Georgetown University School of Foreign Service in Qatar (SFS-Qatar) hosted Mohammad-Javad Zarif in a talk sponsored by Georgetown’s Center for International and Regional Studies (CIRS). Mohammad-Javad Zarif, Iran’s former permanent representative to the United Nations from 2002 to 2007, spoke on the role of universities in bringing societal change.
“It’s obvious that what is taking place in the Middle East today is partly due to the increase in level of education… the fact is this education has come here late,” said Zarif, who is now the vice president for International Relations at Iran’s Islamic Azad University.
The event was held at the Four Seasons hotel, where a distinguished group of dignitaries, including ambassadors and members of the diplomatic corps, were in attendance. During the talk, titled “The Role of Universities in National Awakenings”, Zarif cautioned against treating evolving political scenario in the Middle East with a micro vision.
“In a globalized world of commerce, of security… we must understand that the changes education is bringing forward here, is a global pattern,” added Zarif.
Worryingly, the academician said, an increasing number of universities are looking inward as funds dry out in a world marred by conflicts, natural disasters and recessions.
“Because of economic difficulties, universities are more inward looking… cutting funds… and this is not the time to do that,” said Zarif.
The speaker also exhorted the idea of academic exchanges, particularly “with those we don’t agree with”.
Zarif has had a long and illustrious career in the Iranian diplomatic corp. Before his stint at the UN, he was Iran’s deputy Foreign Minister for Legal and International Affairs from 1992 to 2002.
CIRS director, Mehran Kamrava said: “Universities play a critical role in the globalization of knowledge, traversing national boundaries. What we see in the Middle East today is a highly-educated class yearning to be heard.
“An increase in both access to education as well as in quality of education has the potential to bring about long-term development and prosperity in the Middle East,” added Kamrava.
Georgetown University’s CIRS hosts a variety of regional and international experts, with former speakers including prominent Middle East news correspondent Robert Fisk and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Thomas L. Friedman. These lectures are designed to raise awareness of regionally-relevant international issues. Georgetown’s Center for International and Regional Studies in Qatar is a premier research institute devoted to the academic study of regional and international issues. CIRS sponsors a number of forums throughout the year facilitating dialogue and an exchange of ideas on a broad range of issues with the aim to engage and enrich the university students and community.