The Forum


The Forum brings together leaders, decision-makers, entrepreneurs, scholars, intellectuals, and artists to discuss pressing issues of the MEM region. The young change-makers have a unique opportunity to exchange views with senior representatives and experts, and to present ideas and proposals elaborated during the Seminar. The Forum is articulated in panels, key-note speeches by high-level speakers, and interviews. The number of panels varies depending on the current issues, ongoing projects, and collaborations. However, three themes are central and offered at each edition: geopolitics, economic challenges, and culture and art.

Forum 2022

As in the past editions, the Forum brought together leaders, decision-makers, entrepreneurs, scholars, intellectuals, and artists to discuss current issues in the Middle East Mediterranean region. The young change-makers had a unique opportunity to exchange views with senior representatives and experts, and to present ideas and proposals elaborated during the Seminar.

A particular attention was given to the impact that the Russia-Ukraine war has on the regional geopolitical configurations, as well as on the socio-economic realities of the different countries.

The war in Ukraine ended a long period of peace in Europe and reshaped the world’s geopolitical balance and relations among the great powers. The consequences of this conflict are felt globally and are significantly affecting the Middle East and North Africa. Given the vastness and heterogeneity of this geographical area, there are some general consequences but also country-specific effects.

The MEM Forum is articulated in panels, key-note speeches by high-level speakers, and interviews. This year the panels and conversations of the Forum brought forward the following topics:

  • The current geopolitical situation in the region;
  • The energetic transition from fossil fuels and the shift towards renewable energy sources;
  • Food insecurity and climate change;
  • The role of youth in the region;
  • The Middle East evolutions through the lens of culture and arts;
  • Interreligious and interfaith dialogue.

Participation in presence: by invitation

Online streaming: here

Online Streaming

You will be able to follow the online streaming of the Forum here, on 27 August, at 09:00 (CEST).

Watch the Forum 2022

MEM Summer Summit Forum 2022

Welcome and opening address by Lorenzo Cantoni, Deputy Rector, Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland
Keynote speech by HE Ignazio Cassis, President of the Swiss Confederation, Switzerland
Keynote speech by HRH Princess Rym Ali, President, Anna Lindh Foundation, Jordan
Keynote speech by HE Shamma Bint Suhail Faris Al Mazrui, Minister of State for Youth Affairs, United Arab Emirates

Panel 1 -Geopolitical impacts of the Russian-Ukrainian war on the MEM region

Cinzia Bianco, Research Fellow on the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, European Council on Foreign Relations, Italy
Jalel Harchaoui, Associate Fellow, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, Libya and France
Emiliano Bos, Journalist, RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, Switzerland
Younes Zangiabaldi, Young change-maker
Chairman: Matteo Legrenzi, Professor, Ca’ Foscari University of Venice, Italy

Interview with Talal Al-Aulaqi

Panel 2 – Energetic transition and sustainable development in the MEM region – MEM Summer Summit

HE Natasa Pilides, Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry, Cyprus
Laurent Vivier, Senior Vice President Middle East and North Africa, Exploration and Production, Total Energies, France
Andreas Tornaritis, Young change-maker
Omaima Doukkane, Young change-maker
Moderator: Emiliano Bos, Journalist, RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, Switzerland

Interview with Suja Sawafta

Panel 2 – Food insecurity and climate change in the MEM region

Eugenio Dacrema, Early Warning Economic Risk Analyst, World Food Programme, Italy
Tamara Kleibo, Young change-maker
Sebahat Derin Atiskan, Young change-maker
Alaa Alzaghoul, Young change-maker
Chairman: HE Pio Wennubst, Ambassador, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN in Rome, Switzerland

Conversation on freedom and tolerance in Islam

Martino Diez, Associate Professor, OASIS International Foundation, Catholic University of Sacro Cuore, Italy
In conversation with
Mustafa Akyol, Journalist and author, Turkey

Conversation on Prognosis: Saudi Arabia – An artist’s perspective

Ahmed Mater, Contemporary artist, Saudi Arabia
In conversation with
Stephen Stapleton, Artist, Social Entrepreneur and Founding Director, Edge of Arabia, United Kingdom

Closing remarks by the Young change-makers

Simone Roncoroni, Young change-maker
Tracy Nehmé, Young change-maker
Boutheina Saidani, Young change-maker

Thanks by the hosts of the Forum Diana Segantini and Zakaria Al-Shmaly, and the project leader of the MEM Summer Summit Dr. Federica Frediani

Play Video

Forum Programme and Speakers

The Forum programme and list of speakers will be announced in the following months.


Minister of State for Youth Affairs, United Arab Emirates

H.E. Shamma Al Mazrui was appointed as the UAE’s Minister of State for Youth Affairs in February 2016 at the age of 22. She is also the Chair of Emirates Youth Council and the Vice-Chair of the Arab Youth Center. She serves as the Chairperson for Special Olympics UAE; and is the Secretary General of the Education and Human Resources Council in the UAE and is a board member of Emirates Foundation and a Global Leadership Council member of UNICEF’s Generation Unlimited.

Previously, H.E. Shamma worked in Private Equity at ADIC. She also worked as a public policy analyst at the UAE Mission to the UN, as a Policy Analyst with the Prime Minister’s Office, as a Research Analyst at the UAE Embassy in DC, and as an Education Policy Researcher at Tamkeen.

H.E. Shamma holds a M.P.P with Distinction from the University of Oxford (2015), a B.A. in Economics with a concentration in Finance from NYUAD (2014) and was the UAE’s first Rhodes Scholar. 


Journalist and Author, Turkey

Mustafa Akyol is a senior fellow at the Cato Institute in Washington D.C., where he focuses on the intersection of public policy, Islam, and modernity. For nearly a decade, he was a contributing opinion writer for The New York Times, covering politics and religion in the Muslim world. His articles have appeared in many other prominent publications as well, including Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, The Atlantic or Foreign Policy. He is the author of Reopening Muslim Minds: A Return to Reason, Freedom, and Tolerance (2021), “Why, As A Muslim, I Defend Liberty” (2021), The Islamic Jesus: How the King of the Jews Became a Prophet of the Muslims (2017), and Islam without Extremes: A Muslim Case for Liberty (2011).

“The Thinking Muslim,” a popular podcast, defined Akyol as “probably the most notable Muslim modernist and reformer.” In July 2021, the Prospect magazine of the UK also listed him among “The world’s top 50 thinkers.”


Research Fellow on the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf, European Council on Foreign Relations, Italy

Cinzia Bianco is a research fellow at the European Council on Foreign Relations, where she is working on political, security and economic developments in the Arabian Peninsula and Gulf region and relations with Europe. She is based between Berlin (Germany) and Milan (Italy). Additionally, she is a senior analyst at Gulf State Analytics and a non-resident scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC. Previously, Bianco was a research fellow for the European Commission’s project on EU-GCC relations ‘Sharaka’ between 2013 and 2014.

She holds an MA degree in Middle East and Mediterranean Studies from King’s College London and a PhD in Middle East Politics from the University of Exeter in the United Kingdom. In 2023 Dr Bianco will publish two volumes (in English and Italian) on the geopolitics of the Gulf in the ten years after the Arab Spring. 


Journalist, RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, Switzerland

Emiliano Bos writes on international issues and has produced reports from about forty countries, in particular from Africa and the Middle East. From 2015 to 2021 he was a correspondent for RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, from the United States. For RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, he has followed the conflict in Ukraine from the beginning, where he went twice, spending over a month on the ground and making reports for TV, radio and the web. In 2011 he was the author of the TV documentary “Mare deserto” about the shipwreck of dozens of migrants in the Mediterranean. A year earlier he published the book “In fuga dalla mia terra”, a journey along the immigration routes.


President of the Swiss Confederation, Switzerland

Ignazio Cassis (FDP), elected by the United Federal Assembly on 20 September 2017, took up his post as head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) on 1 November 2017.

For two years prior to his election to the Federal Council, Mr Cassis was president of the parliamentary group of the FDP.The Liberals, of which he was a member since his election to the National Council in 2007. From 2015, he chaired the National Council’s Social Security and Health Committee. He was also vice-chair or chair of various parliamentary groups. His political career began in 2004 with his election to the legislative authority of the Ticino municipality of Collina d’Oro.

After graduating in medicine from the University of Zurich in 1987, Ignazio Cassis obtained a doctorate from the University of Lausanne in 1996 and a master’s degree in public health from the University of Geneva the same year.

From 1988 to 1996 he worked as a doctor, specialising 1998 in internal medicine and in prevention and public health. From 1997 to 2008 he was cantonal physician for the Canton of Ticino. From 2008 to 2012 has held the office of Vice-President of the Swiss Medical Association and since 2012 has held the office of various organisations in the health sector (Curafutura, CURAVIVA, EQUAM, RADIX, etc.).


His university teaching activities (in charge of courses) have taken him to various universities, such as Università della Svizzera italiana, Université de Lausanne, Universität Bern and Universität Zürich. 


Associate Professor, OASIS International Foundation, Catholic University of Sacro Cuore, Italy

Martino Diez is associate professor of Arabic Language and Literature at the Catholic University of Milan. He is the scientific director of the Oasis International Foundation (Milan). From January to July 2019, he was visiting member at the Institute for Advanced Study Princeton – School of Historical Studies.

He is a member of the Scientific Board of the IISMM (Institut d’études de l’Islam et des sociétés du monde musulman) at the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS) in Paris and the journals MIDEO, published by the Institut Dominicain d’Études Orientales in Cairo, and Islamochristiana, published by the Pontifical Institute for Arabic and Islamic Studies. He also sits in the Advisory Board of the Middle East Mediterranean Freethinking Platform (MEM) in Lugano, Switzerland, and is a member of the Istituto per l’Oriente “Carlo Alfonso Nallino”. He took part in the study commission on radicalisation and jihadi extremism established by the Italian Government (Presidency of the Council of Ministers) in 2016.

Since January 2020 he has been consultor of the Pontifical Council for Interreligious Dialogue


Professor, PLS Paris Sciences et Lettres-École normale supérieure, France; Adjunct Professor and Scientific director of the Middle East Mediterranean Freethinking Platform, Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland

Gilles Kepel is a French political scientist and Arabist, specialised in the contemporary Middle East and Muslims in the West. He is Adjunct Professor and scientific director of the Middle East Mediterranean Freethinking Platform. He is also Professor at the Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) and director of the Middle East and Mediterranean Chair at PSL, based at Ecole Normale Supérieure.

Originally trained as a classicist, he started to study Arabic after a journey to the Levant in 1974. He first graduated in Philosophy and English, then completed his Arabic language studies at the French Institute in Damascus (1977–78), and received his degree from Sciences Po in 1980. His research interests focus on the current geopolitical configurations and conflicts in the Middle East Mediterranean region, including the impact of Jihadi terror in the wake of the Massive attacks on French and European soil.

He investigated the developments of Islam as a social and political phenomenon in France, with an innovative approach in Islamic studies in the West. He researched on the 2005 French Banlieues riots in the Clichy-Montfermeil area, north of Paris, whence the events sparked. He also carried out comparative studies of political-religious movements in Islam, Judaism and Christianity. His two latest books are titled: Away from Chaos, Columbia University Press (2020) and Le prophète et la pandémie. Du Moyen-Orient au jihadisme d’atmosphère, Gallimard (2021).


Contemporary Artist, Saudi Arabia

Physician turned artist, Ahmed Mater, is one of the most significant voices in Arab contemporary art today. Based in Riyadh, at the epicentre of Saudi Arabia’s current transformation, Mater’s work maps ‘unofficial histories’ in the Kingdom
against the backdrop of 40 years of conflict and reform across the Arab and Islamic world. Embracing the paradoxes of science and faith, Mater’s practice is poetically charged and politically engaged, combining art with cultural activism to consider the impact of historical events on the social and psychological health of the individual, the community, and society at large. 

In 2023, Mater will unveil Prognosis, a multi-format art project and retrospective of the artist’s career that includes a major book and touring exhibition. Drawing on four decades of the artist’s personal and historical archives, Mater presents an urgent portrait of his society in dramatic transition – an artistic “prognosis” of the contemporary human condition. Using immersive collage, photography, and film, Prognosis imagines possible futures for his native Saudi Arabia given the unprecedented religious, economic, and political changes that have taken place over the course of the artist’s life.

Mater lives and works in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He is represented by Athr Gallery, Jeddah and Galleria Continua, San Gimignano.


Independent Consultant/Freelance, Art Basel, Switzerland

Diana Segantini is a Swiss/Norwegian citizen who specialised in Arab-Islamic Studies at L’Orientale University in Naples and holds a Masters in International Relations from IUHEI Geneva. Segantini started her professional career in the art and documentary film scene, as well as gaining extensive experience working in different countries serving the UN, various NGOs and more extensively in the Middle East as a delegate for the International Red Cross ICRC for 4 years. Fluent in Arabic and 9 other languages, she has become an expert on the Arab region and with regard to intercultural issues.

In 2008, she founded Segantini Unlimited, an agency specialised in cultural mediation and international cultural productions such as art exhibitions, music events, debates and documentary films, mandated by the Global Ethic Foundation.

Segantini has also led women’s empowerment programs in Saudi Arabia and the rest of the GCC. For 6 years, she was head of Arts & Culture for Swiss TV and radio RSI and a Member of the RSI Board, producing music concerts and over 100 feature and documentary films, acclaimed at various international Festivals.

Since 2019, she has contributed to Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030 through several projects; in 2019 she was appointed Chief Heritage & Culture officer at Diriyah Gate Development Authority in Saudi Arabia, responsible for this UNESCO Heritage Site, building up several cultural institutions such as museums, academies and an Art District. She subsequently served as senior director for Arts & Culture at AMAALA. Currently, she is Partner for Culture, Heritage & Communication at AEON Strategy, a Saudi firm specialised in true sustainability. Moreover, she is an independent advisor for arts, culture, media & philanthropy in different projects in GCC and Switzerland.


Senior Vice President Middle East and North Africa, Exploration and Production,Total Energies, France

Laurent Vivier is Senior Vice President Middle East and North Africa in the Exploration & Production Division of the TotalEnergies Company and is a member of the CDEP since January 1, 2021.

Laurent Vivier began his career within TotalEnergies in 1996 in the Company’s Trading activity. Responsible for trading activities in LPG (liquefied petroleum gas) and then in natural gas for Europe and North America, he held positions in Paris, Geneva, London and Houston.

He returned to France in 2011, he was appointed Vice President Strategic Planning for Gas & Power. Four years later, he was appointed Senior Vice President Gas of TotalEnergies. In this capacity, he accompanied TotalEnergies’s growth in LNG (liquefied natural gas) and the creation of the Gas, Renewables & Power (GRP) division.

Since January 1, 2021, Laurent Vivier has been Senior Vice President Middle East and North Africa in the Exploration & Production branch. In this region, where the TotalEnergies Company came into existence nearly a century ago. The challenge for the branch and its SVP is twofold: to ensure the historical continuity of its Exploration & Production activities and to support TotalEnergies’s climate ambition and the energy transition of the countries in the area.


President, Anna Lindh Foundation, Jordan

Her Royal Highness Princess Rym Ali founded in 2007 the Jordan Media Institute (JMI), a non-profit institution whose aim is to establish an Arab center of excellence for journalism education with a Master’s program at its core and training-modules in parallel ( She has also been a member of the Board of Commissioners of the Royal Film Commission – Jordan since July 2005 ( And she is the president of the Amman International Film Festival “AIFF” Awal Film since 2017.

Prior to marrying HRH Prince Ali Bin Al Hussein, Princess Rym worked extensively for international broadcasters including CNN, where she began as a producer in 1998 and later worked as a Baghdad correspondent from 2001 until 2004. She had developed her portfolio working for the BBC, Dubai TV, Bloomberg TV, Radio Monte-Carlo Moyen- Orient, and United Press International-UPI.

A graduate of Columbia University’s School of Journalism, Princess Rym Ali also holds a “Diplôme d’Etudes Avancé” ” in Political Science from the Institut d’Etudes Politiques in Paris and a MA in English Literature from the Sorbonne.

Princess Rym Ali received a prestigious Alumni Award from the Columbia University School of Journalism in April 2011. In July 2011, she was also awarded the “Best International Journalist” prize at the 32nd Ischia International Journalism Awards Ceremony, one of the most renowned journalistic awards in Italy.

In April 2018 The Portuguese President, Marcelo Rebelo de Souza, presented Princess Rym Ali with a decoration, the order of Prince Henry the Navigator, for her efforts in the field of culture and intercultural exchange.

In September 2021, The Anna Lindh Foundation, which works in intercultural dialogue in the Euro-Mediterranean region, announced the decision to appoint the Jordan Media Institute’s founder, Princess Rym Ali, as president of the foundation, succeeding French politician Elizabeth Guigou.


Doctoral Fellow at United Nations University UNU-MERIT, Dahrendorf Fellow at Oxford University – St. Antony’s College, Syria

Zakaria Al Shmaly is a Syrian academic who researches the intersection between governance and technology, with a focus on European asylum policy. He worked in Europe and the Middle East with humanitarian and international organisations such as the International NGO Safety Organisation (INSO), Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), and the European Parliament. He holds a B.A. in Liberal Arts and Sciences from the University College Freiburg, an M.A. from the European University Institute, and is currently a Dahrendorf Fellow at Oxford University – St. Antony’s College and a Doctoral Fellow at the United Nations University – Maastricht Economic and Social Research Institute on Innovation and Technology (UNU-MERIT). Zak is also a musician and a political theatre


Minister of Energy Transition and Sustainable Development, Morocco


Deputy Rector, Università della Svizzera italiana, Switzerland

Lorenzo Cantoni graduated in Philosophy and holds a PhD in Education and Linguistics. He is full professor at USI – Università della Svizzera italiana (Lugano, Switzerland), Faculty of Communication, Culture and Society, where he is director of the Institute of Digital Technologies for Communication.

His research interests are where communication, education and new media overlap, ranging from computer mediated communication to usability, from eLearning to eTourism and digital Fashion, from ICT4D to eGovernment.

He is chair-holder of the UNESCO chair in ICT to develop and promote sustainable tourism in World Heritage Sites, established at USI in 2013, and board member of WHES – World Heritage Experience Switzerland.

He is USI’s Deputy Rector and Pro-rector for Education and Students’ experience. He is director of the Master in Digital Fashion Communication, done in collaboration with the Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne, and director of the Master in International Tourism. Cantoni has been Dean of the Faculty (2010-2014) and President of IFITT – International Federation for IT in Travel and Tourism (2014-January 2018).


Early Warning Economic Risk Analyst, World Food Programme, Italy

Eugenio Dacrema is head of the economic analysis section of the Analysis and Early Warning Team at WFP. In his work he focuses on national and international macroeconomic dynamics affecting food prices and food security. Previously he was co-head of the Mediterranean Department of the Milan-based Italian Institute for International Political Studies (ISPI). He holds a PhD degree in International Studies from the University of Trento, Italy.


Associate Fellow, The Royal United Services Institute for Defence and Security Studies, Libya and France

Jalel Harchaoui is a political scientist specialising in North Africa, with a specific focus on Libya. He worked on the same topics previously at The Global Initiative Against Transnational Organised Crime, a Geneva-based NGO, as well as at the Clingendael Institute, based in The Hague. His research has concentrated on Libya’s security landscape and political economy.

A frequent commentator on Libya and Algeria in the international press, he has published in Foreign AffairsLawfarePolitique ÉtrangèreForeign Policy, and Small Arms Survey. An engineer by trade, Jalel holds a master’s degree in Geopolitics from Paris 8 University.


Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry, Cyprus

Natasa Pilides was appointed Minister of Energy, Commerce and Industry on 10 July 2020.

Previously, on 1 March 2018 she had been appointed as the first Shipping Deputy Minister of the Republic of Cyprus, heading the strategic development and promotion of Cyprus as a world class, integrated, maritime cluster.

From April 2016 to March 2018, Ms Pilides was Director General of the Cyprus Investment Promotion Agency (Invest Cyprus), responsible for the design and implementation of Invest Cyprus’ strategy in investment promotion, investor support and facilitation of reform.

She has more than fifteen years of private sector experience, notably as Director and Regional Chief Operating Officer at Baker Tilly South East Europe, heading the departments of Finance, Marketing, HR, Administration, Operations and IT, for Cyprus, Greece, Romania, Bulgaria and Moldova.

She also worked, for 9 years, at PwC in Cyprus, Milan and London, in audit and tax consulting of multinational companies active in the fields of banking and finance, shipping, insurance, energy, construction and FMCG.

Ms Pilides has wide experience in delivering professional training and courses for ICAEW, ACCA and CIMA exams, in the areas of audit, tax, corporate law, ethics, financial accounting and reporting, at BPP London, a leading professional studies organisation.

She graduated from Oxford University with a first-class honours degree, with distinction, in Modern Languages and Literature (French and Italian). She is a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants of England and Wales (ICAEW) and a member of the Institute of Certified Public Accountants of Cyprus (ICPAC).


Artist, Social Entrepreneur and Founding Director, Edge of Arabia, United Kingdom

Stephen Stapleton is a British-Norwegian artist-educator and social entrepreneur known for leading organisations and developing platforms for cultural production, education and diplomacy between the Middle East, Europe and the United States. Following an artist road trip across the Middle East in 2002-2003, Stephen founded Edge of Arabia and the UK charity, the Crossway Foundation, as platforms for creative collaboration between the Middle East (with a focus on Saudi Arabia) and the West. In 2015, Stephen launched Culturunners at MIT to develop artists-led initiatives which utilise culture to transform communities, societies and systems and inspire greater empathy across ideological and geographical borders. In 2017, he was invited to lead international programmes at the newly established Misk Art Institute in Riyadh.

With 20 years’ experience working in the international cultural and educational sector in Saudi Arabia, Stapleton has produced over 50 international exhibitions including at the Venice Biennale, Brooklyn Museum, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Bates College Museum of Art, Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, Smithsonian Institute, The Kennedy Center, Royal Geographical Society, Arab American National Museum, United Nations and the British Museum; published six internationally distributed books with Booth-Clibborn Editions; including “Offscreen: Four Young Artists in the Middle East” (2004) and “Edge of Arabia: Contemporary Art from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia” (2010); and produced several artist-focused documentary films with The Guardian, Creative Time, and World VR forum. 


Permanent Representative, Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the United Nations organisations in Rome, Switzerland

Ambassador Pio Wennubst, an agro-economist specialised in systemic approaches by formation, is an experienced development diplomat with extensive fieldwork. After a period as managing director of a Swiss chemical company, he joined the public sector. Between 1992 and 2008, Wennubst moved first to Nepal to work for the UN and later to different countries, such as Bolivia, Madagascar and Tanzania, to work for the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC).

From 2008 to 2011, he was the deputy permanent representative of the Swiss Mission to the Rome-based UN agencies and from 2010, he was also in charge of reforming the SDC’s Global Programme Food Security. He later joined the Swiss permanent mission to the UN in New York as head of the economic and social development team where he facilitated several resolutions, including the QCPR 2012 in which the United Nations Development System reform is rooted. Subsequently, Wennubst managed for almost six years the Global Cooperation Department as assistant director general of SDC and was in charge of the Swiss support to multilateral funds and programs such as UNDP, Green Climate Fund, UNWOMEN, UNICEF, UNCDF and others.

Currently, Ambassador Wennubst is representing Switzerland at multilateral agencies based in Rome that deal with food security and agricultural development, namely FAO, IFAD, WFP and CFS. In the context of the United Nations Food Systems Summit that took place in New York in September 2021, Wennubst launched the project “Bites of Transfoodmation”, which engages youth to transform food systems through a unifying common vision.