Happy 15th Birthday EWB-International.
In 2002, my colleague Dr. Claes Helgesson (EWB-Sweden) and I (EWB-USA) decided to launch EWB-International as a network of like-minded organizations interested in addressing the needs of developing communities worldwide. By that time, several EWB/ISF organizations had been in existence since 1982 including those in France, Italy, and Spain. New groups such as EWB-USA and EWB-Canada had just started and requests to start similar organizations were coming from colleagues around the world. Our vision was to coordinate our efforts, work on joint projects, share practices, and build an international network where the whole was larger than the sum of its parts through synergistic activities.
Over the past 15 years, the EWB-I network has had its share of ups and downs from an almost self-inflicted dissolution in Paris in 2005, to its rebirth a few years later with meetings in Germany and Sweden, and to how it stands today with representation from 65 countries. I had the chance to participate in the last EWB-I workshop graciously organized by EWB-UK in London during the summer. I can testify that the organization in the good hands of forward thinking engineering leaders who mean well.
In my opinion, the EWB-I network has potential to develop a platform for science diplomacy, a term often used to describe how science can serve as a vehicle to create transboundary and cross-disciplinary partnerships through scientific collaboration. It can mean different things to different people, ranging from integrating sciences in diplomacy to integrating diplomacy in science. To that list, we should add engineering diplomacy, which is to engineering what science diplomacy is to science. As an engineer, I may not know exactly how to define science (or engineering) diplomacy, but I certainly know how to recognize it when I see it and/or am part of it. I have experienced it through EWB-USA, EWB-International, the Mortenson Center in Engineering for Developing Communities in Boulder; serving as a science envoy to Nepal and Pakistan for the US State Department; and putting together in 2010 a meeting in Cyprus that brought 40 participants from EWB-USA, -Israel, -Palestine, -Egypt, -Jordan, -Lebanon, and –Greece. My experience has shown that as human beings we have a lot in common and when the mind and the heart are at the right place, peace, understanding and collaboration can coexist. EWB-I has potential to become such a compassion-in-action organization as long as its members are willing to collaborate and quoting Gandhi, embody the change they want to see in the world.