Leading to building possibilities: Young Change-Maker in the MEM Middle East-Mediterranean Summit
Updated: Oct 4
The MeM Summer Summit made it possible for young change maker Seyran Khalili to connect and build bridges with professionals from the region.
In August 2021, 30 young change-makers from the different parts of the Mediterranean region gathered to discuss and exchange their ideas to be innovators, to provide solutions for the challenges that lie ahead amongst various topics such as discussing the refugee crisis, the economic crisis, and food systems.
By thinking beyond national boundaries, the summit offered a series of plenary lectures, workshops, brainstorming sessions, film screening, and cultural activities – articulated around three main thematic streams:
New Dynamics of the MEM region
Governance, good practice, and policymaking
I had the honor to meet H.E. Ignazio Cassis, Vice President of the Federal Council and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland, and H.E. Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Al Busaidi, Foreign Minister of the Sultanate of Oman, during the Forum. We began by talking about the new dynamics of the MEM region. With the launch of the summit by Project Leader Dr. Frederica Frediani and lectures by Prof. Gilles Kepel.
What was truly unique for me was the chance to meet young leaders from countries that I had not had any connections before. To have a conversation across tables with like-minded and inspiring initiative takers who are all doing meaningful impact work in their field. Seeing the diversity in this made me sure once again that each step, even the most minor acts of peace, leads to a greater one.
One of the sessions that were part of the summit was an interactive day where we focused on changing the food systems through the initiative "Bites of Foodtransformation" (link: https://transfoodmation.com). We were invited to the impact hub in Lugano, Switzerland, where we all gathered around the Impact Hub Garden and brainstormed possible solutions together in different groups. I really enjoyed this session because not only did we end up discussing a topic that was important in terms of sustainability, but we also ended up with some great solutions. We were introduced to each other's impact work, where we all had the time to catch up and chat.
Through this session, I learned about the importance of food systems. It is time to transform the way the world produces, consumes, and thinks about food. This topic is important because it made me understand that the current debate on sustainability concerns a holistic approach; the current food systems have an enormous impact on our planet, driving climate change and threatening the environment.
"What unites us is greater than what divides us."
From my experience, I would like to exemplify that the kind of individual that MEM supports and the impact work of the young change-makers is the kind of achievement that a Peace Jammer can view as a significant, measurable impact. As our slogan for the summit went, "What unites us is greater than what divides us."
The summit has created crucial connections between professionals in the region who lead the change to bring their work to new heights. My own cooperation experience, of the impact work I do with peacebuilding for youth and inclusion in our local communities in Europe, makes me believe in the possibility of a greater degree of solidarity between different kinds of youth from the region. Over the past 10 years, I have been an activist for peace and social justice. If I am a first (or even second-generation migrant) of refugees from this region, I do not have the luxury of being apolitical. I can't just say, "that's politics; I'm just doing my work in Norway." For me, coming from the women's movement, from the inclusion of the refugee and migration movement, peacebuilding and dialogue are not just about parties and parliament. There is peacebuilding and capacity development in our private spaces and our impact work as well. Wherever there is a force that is pushing for a change, there is power in those voices.
I feel I have a second home; Lugano, Switzerland, was not known to me but has become a permanent part of me. I know I can always reach out to my fellow colleagues from the summit. In addition, I've got to know new friends and experiences that I would not get in Norway.
As you read about what I accomplished and my summit experience, please know that you, too, can pave the way as a PeaceJammer. Thank you!