Saturday, February 5, 2011

People to People temporarily suspends programs in Egypt

We carefully monitor events around the world as they arise. From natural disasters such as I recently blogged about (Australia Delegation Safe: We Keep on Eye on Disaster) to the current political events in several Middle Eastern countries, we actively plan to ensure the safety of all our participants on all our programs.

Our decisions are driven by the intelligence and guidance provided to us multiple times each day from the Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) and the U.S. State Department, as well as from the U.S. Embassy’s around the world. We match that to our own intelligence from on the ground through our partners, and our staff makes decisions daily to determine if we cancel, alter or move forward with our planned itineraries.

Part of our plan in evaluating the situation is being diligent in our communication to readers such as yourself.

While our student programs do not travel to the Middle East region, our Citizen Ambassador Program, geared to professionals, does.

Ultimately, we have decided that Egypt presents too great a risk and have canceled our currently scheduled programs there.

Part of our expertise is an analysis of the situations at the country level, understanding the sharp differences of the situation can exist in the same region. Therefore while, we are canceling our currently scheduled programs to Egypt, we are planning on continuing our Citizen program in Jordan and Israel.

At the current time the activities taking place in Jordan, although similar in nature, do not appear to pose the same potential threat as those taking place, as I write, in Egypt. The demonstrations in Jordan are much smaller and have remained peaceful. Some organizations have shifted travel to Jordan from Egypt.

There have not been any active demonstrations in Israel – Israel is a democratically elected government and while they are naturally impacted by the perception of what is happening in Egypt and Jordan there is no direct link. Clearly our Executive Task force will continue to remain focused on the events taking place in these countries and at any point conditions were to change and pose a potential risk to our travels, we will not hesitate to cancel the program and refund those participants who have enrolled.

Part of the decision making process may also include working strategically with the delegation leaders to consider moving to a different region of the world should the current situation change.

The bottom line is that if it is not safe, we will not travel to that destination. That core philosophy applies to every program that People to People offers whether it is a student program or a professional program like the Citizen Ambassadors. We will not travel anyone if their safety and health is at risk, no matter what the cost to our organization to cancel such a program.

We continue to remain in constant communication with our partners in the Middle East. We are hopeful that our good friends and colleagues in Egypt remain safe and we look forward to re-opening our programs to Egypt in the not too distant future once it becomes safer. Safety is our first goal, but our mission is to heal wounds and bridge cultural and political borders through education and exchange, making the world a better place for future generations.

As always, I wish you all safe travels and a healthy life!
Mike Bowers

Senior Director of Health & Safety

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