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American Today


Rising Global Leaders Join WCL as Humphrey Fellows

By Sally Acharya

Andrea Souza has taken on polluters who dumped garbage by the banks of a small-town river. She’s seen child prostitutes gather at truck stops to be paid in sandwiches for their services and tried to put the criminals responsible for the exploitation behind bars.

On the job in Brazil, Souza is a public prosecutor. At AU, she’s one of the 11 Humphrey Fellows from nine countries who came this year to the Washington College of Law (WCL) to study international law and gain experience with U.S. professionals.

The program draws midcareer professionals and rising leaders from around the world to 15 universities around the United States. WCL, which began hosting Humphrey Fellows in 2002, is one of only two law schools in the country selected as sites by the State Department–funded program.

“This program gives me a great opportunity to enhance my professionalism. I want to expand more in public policy and leadership skill,” says Dong Cheng of China’s patent office in Beijing, whose goal at WCL is to learn more about intellectual property rights, a field in which the school is a national leader.

In their home countries, WCL’s Humphrey Fellows are all committed to public service, but have made their mark on a variety of stages, from the courtroom to think tanks to parliaments.

Kyrgyszstan’s Tamerlan Ibraimov is the director of a think tank for political and legal studies, where he grapples with the weighty challenges of a fledgling democracy. “After the fall of the Soviet Union, democracy was a very popular word in our country, but there were very few people who realized what it is,” says Ibraimov, who plans to spend his year at AU learning and interacting with lawyers and nonprofit leaders involved in the political process.

He sees Kyrgyszstan as freer than many other countries in its region, but still struggling with the basic task of defining democracy and crafting a workable version. Kayum Ahmed encounters different issues in his work for South Africa’s Parliament, but there, too, the structural challenges run deep as his country works to redefine its role in Africa.

South Africa is sometimes seen as “Africa’s Yankees,” he says, economically powerful and a bit on the pushy side, yet also suffering from a crisis of confidence about its African identity. Given its challenges, Ahmed wonders, how should South Africa be formulating foreign policy?

He hopes to find insight in a comparative study of ways that the U.S. Congress helps to shape foreign policy. One of his goals is to intern with Congress during his year in Washington, which Humphrey Fellows spend engaged in both academic study and professional experiences.

Ahmed, like his peers, has already established a strong track record of leadership, in his case as an AIDS activist and parliamentary staffer. Past AU Humphrey Fellows who are now taking top leadership roles in their countries include Nepal’s current ambassador to the United Kingdom and members of the parliaments of Kenya and Malaysia.