Middle East and North Africa Initiative
Who we are
The Middle East and North Africa Initiative is a student-led initiative at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. It brings together not only students from the Middle East and North Africa region but also anyone who is interested in the region no matter where they come from. The MENA Initiative provides a platform for discussion and debate on the multiple and complex challenges, conflicts and transformations taking place in the Middle East and North Africa region. At the same time, it strives to showcase the diversity in the region and to introduce various aspects of its rich history and culture. The MENA Initiative, furthermore, strives to bring together all students interested in the region for informal exchange and networking. In addition, it regularly collaborates ad hoc with other regional and thematic initiatives in the aim of providing the Graduate Institute´s student body with interesting, dynamic and enriching events.
Our Values and Vision
The Middle East and North Africa region is a very rich, diverse and complex region. We aspire to showcase its richness but also shed light on its challenges especially as it pertains to conflict and human rights issues. We strive to create an inclusive space for reflection and debate on the region while providing a close-up of the beauty of its culture and specificities.
The initiative was founded back in the 2012-13 academic year by Yosra Nagui Saad and Paroma Ghose. In 2019-2020, Nadine Morcos and Catherine Gagnon served as co-presidents of the initiative.
Currently, the MENA Initiative is presided by Dorra Sayari and Arveen Sodhi. In the current academic year, the Initiative has expanded its vision, outreach and visibility on campus and has been carrying out innovative, informative and creative events and initiatives.
Summary of Events 2019-2020/ 2020-2021
Event “Arab women in the Front-lines of Revolutions” which included the screening of the documentary “Feminism Inshallah: A history of arab feminism” and a panel discussion with Maryam Al-Khawaja, a leading voice for human rights and political reform in Bahrain and the Gulf region and Paola Salwan Daher, a senior Global advocacy adviser at the Geneva Office of the Center for Reproductive rights.
Screening of the documentary “Between Two Crossing: From Gaza to Europe” followed by a conversation with one of the filmmakers, Shurouq Aila, and a Graduate Institute student from Gaza, Hafez S.H. Abuadwan. It was held in collaboration with FFIPP Switzerland, an educational network for human rights in Palestine/ Israel with chapters around Europe and Amnesty UNIGE.
Coffee chats- قهوة و دردشة: An informal networking event and gathering between students over tea, arabic dessert and chats about politics, news, history in the MENA region.
Cultural event: Provision of belly dancing lessons by Shahrazad: a professional belly dancer.
Iran – What’s Next . An event regarding the Nuclear Deal and Iranian Politics in the MENA region where a discussion about the implications of change in the administration in Washington and the presential elections in Iran was held with Enrique Mora; the Deputy Secretary General for Political Affairs and Political Director of the External Action service in the European Union.
Between Grief & Hope: Understanding Current Development in Syria a panel discussion with prominent speakers following the screening of “Sama"
Must We Choose, Universal Human Rights: Islam’s Friend or Foe? An event in which a discussion was held regarding human rights from an Islamic law perspective and the general status quo of human rights in the MENA region. Speakers were two professors from the faculty of Law at Alexandria University.
Yemen: Creative Local Peacebuilding. As part of IHEID´s peace week, the MENA initiative collaborated with Sanaa Center for Strategic Dialogue in organizing an event regarding local peacebuilding in Yemen and the role of arts in peacebuilding efforts. Speakers were Yemeni artists, local peacebuilders and activists.