MEM Summer Summit 2021: the importance of coming together and the role of young change-makers


Institutional Communication Service

17 August 2021

The MEM Summer Summit 2021 Forum will broadcast online. Viewers can tune in on Saturday, 28 August, from 10 am on The event organised by USI with the support of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs will bring together, partly in the Lugano West campus Aula Magna and partly on remote, leaders, decision-makers, entrepreneurs, scholars, intellectuals and artists to discuss pressing issues of the MEM region. From the region geopolitical configurations to religion, economic dynamics, food systems, and the role of cinema in promoting new narratives. Thematic sessions will be held online in English and French, with simultaneous Italian translation. The keynotes at the Forum will be given by Ignazio Cassis, Federal Councillor and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, and by Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Al Busaidi. As customary, the young people from the region will be offered the exceptional opportunity to actively participate in the debate by sharing their views with the speakers. This fourth edition will re-propose as an integral and vital part of the MEM Summer Summit also the Seminar dedicated to the young change-makers of the region, in a reduced form: about thirty participants were chosen from over 220 applications, and they will meet in Lugano from 20 to 28 August 2021 (programme).

The 2020 edition will be remembered as the year of the COVID-19 pandemic and the oil price collapse, and one which will have witnessed all sorts of unexpected turmoil, reaching from the Middle East Mediterranean region to the European suburbs. Fragmentation occurs in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. On the one hand, the Abraham Accords are signed, including the United States, the United Arab Emirates, Morocco and Sudan, Israel, aggregating Egypt and Saudi Arabia, and with an eye on Iraq. On the other hand, the “Brother-Shia axis” brings together Gaza, Qatar, Turkey, and Iran with the ad-hoc support of Russia. In these seismic upheavals, Beirut explodes, refugees and illegal migrants flock to Europe; the Turkish president Erdogan tries to make Istanbul the global centre of Islam.

2021 is the year that marks the Pope’s visit to Iraq, the resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict described by Professor Kepel as “the eleven-day war”, the worsening of the socio-economic crisis in Lebanon, political instability and lack of governance in Tunisia, the withdrawal of the United States from the region and Afghanistan where the Taliban have regained space and power. The year 2021 is also a year of recurrences: ten years have passed since the Arab Springs and the conflict in Syria; twenty years since the terrorist attacks of September 11, which radically shattered international relations. How terrorism has changed in these years and where the Middle East Mediterranean region is going are two complex issues that will be addressed during the MEM Summer Summit 2021.

Tools will be provided to analyse the region’s complexity: current configurations will be put into context in global history, to stimulate a broad reflection on contemporary challenges. This evolving region has, in fact, a significant impact on international dynamics, on Europe and its political structures.


The Forum programme

The welcome address by USI Rector Boas Erez will be followed by the keynotes of Ignazio Cassis, Vice President of the Federal Council and Head of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA), and Oman’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Sayyid Badr bin Hamad bin Hamood Al Busaidi. A discussion between the two Foreign Ministers and the young change-makers will then take place, moderated by Diana Segantini. Afterwards, a video message by Geir Otto Pedersen, UN Special Envoy for Syria, will be aired.
The first thematic session will then take place: at the centre of the reflections will be the new geopolitical configurations in the region, which will be discussed by Saudi Prince Turki Al-Faisal, Chairman of the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, who will converse with Gilles Kepel, professor at USI and PLS Paris Sciences et Lettres-École Normale Supérieure. The session will be hosted by Matteo Legrenzi, Professor at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice.

The second panel will focus on religion in the MEM region. It will feature Wasim Salman (Professor of the Pontificium Institutum Studiorum Arabicorum et Islamicorum PISAI, Syria), Nayla Tabbara (President of the Adyan Foundation, Lebanon) and Mario Giro (Sant’Egidio community, Italy). The session will be moderated by Luca Steinmann (journalist, Federica Spitzer Foundation, Faculty of Theology, Lugano).

Emiliano Bos, Swiss Public Radio US Correspondent, RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera, Switzerland, will interview Pascal Ausseur (Vice-Admiral e General director dell’Institut Fondation méditerranéenne d’études stratégiques, France).

The third panel will focus on the economic development of the region, in particular on the major harbours and the role of the new powers in the Mediterranean. The theme will be addressed by Giampiero Massolo (President of Fincantieri and ISPI, Italy), Patrice Bergamini (Vice-president Public Affairs and Governmental Contracts Business Development of CMA CGM Group), France Karim El Aynaoui (Faculté de Gouvernance, Sciences Economiques et Sociales, Policy Center for the New South, Morocco) and Pascal Ausseur (Vice-Admiral and General director of the Institut Fondation méditerranéenne d'études stratégiques, France).

The fourth panel will be dedicated to the sensitive issue of food systems in the MEM region: the topic will be addressed by Marylaure Crettaz Corredor (Head Global Programme Food Security, Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, Switzerland), Giorgio Marrapodi (Director-General for Development Cooperation, Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs) and Pio Wennubst (Ambassador to the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the Food and Agriculture Organization FAO in Rome). USI Professor Emiliano Albanese will host the session.

In conclusion, cinema and its role in promoting new and positive narratives of the region with Giona Nazzaro, Director of the Film Festival Locarno, and Jordanian director Bassel Ghandour.

Boas Erez and Gilles Kepel will close the Forum.

A young change-maker will also be taking part in each thematic session of the Forum and will have the opportunity to bring his or her point of view to the topics discussed.


Also, for this fourth edition, Università della Svizzera italiana (USI) benefits from the important support of the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of the Swiss Confederation (the Middle East and North Africa Division), of the City of Lugano and the Media partnership with SRG SSR - RSI.