Youth around the world are demanding change. From the streets of Beirut, Santiago and Hong Kong, to the global frontlines of the battle against climate change and the swelling ranks of millennial politicians with a foothold in government, the generation of the future is impatient for a slice of power right now.
Against that backdrop, Friends of Europe (FoE) and the Anna Lindh Euro-Mediterranean Foundation (ALF) drew young leaders from Europe, North Africa and the Middle East for a unique two-day seminar to share experiences, debate pressing issues, and exchange ideas with influential figures from government, business, civil society and the arts.
The seminar sent a positive message on the strength of people power led by youngsters who, despite being under-represented at the political level, can still be a driving force for change and innovation. Participants from north and south of the Mediterranean underscored the importance of partnering to confront issues that cut across borders: inequality, gender rights, migration and inclusion, sustainable agriculture and the climate crisis.
Key objectives involved breaking down silo-based thinking by bringing together participants from different backgrounds, views and expertise; forging new networks and, most importantly, translating these discussions into collaborative action that can make a real difference.
The EU-MENA Seminar was been timed to engage the new European Union leadership in working together with young leaders to define a next chapter of regional and international cooperation. The seminar brought together the far-reaching networks of young leaders from across the Euro-Med region.
This unique two-day EU-MENA seminar was organised in association with the Anna Lindh Foundation and co-funded by the European Commission (DG Neigbhourhood and Enlargement Negotiations), launched by the EU High-Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
EYL40 and YMVs will reflect on the most pressing challenges that the world and its citizens currently face.
Researcher and Analyst specialising in the Mediterranean region with a particular focus on Libya, Trustee of Friends of Europe and 2013 European Young Leader (EYL40)
In an era in which we are facing global issues that demand quick and effective collective action, such as climate change, migration and growing inequalities, both politicians and citizens appear to be distracted and paralysed by polarisation. Trust in the rational and stable middle ground of deliberative party politics is disappearing, with people instead opting for strong emotions, populistic rhetoric and big personalities. Issues related to national identity, cultural values and ethnic origins have been prominent in the political debate worldwide, causing not only political division, but also cultural and social polarisation.
Many governments are unable to respond adequately to the growing social, ethnic and religious conflicts – or oftentimes even foment these tensions. Instead, antagonistic narratives seem to be the only way of conceiving the vote. Societal debate has been hijacked by the more extreme movements that instigate high-tension debates, in which more moderate voices and much needed debates about common concerns such as climate change are losing power and influence.
What is the glue binding us together for the future? What can be done to encourage moderate voices? How can we counter social and political polarisation?
Lecturer in Political Sociology at the American University in Cairo
Kris De Meyer
Research Fellow in Neuroscience at King's College London
Journalist and 2017 MENA Young Leader (EYL40)
Online activism or slacktivism
From the American youth-led gun-control movement after the Parkland shooting to the European school strikes urging politicians to stop climate change initiated by a 16-year old Swedish girl, social media has undeniably allowed young activists to instigate social change that resonates on a massive scale. Youth activism is distinguished by its online accessibility and potential to reach likeminded people from around the globe. Yet many critics claim these adolescents are only engaged in ‘Facebook activism’, undermining the traditional democratic structures in place. Furthermore, the companies that youth turn to for their political empowerment act simultaneously as their primary source of information.
Although the use of technology and social media can be a major force of change, it also runs the risk of being considered supporting a social cause in a rather shallow, non-factual manner that commands little to no effort. This phenomenon is commonly referred to as Slacktivism. How do we make sure that we unite youth’s social media opinions with political representation? Can we entrust social media companies and the business models behind them to play such a huge part in linking youth and politics?
Writer, LGTBQ activist and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Thomas Myrup Kristensen
Managing Director EU Affairs and Head of Brussels office at Facebook
Women’s Rights Activist and a member of the feminist collective Fight Like a Woman
An informal discussion between speakers from the cultural sector and the participants on the topic of art and its role in intercultural exchange will take place over dinner.
Director-General of the Africa Museum
Director of Fondation Boghossian
How to influence social change as a citizen beyond voting
Ever feel like you want to make a difference in your community but don’t know how? It’s not always easy to find your way in the maze of participation constructions.
This workshop will be given by Andrea Boccuni, Head of Partnership and Education at The Good Lobby, a start-up committed to fostering assertive citizenship so as to create more accountable, cohesive and happier societies. The workshop will provide you with a unique opportunity to learn how to lobby for good and discover the lobbying tools available to you to make meaningful changes in society.
Feeding the nine billion
The UN estimates the world population will increase by an additional 2bn people by the mid-21st-century. Assuming a nutritionally adequate diet, this will require an estimated 28% increase in our food supply. Scientists and farmers are eagerly looking for innovative solutions to boost food production to cater for the foreseen 9 billion mouths that we will need to feed.
The global food system of the future has been envisioned by some to one day rely on smart robots, blockchain and the internet of things to manufacture synthetic foods for personalised nutrition. Next–generation biotechnologies are already looking to re-engineer plants, animals and farming. In this sci-fi-esque future, will crops grown on the sides of skyscrapers be pollinated by flying robots? Or will we have to expand our diets to include insects, algae and gene-edited foods?
How can we ensure greater food security for the world’s hungry? Could new technologies help us grow food more effectively? How do we avoid a world in which only the rich can afford nutritious food?
Co-Founder and Managing Director of nextProtein
Tomáš Ignác Fénix
Farmer & Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers and 2019 European Young Leader (EYL40)
Olivier De Schutter
Co-chair of IPES-Food, and since May 2020 is the UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights.
Addressing the climate emergency necessitates cooperation and innovation at local, regional and international level. As sister regions, the EU and MENA have an opportunity to invert longstanding misconceptions and unequal relations by adopting a shared sense of responsibility for tackling this global issue. Given the history and interconnectedness of the two regions, the climate emergency sets the scene and context to develop the required actions, technologies and behaviour changes. As climate change is without borders, exchanging knowhow, technologies and innovation can provide a pathway for both regions to connect and consolidate the right approach and reset the relationship between the regions. Younger generations will inherit the state of the planet, and they are making their voices heard. It is clear that the climate emergency connects these generations across regions, but developing these connections will be key.
How can innovation be better shared, learned from and scaled across the EU and MENA regions? What and where are the opportunities to develop and lever cross-regional sustainable finance? What role can cultural exchange play in terms of promoting behaviour change?
European Director at the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Senior Associate at the European Climate Foundation (ECF)
Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment (UNEP)
Small group conversations will run in parallel to gain expertise in an informal setting, connecting participants to the global issues of the new EU agenda.
Integration and inclusion in the political sphere with Ozan Yanar, Member of the Helsinki City Council and EYL40
Transforming green energy with AI and robotics with Yostina Boules, Founder & Managing Director of Taqa Solutions and EYL40
Closing the gender gap with Hala Bugaighis, Co-Founder of Jusoor and MENA Young Leader
1. Integration and inclusion in the political sphere with
Researcher at the Finnish Labour Institute for Economic Research Labore and 2017 European Young Leader (EYL40)
2. Transforming green energy with AI and robotics with
Founder & Managing Director at Taqa Solutions, 2017 MENA Young Leader
3. Closing the gender gap with
Co-Founder of Jusoor and 2017 MENA Young Leader
Amro is a Political Sociologist at the American University in Cairo, a member of the Arab-German Young Academy of Sciences and Humanities, an associate of the Sydney Democracy Network, and a former fellow at the Berlin Social Science Centre. His research interests mainly engage with Egyptian and Arab civil society, Alexandria’s urban politics, Arab public spheres, social movements, Middle Eastern geopolitics, and political philosophy. Lately, he has been focused on how human condition has come under assault from the forces of global consumption and material culture, and the effects this has on identity, city meaning, modernity, and citizenship. Amro writes for Open Democracy, Mada Masr, TIME, the Guardian, Jadalliya, Atlantic Council, and the Tahrir Institute for Middle East Policy.
Luc Bas is the Director of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) European Regional Office in Brussels, serving as its representative in EU institutions and providing leadership and guidance for all activities undertaken by the IUCN, government and NGO members within the European context. This includes informing decision-making through the IUCN’s knowledge on topics such as the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, Red Lists, Protected Area management, Natural Capital and promoting the use of nature-based solutions across different sectors. Prior to this role, Luc was European Director of The Climate Group in Brussels as well as an advisor on international sustainable development policies for both the Belgian Federal and Flemish governments.
Andrea Boccuni is Head of Partnership and Education at The Good Lobby, a start-up committed to mobilising and empowering European citizens. Their aim is to foster assertive citizenship so as to create more accountable, cohesive and happier societies. At The Good Lobby, Andrea develops and implements strategic partnership strategies together with the Funders and Secretariat. He engages with companies, foundations, NGOs, professionals and institutions to deepen the outreach of The Good Lobby. Prior to joining The Good Lobby, Andrea worked as a Parliamentary Assistant at the European Parliament and as an external consultant for the European Commission in the Food Frauds Unit.
Yostina Boules, dubbed “the magic machine” by farm owners, is Founder and Managing Director of Taqa Solutions, an Egyptian based organisation aiming to provide a clean and independent energy source to farmers by producing energy from poultry waste. By doing this, the Taqa solutions simultaneously addresses the problem of waste management from one of Egypt’s main agricultural industries, while maximising clean energy production. Yostina was selected as a Pioneer of Egypt after becoming a finalist on El Mashrou3, an entrepreneurship reality television competition.
Hala Bugaighis is a lawyer and co-founder of Jusoor, a non-governmental organisation committed to independent policy research and human development projects for women with focus on the economic and social empowerment. As a lawyer with 15 years of experience, Hala focuses on commercial, banking, civil and investment laws, and has a sound understanding of law practice in an international context. Through her private companies, Hala has worked as a consultant to many international companies as well as Libyan private and public entities, focusing on development and capacity building. In 2015, Hala was nominated a UN Women Champion for Women Economic Empowerment – an initiative that aims to improve women’s economic standing and potential around the world.
Geert Cami co-founded Friends of Europe, the action-oriented think tank, in 1999. As Secretary General, Geert mainly deals with the strategic development of Friends of Europe, he coordinates the work of the high-level Boards involved in the governance of the organisation and chairs the Leadership meetings. He oversees both the financial health and the successful running of the organisation and its flagship initiatives, and focuses on the expansion and the activation of Friends of Europe’s vast network of trustees, European young leaders and other senior political, corporate, media and societal contacts and partners throughout the world.
Geert also is a founding member of the Boards of both the Africa-Europe Foundation, and of TownHall Europe (the Davignon Centre for New Leadership).
Geert headed the European conference organising, press relations and publishing company Forum Europe for more than ten years, and managed the revival of one of Belgium’s finest architectural examples of Art Nouveau, after creating La Maison de l’Europe in the prestigious 100-year-old Bibliothèque Solvay.
At the outset of his career, Geert worked for a few years in the humanitarian office (ECHO) at the European Commission, as deputy in the newly set-up information and communications unit. His focus was mainly on raising the profile of the EU’s humanitarian efforts throughout the world, through publications and media initiatives such as exhibitions, television debates or Humanitarian Days in Member States.
He also worked for two music programmes at Belgian public Radio 1, and very briefly as a teacher and TV journalist.
Syrine Chaalala is the Co-Founder and Managing Director of nextProtein. She co-founded nextProtein in 2015 after working as an Emergency Operations Officer and Coordinator for the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) for a decade and seeing the devastating results of climate change first-hand. nextProtein produces insect-based protein for animal feedstocks in a quest to accelerate sustainable agriculture and tackle resource scarcity. The start-up is able to match the nutritional value of traditionally-produced protein at reduced cost and with significantly less resources. Through this pioneering and innovative process, nextProtein is able to provide a concrete solution to major societal problems: a growing population, food waste and the negative environmental impact of the agroindustries.
Kris De Meyer is a Research Fellow in Neuroscience at the Department of Neuroimaging and a Visiting Lecturer at the Department of Geography. He specialises in how people become entrenched in their beliefs, how this leads to polarisation in society, and how to overcome this. Kris works with environmental scientists, policymakers and conservation NGOs to support them in communicating more constructively about controversial environmental topics, such as climate change. He is a core member of the Challenging Radical Uncertainty in Science, Society and the Environment network and of the UCL Policy Commission on Communicating Climate Science. He is also the producer of the award-winning documentary, Right Between Your Ears, which explores the neuroscience and psychology of entrenched views, co-creator of children’s radio series Climate Explorers, and the participatory theatre piece, The Justice Syndicate.
Mary Fitzgerald is a researcher and analyst specialising in the Mediterranean region with a particular focus on Libya. She has consulted for a number of international organisations including in the areas of peace building and civil society.
She has worked with the International Crisis Group (ICG), the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) and the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) among others. She is a Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC, an Associate Fellow at the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, King’s College London, and an Associate Fellow at ISPI in Milan. Mary has also worked on wider initiatives with UNESCO, the Anna Lindh Foundation, the British Council and other cultural organisations. Her writing has appeared in publications including Foreign Policy, The New Yorker online, the Washington Post, Financial Times and the Guardian.
Olivier de Schutter served as UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food from and was elected to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Olivier was awarded Belgium’s top scientific award, the Prix Francqui, for his contribution to the advancement of EU law, the theory of governance, and human rights law. Previously, he chaired the EU Network of Independent Experts on Fundamental Rights, a high-level group of experts which advised the European Union institutions on fundamental rights issues, acted on a number of occasions as expert for the Council of Europe and for the European Union and served as General Secretary of the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH). Olivier is also a Professor at UCLouvain and at Sciences Po Paris. He has also taught at the College of Europe in Natolin, as a Member of the Global Law School Faculty at New York University and as Visiting Professor at Columbia University.
Tomáš Ignác is the Vice President of the European Council of Young Farmers – the voice of Europe’s next generation of farmers towards the European institutions. He also runs a 50-ha organic fruit and wine family farm in southern Moravia and cooperates with agricultural and environmental institutions as part of his farm business. The motivation to farm in this less favoured region is a holistic approach to (re-)build the countryside. Previously, Tomáš actively engaged in the NGO Antikomplex, working on the German Czech reconciliation. In addition, he led the LGBT Christian community called Logos for four years. His ambition is to advocate for a sustainable agricultural policy and a strong bond of the European nations and between rural areas and cities.
Guido is a Belgian academic and agricultural economist who has been Director-General of the Royal Museum for Central Africa since 2001. As Director-General, he initiated a reorganisation and renovation of the museum, focusing on updating the museum’s portrayal of Belgium’s colonial era. He is also a member of the Board of Directors of the Belgian Federal Science Policy Office and of the Fund for Scientific Research, as well as the Chair of the Jury that annually awards the Development Cooperation Prize. Guido has also been the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas, based in Aleppo, Syria.
Erica Hope is a Senior Associate at the European Climate Foundation, where she leads the cross-sectoral ‘2050 Task Force’ and governance programme seeking to build knowledge, political strategies and coalitions to drive the transition to a net zero emissions society by mid-century. Erica has previously worked for the energy efficiency and UK programmes of the ECF, and before that led the policy and advocacy activities of NGO network Climate Action Network Europe on energy efficiency. She was also a researcher to Green MEP Caroline Lucas, and has worked at the Institute for Public Policy Research in London.
Prior to joining Friends of Europe, Dharmendra Kanani was director of policy at the European Foundation Centre (EFC). He was the England director at the Big Lottery Fund, the largest independent funder in the UK and fourth largest in the world. Dharmendra has held senior positions in the public and voluntary sector and advisor to numerous ministerial policy initiatives across the UK.
Joyce is the Deputy Executive Director of UN Environment. With more than 20 years’ experience in international development strategy and operations, Joyce has held leading positions across Africa, Asia and Latin America. She recently served as Acting Executive Director, overseeing UN Environment’s portfolio in 33 countries and administering nine Multilateral Environmental Agreements on critical environment issues. Other notable positions include that of Adviser to the World Bank’s Vice-President, East Asia and Pacific Region in Washington, D.C., World Bank Institute’s East Asia and Pacific Regional Coordinator in China, Principal Strategy Officer at the International Finance Corporation and Special Adviser to Lord Nicholas Stern, World Bank Senior Vice President and Chief Economist.
Thomas is the Managing Director for EU Affairs and Head of Facebook’s Brussels office, where he is responsible for Facebook’s representation towards the European Institutions. Prior to returning to Brussels, Thomas spent the last few years representing Facebook in a number of member states as well as countries outside the EU as Director for Public Policy, Nordics, Central & Eastern Europe and Russia. He has also held previous positions at Microsoft and the Danish Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation. Thomas’ career in tech stems from a life-long passion for how tech can both improve human interactions and shape society.
Negar Mortazavi is an Iranian-American journalist and columnist, who exclusively covers stories about Iran in both English and Persian. She is also the host of the Iran Podcast and a frequent commentator on Iranian affairs at MSNBC, BBC, PRI, The New York Times, Aljazeera, HuffPost and international outlets across the world, including Lebanon, Iraq, Israel, Turkey, Switzerland and Japan. Mortazavi previously worked as a TV presenter at Voice of America (VOA) Persian, where she hosted a daily hour-long interactive show that discussed current affairs with Iranians across the world.
A leading voice on LGBTQ rights and politics, Una is one of Ireland’s most reputable young activists. As a journalist, broadcaster and author, she has written for prominent news outlets such as The Guardian and the Sunday Tribune, in addition to contributing a weekly column to the Irish Times. Her two books, In The Name Of Love, and her anthropology, Repeal the 8th, trace the historical developments which culminated in the two separate referenda on marriage equality and reproductive rights in Ireland. She was the Independent Chair of Ireland’s National 2018 LGBTI+ Youth Strategy, which is the first of its kind. A poet and screenwriter, she has authored the documentary, I Am Irish, co-founded a music documentary film festival, co-created the pro-choice podcast, Don’t Stop Repealin’, and co-founded the Irish Times Women’s Podcast.
Louma is the Director-General of the Boghossian Foundation. Based at the Villa Empain in Brussels, the Foundation holds a focus on the dialog between the Oriental and Western culture. As head of the Foundation, Louma has conceived several exhibitions including Frontières Imaginaires (2017), Melancholia (2018), and Flamboyant (2019). Prior to join the Foundation, Louma worked on several exhibitions and projects around the world, most notably Chemins de Traverses in 2015 and Mental Map in 2012. As well as working at Paris’ Institut du monde arabe and the Mathaf in Doha, Louma’s experience extends to Abu Dhabi’s Louvre Museum, as well as New York Guggenheim museum and Luxembourg’s Mudam.
Ana is a Women’s Rights Activist and a member of the feminist collective Fight Like a Woman, living and working in Skopje. She has also contributed to the UN Women’s ‘Not only on March 8th’ initiative, which makes the point that gender equality issues should not be in the limelight only once a year, on International Women’s Day, but should be publicly debated consistently. Together with other feminist activists, Vasileva recently kicked off a new online social movement against sexual harassment, under the hashtag #ISpeakUpNow, inspired by the global #MeToo and #TimesUp campaigns.
Paul Walton is Executive Director of the Africa-Europe Foundation. He has extensive international experience in leading organisations and multi-country programmes. including more than 15 years working and living in Africa and the Middle East. Paul has been in the vanguard of inter-regional cooperation and was former director of strategy at the 43-country Mediterranean Foundation, working from its headquarters in Egypt. He was member of the steering group mandated by the UN Security Council to produce the first global study on ‘Youth, Peace and Security’ and the taskforce to create structures for dialogue among the EU, civil society and authorities following the historic events of the Arab Spring. Paul began his international career as the founding director of the landmark UK Millennium Project ‘Youth 2000’ and was CEO of the award-winning international NGO ‘Global Voice’. As an analyst of global affairs, he is a Visiting Lecturer at the Mediterranean Academy of Diplomatic Studies and has been interviewed in the BBC, Al Arabiya and The New York Times.
Currently, Ozan works as a researcher at the Finnish Labour Institute for Eonomic Research. Formerly, he served as green city counsellor in Helsinki and as member of the Finish Parliament. As a green politician and future economist, he is very interested in the future of work and green economic growth. At the age of 27, he was elected as a Member of the Finnish Parliament and in the past parliamentary term he advocated for social equality and the fight against discrimination. Ozan has worked at the Central Organisation of Finnish Trade Unions, and the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment. Ozan has also served as the Co-Chair of the Federation of Green Youth and in 2017 he was on the 30 Under 30 list of Forbes.
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