The Ford Foundation has been present in the Middle East and North Africa since the early 1950s, with offices over the years in eight locations throughout the region, including Beirut, Tunis and Cairo. We have maintained an office in Cairo since 1959.
Our Cairo office is just a few blocks away from Tahrir Square, a location that enables us to stay close to events but which also presents some challenges. The security of our staff is our first priority, and we are taking every precaution to continue to ensure their safety. We also remain in close daily contact with many of our grantees. They report being safe and are continuing their work. The situation on the ground is changing constantly, of course, and we will continue to monitor developments.
We have a long history of supporting civil society groups working to advance democratic and accountable government, basic human rights, and access to services like health care and higher education. All of this work aims to help Egypt overcome the social, economic and cultural marginalization that holds back millions of its citizens and which partly underlies the demonstrations.
Over the last 20 years we have seen a steady increase in both the number and capacity of civil society organizations in the country and the region. Civil society organizations in Egypt have played an essential role in promoting democratic values such as fairness, inclusion, and participation. The country would not be where it is today without the commitment of these courageous and visionary organizations, and we expect they will play an enormously valuable role in shaping Egypt's future. We are as committed to supporting them now as we have been over the past six decades.
It remains too early to know what the long-term impact of current events will be. One lesson philanthropy can draw already, however, is the importance of social media in social change movements. We have seen its power to mobilize people across the region, and as we think about how we support future movements working for justice it's important to embrace the very real possibilities that this new generation of communications technology enables.
More broadly speaking, for all of us who support Egypt in striving to be a more just and equitable society, it has been profoundly inspiring to see people coming together around a shared desire for better lives and a brighter future.