The Mediterranean Forum 2016 as a long time member organisation of the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF).
The Mediterranean Forum took place in Malta from 23 to 25th October and hosted 680 participants from 50 countries. The Forum focused on the previously announced ten strategic priorities: Beyond Extremism, Intercultural Cities, Rethinking Learning, Exchange Plus, Creative Enterprise, Migrants Connect, Youth Can, Media Dialogue, Women in Action, and Arts Across Borders.
Opening remarks prior to the first working day of the Forum -including that of Elisabeth Guigou, President of ALF, and of Wided Bouchamaoui, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize with the Tunisian National Dialogue Quartet have all stressed the importance of youth inclusion and greater cooperation between the organisations across the Euro-Mediterranean region. Dr George Vella Minister for Foreign Affairs stated in his speech that the old policies without the youth element were not working and that greater voice and power to the youth would help to shape a better future.
The first day of the Forum started with a written message from Ban Ki-moon, Secretary General of the United Nations, and a video message by Federica Mogherini, European Commission‘s High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy.
The first plenary panel, entitled “Moving beyond the Extremist Narrative: Youth on the frontline”, brought together six panellists: Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO; Lamberto Zannier, Secretary-General of OSCE – The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe; Mehdi Jomaa from World Leadership Alliance – Club de Madrid; Hajer Sharief, Co-founder of “Together We Build”; and, Brian Fishman, Facebook‘s Lead Policy Manager for Counterterrorism.
The panel was moderated by Shada Islam, Director of Geopolitics at Friends of Europe. Panellists discussed the conventional perceptions and mainstream assumptions on the root causes of radicalisation and extremism. They highlighted important aspects such as the need for shifting the focus on fighting extremism to an alternative narrative, including the collaboration between the majority of the north and south of the Mediterranean rather than the existing practices of unilateral and consecutive dialogue, and, most importantly, greater participation of youth in such processes. This was underlined by Irina Bokova, UNESCODirector-General, right away in the first part of her speech: “Youth are not the future, they are the present.”
The afternoon in the first day saw a number of working groups with strategic discussions on Intercultural Cities, Rethinking Learning, Exchanges in the Region, and Unlocking Social Creative Enterprise. These were followed by networking sessions on Impact, Outreach, Sustainability, Cities, Learning, Exchanges and Enterprise.
The “Gerardo de Cremona Award” ceremony took place in the evening. The award aims to contribute towards strengthening the translation movement between the countries to the north and south of the Mediterranean region. The winners were Anwar Moghith (Egypt), Kadhim Jihad Hassan (France), Francesca Maria Corrao (Italy), and Carlos Fortea (Spain).
On the second day of the Forum, we had another plenary debate, entitled “Populations on the Move: Leveraging New Opportunities for Dialogue”. The panellists were Zlatko Lagumdžija, former Prime Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina; Khalid Chaouki, Chair of the Culture Committee of the Union for the Mediterranean (UfM) Parliamentary Assembly; Imma Tor Faus, Counsellor, Organisation International de la Francophonie; Tarek Alsaleh, Founder & Programmes Director of Capoeira4Refugees, and Rihab Kilani Mejri, Dialogue Leader of the Young Mediterranean Voices. The moderator of this session was journalist Shahira Amin, a member of the Euro-Med Media Network (EMMN).
Forum hosted four further strategic discussion sessions on the second day: “Youth: Moving Public Voices into Policy Action”, “Media: Communicating for Cross-Cultural Understanding”, “Women: Breaking Stereotypes Driving Change”, and “Artists: Promoting Dialogue Through Cultural Partnerships”.
We heard the main outputs of the Med Forum 2016 during the Outcomes Session in the afternoon by speakers including Hatem Atallah, Executive Director of the Anna Lindh Foundation (ALF), and Silvio Gonzato, Director for Global Strategic Communication on Parliamentary Affairs at the European External Action Service – EEAS of the EU. New global cooperation agreements with Club de Madrid and Friends of Europe were also announced at this session. Maria Elena Aguero, Secretary General of Club de Madrid, spoke about the prospects for stronger cooperation. Young voices Patrycja Sasnal and Esmad Waheed also spoke about their experiences of ALF and the road to Med Forum 2016.
We also heard that, after its launch about five years ago, the joint ALF and British Council project, Young Arab Voices – صوت الشباب العربي has now been evolved into a wider and embrace-all shape: the Young Mediterranean Voices.
In addition to the indoor sessions at the main venue, there were also several events across Malta including a Living Library activity, Capoeira4Refugees workshop, a stage performance called Lampedusa, an exercise of joining hands to make heart signs against hate speech, an ethnic concert near Republic Street, and a Youth Debate at the National Youth Agency (Aġenzija Żgħażagħ) of Malta on the issue of migration. At the end of the youth debate, participants also enjoyed free publications and campaign materials for No Hate Speech Movement (NHSM), the youth-led online campaign of the Council of Europe.
You can find out more about ALF and the Mediterranean Forum 2016 on the ALF website: www.annalindhfoundation.org
Last but not least, Maltese people (and Maltese cats!) provided the warmest level of hospitality during our stay in Malta and we are grateful for this. 🙂