green card when they graduate.
I also attended a night owl session where we had a very interesting discussion about minorities in politics in the U.S., but it was off the record...