In May of 2014, a seven-person delegation of Network 20/20 members traveled to Iran at the invitation of the Institute for Political and International Studies (IPIS), a think-tank associated with Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The delegation met with government officials, academics, artists, entrepreneurs, members of the media, nonprofit leaders, scientists and others, both formally and informally. The aim of the visit was to improve communications among emerging leaders in Iran and the United States, and to identify areas for future collaboration.
Two broad themes emerged as areas for exploration for future collaboration: business and the environment.
With the potential for U.S.-imposed economic sanctions to be lifted following the historic September 2013 phone call between President Obama and President Rouhani, businesses from around the world were in Tehran, developing already-established business connections or building out new ones. The notable absence was the Americans. Given the Iranians’ expressed interest in forming business ties with the United States and respect for U.S. products and brands, the situation is ripe for Iranian- U.S. ties to develop through business channels. Conversely, the U.S. risks losing access to a large, educated market should they continue to sit on the sidelines.
The threat of climate change and the extent of environmental degradation occurring within Iran’s borders and throughout the region is another topic that resonated within Iran and with the delegation as a possible area of colalboration. Representatives from Iran’s Department of Environment recommended specific areas – air pollution, water management, and desertification — as areas where they would like to work with experts from the United States in an urgent effort to mitigate these environmental threats. Network 20/20 was asked to play a catalytic role in setting up an exploratory meeting between Iranian and American environmentalists, a role Network 20/20 plans to move forward with once sanctions against doing so are lifted.