In an interview with La Cohorte earlier this year, Mawlana Hazar Imam said, “I have always taken the view that civil society must play a fundamental role in the future of all populations. So, we have to consolidate and strengthen it. And that means taking the most important institutions of civil society and giving them support and encouragement wherever we can perhaps help them do things differently from anything we have known up till now.”

The International Visitors Council of Los Angeles (IVCLA) is a civic organization that arranges people-to-people exchanges between emerging international leaders and the citizens of the Los Angeles region. Janet Eliot, President/CEO of IVCLA describes the work of the organization as playing a vital role in building bridges through host exchange programs, and that they “bring hope to the world at a time when honest dialogue between nations has reached a very low point.”

In August, IVCLA coordinated activities in collaboration with the Department of State’s International Visitor Leadership Program (IVLP). IVLP is a professional exchange program funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The mission of IVLP is to offer current and emerging international leaders the opportunity to experience the richness and diversity of American political, economic, social and cultural life, through carefully designed exchanges that reflect participants’ professional interests and the public diplomacy objectives of the United States government.

Three fellows from Egypt were invited to learn about best practices in the United States related to combating trafficking in people. According to the 2019 Trafficking In Persons Report, “The Government of Egypt does not fully meet the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking but is making significant efforts to do so.” Some of the opportunities identified included establishing, “appropriate protection services, including shelters, for victims of all forms of trafficking, and in-kind support or funding to civil society organizations that provided essential victim care.”

Guests from Egypt included Mr. Elsayed Abouelela, Programs Director, Cairo Center for Development, Mr. Mahmoud Elsayed, Capacity Building Consultant, Arabic Network for Human Rights Information and Ms. Shimaa Hassan, Program Director, Combating Violence against Women and Protecting Women from Trafficking and Sexual Abuse, Center for Egyptian Women's Legal Assistance. It was the first time that these individuals had traveled to the United States.

The Council for the Western United States hosted a dinner for these Egyptian leaders on August 18, 2019. The guests were extremely appreciative of the information that had been shared with them by the organizations they visited. Ms. Shimaa Hassan stated, “this has been a great experience for us. A wealth of information has been shared from a number of organizations and we plan to use these best practices within our organizations when we return to Egypt.” It was also noted that they had formed relationships that they could continue to draw upon once they returned to Egypt.

When asked about their experience with the Aga Khan Park in Cairo, a guest shared that “the Aga Khan Park is a beautiful place where people of all religions and perspectives can come and enjoy. We are impressed that priority was given to the development of this park. It is definitely a place that the population of Cairo can cherish ”