Friends of the Arc (FOTA) is a nonprofit advocacy organization that believes that the Arc, developed by the RAND Corporation (a problematic sponsor, on which more below) and Suisman Urban Design, has the potential according to them "to ensure a viable Palestinian state and a Middle East that knows sustainable peace, prosperity, and security."
FOTA has announced a $1,000 prize for the best essay by a college or graduate student, in the form of a policy brief to President Barack Obama, on the topic of the usefulness of RAND Corporation’s Arc concept for the current Middle East peace negotiations.
According to RAND's website: "Palestine’s crumbling infrastructure presents a major challenge for a new Palestinian state. Yet it also provides an opportunity to plan for sustainable development and to avoid the environmental cost and economic inefficiencies of haphazard, unregulated urban development that might otherwise result from the need to accommodate a rapidly growing population. The Arc, RAND’s concept for developing the physical infrastructure of a Palestinian state, provides such a plan." More information about the Arc is available here.
Submissions should respond to the following prompt:
With the resumption of direct negotiations between Israelis and Palestinians, many observers doubt that more purely political discussions will finally produce a comprehensive peace settlement; they suggest that some paradigm-changing idea is needed to break the deadlock. You have been asked to brief President Obama about the Arc project. Prepare a policy brief making the case that the Arc plan is just such a compelling idea, and that with U.S. support, it could help negotiators achieve a breakthrough for peace.
Submissions are due October 8, 2010, at 6 pm ET and should be no more than 1,000 words in length. Before crafting their submissions, participants should view the 30-minute Arc video and other resources at www.friendsofthearc.org. College and graduate students from any country are eligible to apply.
One World, Many Peaces deems it necessary to point out the RAND has close ties to the military, that the Arc project is being developed without the express consent of the Palestinian people, and that it is all-too remeniscent of the Soviet-style infrastructure development projects that brought so much of post-colonial Africa and Eastern Europe close to ruin. These could be topics for consideration for the peace writing contest.
We asked the contest's organizers how they resolve the paradox with the close military ties and this "peace" project, here is what they had to say:
"The RAND Corporation certainly has its origins in conducting studies and R&D (R&D is the origin of the name RAND) for the US Air Force. These days, it remains a publicly funded think tank for conducting studies and performing R&D. But, now its funding is much more diversified with over half of its funding going to topics such as health, education and development. The Arc study was actually privately financed by philanthropists interested in how development strategies could spur peace, prosperity and security in the Middle East. RAND, which brought on world renowned designer Doug Suisman through his urban design firm Suisman Urban Design, conducted the study to answer the questions posed by the sponsors – just as they do any other study. RAND only conducted a study. By charter, RAND cannot and does not advocate or implement. As such, RAND is not “helping negotiators achieve a breakthrough for peace”. But Friends of the Arc, which is a worldwide network of individuals who see the power of the Arc concept in inspiring peace, prosperity and security in the Middle East, is working to advocate the Arc as something that could help negotiators to a breakthrough for peace."
The winner will receive a $1,000 cash prize and will be featured on our website. FOTA reserves the right to post all essays on its website and to send one or more to President Obama. For all competition details, please visit www.friendsofthearc.org/essaycontest