Raghida Dergham is a Lebanese-American media veteran, a natural communicator who established Beirut Institute, a think-tank for the Arab Region, aiming to shape the debate between Arab leaders and Arab youth, to open the region to international policy makers and strategic thinking. With two summits organized in 2015 and 2018 in Abu Dhabi, we wanted Mrs. Dergham to tell us about the problems discussed during the summits and the solutions presented.
Tell us about the summits organized by Beirut Institute? In October 2015, the city of Abu Dhabi welcomed Beirut Institute to host its first summit entitled: Reconfiguring the Arab Region and its Global Space Beyond Political Economy and Security Threats. The summit took place in the presence of 250 global leaders, dignitaries and senior public policy experts from the UAE, the Arab region, USA, Europe, Russia, China, South America and Africa. We promised to deliver a forward-thinking and dynamic summit that would address and find solutions to problems related to the security and stability of the region, and we did just that. We opened the dialogue of change, presented recommendations and viable solutions to decision makers, and encouraged cooperation and unity. We discussed the importance of educating our youth and equipping them with the skills needed to embrace an ever-changing and challenging future. We heard individual perspectives on the potential of Smart Cities, and how best to promote a truly digital Arab region. Experts had differing opinions on how to bring about peace and security to help realize the economic potential of the region -should we use military force or political efforts- and there was a call for increased legitimacy, good governance and regional cooperation across the GCC. We discussed popular culture, and how films can counter negative regional influences such as ISIS. On May 12 & 13, 2018, we held Beirut Institute Summit Edition II in Abu Dhabi. This year’s theme was: Constructing the Arab Region’s Engagement in the Emerging Global Future. An unprecedented conversation was held among two current and two former Secretary-Generals of the GCC and the League of Arab States on regional responsibilities in joining the emerging global future. Sitting and former ministers took the stage to explore how developments in the region, from unparalleled reforms to ongoing geopolitical challenges, have changed the strategic imperatives. Women leaders offered their bottom-line prescriptions with one-minute messages regarding what specifically is required, while young men and women gave their perspective on how technology can reshape the regional future. With experts from US and Russia, as well as the United Nations, we discussed the new American – Russian dynamics in the Middle East, and what Russia really wants in the Middle East. Global experts discussed how the regional order will evolve over the next 15 years, and what are the policy opportunities for creating a resilient regional and global order. Personalities from USA, China, Russia, France, UK, GCC, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Palestine, and Iraq explored the new contract between the region’s governments and people. What role can and must privatization play? What will the next generation inherit? This is the sort of conversation we have at Beirut Institute Summits which we hope will have further editions in the near future.