Conversations in Diplomacy: Nabil Fahmy

  • Charles Hobbs
| Jan. 24, 2012 Series: Conversations in Diplomacy

The Future of the Egyptian Revolution



Nabil Fahmy served as Egyptian Ambassador to the United States from 1999 until 2008. Fahmy is also the founding Dean of the School of Public Affairs at the American University in Cairo. During his tenure as a Fisher Family Fellow with the Future of Diplomacy Project in November 2011, Fahmy joined Professor R. Nicholas Burns, Faculty Director of Project, for a conversation on the course of the Arab spring and Egypt’s democratic future.

Of the most immediate concern, both for Egyptians and for the international community, is the short-term outcome of the Egyptian elections following the ouster of Hosni Mubarak. The world has greatly underestimated scope and impact of the revolution on daily life in Egypt, according to Fahmy. Not only had there been rgime change but also a fundamental change in the social fabric of Egyptian society. Such a change has ramifications not only for the governing regime, but also for how people expect government, economy, and day-to-day affairs to play out.

On the whole, Egypt is destined to become a democracy. Whether these expectations will translate quickly into effective governance, according to Fahmy, “depends on how we [Egyptians] put together a political system…where it is accountable, transparent, and also competitive—where everyone has equal rights.” He noted he has grown more circumspect with regards to the speed with which that transition will take place. “Five months ago I was more confident than I am now…I am a bit anxious,” he says, “because we have made too many mistakes.” Even so, “there will be a higher price, but we will get there.”

In addition to his prognosis of the Egypt’s democratic transition, Fahmy—a public servant with over thirty years of experience in the foreign service—also shared his thoughts on the future on his country’s foreign policy agenda. {Overall, Fahmy envisions that a democratic Egypt will have a foreign policy that is “more progressive, more constructive, [and] more forceful.” In a more open, more democratic context, this means that Egypt “will do strategically what serves our interests best, but how we do it will be defined by our domestic politics.” Fahmy cites America as an example: “Our relationship,” he says, “with the US is of paramount importance, and will be, irrespective of who is elected. What we will argue and cooperate on will be determined by short term politics, but the overall objective will be a strong, manageable relationship.”

Fahmy also believes that the introduction of democratic politics in Egypt will not be the end of the Egypt-Israeli peace agreements. “[Egyptians] are committed to peace because it serves our interests,” according to Fahmy, and not because of US support for the issue.

With foreign policy as with the democratic transition, Fahmy was most adamant that the decision-making, going forward, “has to be an Egyptian experience; we will fail or succeed.”

For more information on this publication: Please contact the Belfer Communications Office
For Academic Citation: Hobbs, Charles. “Conversations in Diplomacy: Nabil Fahmy.” News, , January 24, 2012.

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