CBI and Partners Catalyze New US-Pakistan Relationships and Initiatives

David Fairman

US-Pakistan Leaders Forum on Media and Culture Convenes in Washington

Relations between the governments of Pakistan and the U.S. remain very tense. In the last several years, political and military leaders have not found a frank and constructive way to deal with conflicting national security concerns, or to build on the substantial number of shared and complementary interests in regional security and development. Consequently, public concern about the relationship is high in both countries, and perceptions of each other’s societies remain limited and negative.
The news and entertainment media in both countries have more often reinforced mutual mistrust and stereotypes than challenged them. Yet there is both precedent and potential for well-structured partnerships to bridge some of the divides. Despite many security and visa obstacles, Pakistani and American journalists have participated in exchange programs, as have artists, pop music, theater, and traditional dance performers. There is growing U.S. media interest in developing news and entertainment programming for Pakistan’s booming private TV market.
U.S.-Pakistan Media Leaders ForumThis past June, at the Bolger Conference Center outside Washington D.C., more than 50 Pakistani and American media, arts and culture leaders came together at the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum on Media and Culture. The Forum was jointly convened by CBI, Convergence, and the Institute for Resource and Security Studies (IRSS). Its goals were to explore the challenges and opportunities for media and culture collaboration, to forge new relationships, and to catalyze exchanges and partnerships. The Forum’s facilitators were CBI Managing Director David Fairman, Convergence Vice President Aakif Ahmad, and IRSS Deputy Director Paula Gutlove.
Pakistani Forum participants included CEOs and Presidents of five major private media companies; accomplished musicians, political satirists; theater producers, and filmmakers; prominent news editors, talk show hosts and journalists; the country's leading visual arts educator; and a former Information Minister of Pakistan, among others. 

American participants included two former U.S. Ambassadors, the President of the Asia Society, senior leaders from Fox International, Viacom, Walt Disney, ABC News, PBS News Hour, NPR, FRONTLINE, America Abroad Media, National Geographic Society, the Kennedy Center, New England Foundation for the Arts, University of Maryland School for Journalism, International Center for Journalists, Global Voices, Organization of News Ombudsman, the Committee to Protect Journalists, The Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, Center for American Progress, and the Heritage Foundation, among others.
Forum participants broke the ice with dialogue about each society’s strengths and challenges in economy, security and culture. They explored the role of the media, arts and culture in contributing to and challenging polarization in each society. With a strong base of mutual understanding established, they worked in-depth on partnership possibilities in journalism and the news media; entertainment programming; and arts and cultural exchange, including:

  • Ombudsman capacity building for Pakistani news organizations
  • Joint investigative journalism partnerships
  • Journalism certificate programs at Pakistani universities in partnership with U.S. universities and NGOs, with support from media companies in Pakistan
  • Entertainment programming partnerships between Pakistani networks and American broadcast entertainment companies
  • Cultural partnerships: theater for peacebuilding; filmmaking collaborations and a US-Pakistan Film Institute; pop and folk concert and recording collaborations; exchanges and training for arts and culture teachers
  • A year-long US-Pakistan Music and Arts Festival in 2015

Participants also held dialogues with senior U.S. and Pakistani government officials, including U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan Ambassador Marc Grossman, his Pakistan Deputy Ambassador Robin Raphel, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Her Excellency Sherry Rehman, Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy Tara Sonenshine, and former U.S. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs Doug Wilson.
Many participants commented on the unique and unprecedented opportunity the three-day Forum provided for senior decision makers from Pakistani and U.S. media and arts to hold a sustained dialogue and partnership exploration in a retreat setting. They particularly appreciated the exceptional mix of journalists, media executives, arts, entertainment, and culture leaders. Participants also applauded the Forum’s team facilitation for sparking intellectual and professional creativity, and for clarifying and capturing key ideas and partnership opportunities.
CBI, Convergence and IRSS will follow up with Forum participants to help develop partnership ideas and connect them to sources of financial support. CBI and its partners are also actively seeking additional funds to continue the work of the U.S.-Pakistan Leaders Forum.

For more information contact CBI Managing Director David Fairman.

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