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The Tufts Daily
Where you read it first | Monday, June 24, 2024

Tufts educates UAE security officials

The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy recently graduated 10 United Arab Emirates officials from a summer program in international relations preparing them to hold leadership roles in the country's new security organization.

The officials will serve in the UAE's Critical National Infrastructure Authority (CNIA), an organization similar to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

The goal of the organization is to provide for the "protection of vital installations and facilities in the Emirate of Abu Dhabi," according to its Web site. The organization is responsible for overseeing oil and power facilities, airports and the delivery of natural gas, in order to "achieve the economic stability of the Principality," the site says.

The officials took 10 courses and attended workshops during their stay on campus from June 1 to Aug. 30, according to Special Programs and Lecture Coordinator Bernadette Kelley-Leccese. They received a certificate affirming their completion of the program in a ceremony at the Chase Center in Carmichael Hall on Aug. 29.

The 10-week curriculum was designed as a skill-building program for international organizations that focus on security and inter-governmental politics of the Gulf region, Fletcher Professor Andrew Hess said.

According to Leigh Nolan (F '06), who works for Fletcher's Program on Southwest Asia and Islamic Civilization, UAE rulers asked the graduate school to design a program that would equip longtime military officers with the skills they would need in the CNIA.

"You need a more nuanced perspective … to run an entire agency," Nolan said. "We're taking military guys from the UAE. We know [they're] smart and have a lot of skills. We need to enhance those skills."

Hess said that the educational system in the Gulf region often does not provide its leaders with expertise in a fouced range offields. He noticed this in the officials who came to Tufts.

"Many students had positions in the foreign ministry without knowledge of how the foreign oil system worked," he said.

The courses educated the students on a breadth of international relations theory, with a focus on the Gulf region. Topics included the role of oil in the 21st century, international trade, the inner working of the United Nations and conflict resolution and negotiation, Hess said.

While the courses were taught by Fletcher professors, the program was specifically tailored to the students' needs and capabilities. Most of the officials did not have the educational background or English-speaking abilities of a typical Fletcher student.

Hess said that training programs such as the UAE training are important in opening the door to international students from emerging nations who would not otherwise meet the demanding requirements needed to study at the graduate level.

"The problem we have at Fletcher is how to stay in touch with the developing world," he said. "Going out with those kinds of credentials means that we only recruit from English-speaking schools."

Hess said training programs are mutually beneficial to both the school and the students. "This is a procedure that makes sure we stay in touch with the developing world, and we try to respond to their requirements," he said. "We think we're doing them a service, and they appreciate it."

The UAE program follows in a long line of skill-building training sessions that Fletcher has hosted in the past. Another recent example involved preparing 15 Saudi Arabian women for positions in diplomatic affairs. Their ascension marked a revolutionary step, as women have typically been banned from such roles in Saudi Arabia.

In this program, several female doctoral candidates from Fletcher spent the 2008 spring semester teaching in Saudi Arabia, according to Nolan. The Saudi women then took four classes at Fletcher over the summer.

Nolan said that Fletcher has focused on reaching out to the Gulf nations.

"These countries are changing rapidly, like including women, and they need assistance because a lot of them don't have the infrastructure," Nolan said.

She said that the CNIA, the UAE security organization from which the officials came, is currently in developmental stages.

While Fletcher's international reputation and network of alumni in the region played a role in attracting the UAE officials to the school, Nolan said that the UAE officials had most likely become aware of Fletcher in part thanks to Hess's active role in the region, which has spanned over 30 years.

"I'm just part of the story," Hess said. "It was a good experience all the way around."

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