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Shamil Idriss, 2017 Featured Speaker

Shamil Idriss is President and CEO of Search for Common Ground, a global conflict transformation organization with offices in 35 countries. Prior to this position he was appointed Deputy Director of the UN Alliance of Civilizations by UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan, served as Senior Advisor at the World Economic Forum and was a member of the Steering Committee of the Forum’s Council of 100 Leaders. As CEO of Soliya from 2008-2014, Mr. Idriss led a campaign involving public and private sector leaders to establish the field of “virtual exchange” which culminated in the establishment of the J. Christopher Stevens Virtual Exchange Initiative announced by U.S. President Obama in February 2015. Idriss is a member of the World Economic Forum’s Young Global Leaders and recipient of the Open Society Foundation’s New Executive Award in 2015.

Shamil Idriss at The White House Summit to Counter Violent Extremism
Shamil Idriss at US Institute for Peace on the Role of International Education in Peacebuilding

A commitment to the power of grassroots citizen-generated conflict prevention and peacebuilding has defined Mr. Idriss’s life’s work. Even as a senior with a major in Economics and Philosophy at Swarthmore College, he demonstrated his passion for conflict prevention writing an undergraduate thesis on the topic of “Track II Diplomacy and International Conflict Prevention.” Track II diplomacy, writes Charles Homans in the 2011 issue of Foreign Policy, “grew out of the observation that private individuals, meeting unofficially, can find their way to common ground that official negotiators can’t.” Governments, Homans continues, “once viewed Track II as a kind of feel-good exercise at best, and at worst as a genuine threat. …Once a fringe notion, Track II is now taught in 99 conflict resolution graduate programs in American universities, and many more worldwide.”

As recently as November 12, just days after the most divisive election season in recent US history, Mr. Idriss’s blog for Search for Common Ground reminds readers of their role in unifying our divided nation: “The biggest mistake we can make is to assume that it is up to our political leaders to unify us. They can set the tone, but it is primarily in the hands of the American people to rebuild a basic level of mutual respect and dignity… Breakthroughs usually come out of crises, and we are in that crisis. So there is not better time for We, the People, to build a new order: one based on mutual respect and care for our fellow citizens, a commitment to social justice, and a defense of civil liberties that give us power to build that order in the first place.”

2015 Featured Lecturer

Jehane Noujaim

2013 Featured Lecturer

Robin Wright