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‘We’ve Been Strategic Partners for the Last 40 Years’: Interview with US Ambassador to Egypt

January 23, 2022
US Ambassador His Excellency Jonathan Cohen and member of Egyptian Streets team Marina Makary Photo via Andrew Hosny
US Ambassador His Excellency Jonathan Cohen and member of Egyptian Streets team Marina Makary
Photo via Andrew Hosny

On the sidelines of the fourth edition of the World Youth Forum (WYF), Egyptian Streets caught up with His Excellency, US Ambassador, Jonathan Cohen, to chat about his participation in the event, as well as his role and experience in Egypt thus far.

As his second time at the WYF after 2019, His Excellency recounts that the youth in Egypt are quite inspirational.

“Their [the youth’s] activism, their passion, their commitment to work hard for a better future, and their engagement in a rather sophisticated way with government officials, private sector representatives, members of civil society, and international organizations, gives me a lot of optimism and hope that the young generation is going to help make this world a better place,” says HE Cohen.

At the opening panel session of the WYF, the US ambassador announced starting a US Ambassador’s Youth Council at the US Embassy in Cairo. The council would consist of Egyptian youth who will work with a team from the embassy to address common issues such as climate change, entrepreneurship, and civic leadership.

Opening panel session at the World Youth Forum 2022
Photo via US Embassy in Egypt

On being posted in Egypt

Appointed in November, 2019, HE describes his two and a half years in Egypt as “great”.

“I’ve had a really wonderful time getting to know the Egyptian people, getting to know the country better,” the ambassador explains. “I’ve been here before, but this is a chance to get to know it in depth, and help move the US-Egypt relationship forward into a more productive and positive space.”

His Excellency in Egypt
Photo via YouTube

“I think there’s something very deep that the Californian and Egyptian cultures have in common. It has to do with the way that people interact, the kind of friendliness and informality that makes it easy to establish really good relations. And, I think having come from California, that helps me here in Egypt.”

On Egypt-US bilateral relations

Alongside Israel and Jordan Egypt is one of the top recipients of U.S. foreign assistance, in the Middle East. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the new appointments of heads of state, the US-Egypt relationship expanded and the bond between the two countries remained strong.

The ambassador highlights that the US is helping Egypt reach its strategy for 2030.

“We’ve been strategic partners for the last 40 years, and part of that has been a very substantial investment through USAID and other assistance branches to help build and develop the Egyptian economy, Egyptian health care, Egyptian infrastructure, and Egyptian education,” His Excellency continues.

“We’re working now on Egyptian business, on women’s empowerment, on entrepreneurship; all these things help contribute.”

Moving forward, alongside Europe and the African continent, climate change has been a hot topic with substantial governmental and transnational focus.

In November, 2021, the Egyptian Ministry of Environment announced that Egypt was selected to host the 27th session of the 2022 United Nations Climate Change Conference in Sharm El-Sheikh (COP27).

“We’re delighted to be partnering with Egypt as they head toward COP27,” adds His Excellency. “We’ve established a US-Egypt working group on climate, and we’re going to try and use that to help make progress on some of the goals that we have in common on the climate issues before COP27 starts.”

US Ambassador His Excellency Jonathan Cohen and member of Egyptian Streets team Marina Makary
Photo via Andrew Hosny

A final note: inspiring youth

Egypt’s population is majorly young, with a large percentage under 35 years old. Accordingly, the WYF aims to represent youth, offer them a platform to voice their opinions, promote global dialogue, and foster a new generation of capable and empowered youth.

“My advice to the youth in general is to dream big, work hard, and think about what you can do to contribute to making the world a better place in the future,” concludes His Excellency.