Middle East and North Africa (MENA)

Ahmed El Hady: “I Would Love To See Many Members of the LGBT Community Revolting Against the Predominant Religious Discourse but Who Will Defend Them?”
Ahmed El Hady: “I Would Love To See Many Members of the LGBT Community Revolting Against the Predominant Religious Discourse but Who Will Defend Them?”
By: Ahmed El Hady 

Egyptian neuroscientist and political activist makes a case for the secularization of politics and society as the only way of LGBT inclusion 

Learning from the Past - Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism
Candles brought to the market square in Turku, Finland, following the knife attack in August 2017. Photo: Sullay/Wikimedia commonsCandles brought to the market square in Turku, Finland, following the knife attack in August 2017. Photo: Sullay/Wikimedia commons
Learning from the Past - Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism
By: Mirva Villa 

Salzburg Global Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention Program continues building strategies for countering violent extremism

Ensuring the next generation can grow up in more resilient, open, and pluralist communities in the face of rising extremism challenges countries across the globe. Faced with a rise in violent extremism, policymakers are under pressure to invest in prevention and to show that it works. Structured efforts to reduce extremist mindsets and behaviors have existed for some time, but evidence of effectiveness is often not widely known or utilized. Many interventions require considerable time to affect change, making rigorous measurement of their success over the long term resource-intensive and in need of sustained political will around an often-unpopular topic. What works? How do we know? And will it work in different geographic, cultural and political contexts?

By providing a platform for cross-border and cross-sector collaborations, the session to be held this week in Schloss Leopoldskron, Salzburg, Austria – Learning from the Past: Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism – aims to support those individuals and institutions who have taken up the challenge of promoting peace in their own communities.

Salzburg Global Seminar’s long-running Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention (HEGP) Programworks across cultures and contexts, including where perceptions and definitions of “extremism” differ widely. The 2017 session in the Program will build on work from previous years, particularly the projects launched at the December 2016 session,Learning from the Past: Promoting Pluralism and Countering Extremism. One of these projects, The Change Makers Leadership Program, created by Salzburg Global Fellows Tali Nates and Richard Freedman from South Africa, and Freddy Mutanguha and Aloys Mahwa from Rwanda, helps students between the ages of 15 and 18 in both countries understand their countries’ troubled pasts in an effort to promote peaceful coexistence and counter extremism. The first class of students graduated this summer, and it is intended that the program will expand to other African countries in 2018.

Over 40 participants from 20 countries, mostly from Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia, will convene in Schloss Leopoldskron for this year’s session on November 16-20. They come from many professional backgrounds including academia, museums and memorial sites, civil society organizations, government officials, and public communications experts. Many of the participants are returning Fellows from other Salzburg Global sessions, including its multi-year series on Culture, Arts and Society, the Salzburg Global Media Academy and Reform and Transformation in the Middle East and North Africa.

The session will mix interactive methodologies, plenary and small group discussions, and thematic and regionally focused working groups to explore and debate the most effective ways to combat rising intolerance and extremism. Participants will deepen and extend their collaborative work in order to identify cross-regional strategies to empower institutions and individuals with tools for ethical education, peaceful conflict resolution, and pluralist societies.

Program Director Charles Ehrlich says that “we are thrilled to have such truly remarkable people from across the world to join us in Salzburg. They share a commitment to overcoming the legacy or threat of mass atrocity, using tools developed for Holocaust education to address their countries’ own national tragedies or problematic histories in an appropriate and dignified way, so that they may provide hope for – and through – the next generation.”

The HEGP Program is held in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and this year is funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Zukunftsfonds der Republik Österreich. Additional support comes from Mr. Ronald Abramson; the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research, and Economy; the Robert Bosch Stiftung; the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation; the HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust; the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung; and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

The HEGP Program’s emphasis on grassroots activity within existing institutional budgets anchors projects in their local communities and improves chances for longer-term sustainability. Activities depend on the partners and are demand-driven: The Program provides no financial support to activity implementation, but rather facilitates networks and exchange of experiences across borders to help in-country partners achieve their own institutional mandates, and to help external partners (government, academic, civil society, and other interested parties) to have access to practical feedback from on-the-ground actors within affected countries and communities.

Since 2010, the Program has sought to develop methods for combating extremism and promoting pluralism through education and research. The Program has a network of individuals and NGOs in more than 40 countries, offering ongoing support to its members. It promotes learning from the Global South – both South-to-South exchange but also importantly transmitting lessons from South to North, to inform and influence effective policy and strategies both in the participants’ countries and in Western countries striving to address the same issues, and to determine what methodologies or tools can be leveraged in different contexts.

The session, Learning from the Past: Sharing Experiences across Borders to Combat Extremism is part of the multi-year series Holocaust Education and Genocide Prevention (HEGP) Program, which is held partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum and this year is funded by the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Zukunftsfonds der Republik Österreich. Additional support comes from Mr. Ronald Abramson; the Austrian Federal Ministry of Science, Research, and Economy; the Robert Bosch Stiftung; the Harry Frank Guggenheim Foundation; the HDH Wills 1965 Charitable Trust; the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung; and the University of Pennsylvania Law School.

More information can be found on the session here: and you can follow along via the hashtag #SGShol on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. 

Beyond the Schloss Gates
Clare Shine at the Sunshine Cinema in South Africa with the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy
Beyond the Schloss Gates
By: Patrick Wilson 
Salzburg Global Seminar's staff head out of the Schloss to take Salzburg Global programs out on the road. Salzburg Global Seminar challenges current and future leaders to solve problems of global concern. Our dedicated team at Salzburg Global share in this mission, not only by leading programs in Salzburg, but also by partnering with other globally-conscious organizations and facilitating events across the world. Singapore Founded by three young Harvard men as place for fresh intellectual exchange, Salzburg Global Seminar has long been engaged in issues surrounding the future of education. In this vein, President Stephen L. Salyer visited Singapore for the first International Liberal Education Symposium, hosted by Yale-NUS College at its new permanent campus in the city-state. The event brought together more than 30 global education leaders to discuss the future of international higher education and dialogue on obstacles and trends in education in an increasingly interconnected world. Hong Kong Salzburg Global’s long-running program Philanthropy and Social Investment entered a new phase in 2015 in anticipation of the adoption of new climate change goals, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, and the funding needed to support these new initiatives. Marking the start of this new phase, Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine together with US Development Director Andrew Ho travelled to Hong Kong for the session Philanthropy in the Global Age.  The session was co-convened with The Global Friends, a consortium of global philanthropists leading values-driven social innovation, and focused on the philanthropic innovation needed to support transition to a climate-balanced economy and foster US-China collaboration to this end. Gwangju and Seoul, Korea Building on our work with the Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators (YCI Forum), Program Director for Culture and the Arts Susanna Seidl-Fox travelled to Gwangju, Korea for the Asia-Europe Foundation’s conference Cities: Labs for Culture? Seidl-Fox, who has been leading programs on culture and the arts at Salzburg Global for almost 20 years, moderated a panel focusing on leadership in the cultural sector. She also met with creatives and cultural leaders in Seoul at the World Culture Open, a network which invites people to engage in intercultural exchange and collaboration. While in the capital, Seidl-Fox was also able to attend a gathering of local YCI Fellows from the Seoul hub. Florence, Italy Intercultural exchange and conflict transformation were also key themes for Susanna Seidl-Fox when she traveled to Florence, Italy, to discuss the pressing need for Western societies and global Muslim communities to build comprehension and communication. New York University’s John Brademas Center for the Study of Congress brought together 20 artists, conveners, practitioners, and funders to identify opportunities for positive action and collaboration. Seidl-Fox brought insights from the 2014 session Conflict Transformation Through Culture: Peace-Building and the Arts and discussed the need to promote capacity-building in the Middle East-North Africa region. Minsk, Belarus Program Director Charles E. Ehrlich furthered Salzburg Global’s conflict transformation work when he traveled to Belarus to speak at the International University on Conflict Transformation in Minsk – an apt location, as the city had recently hosted the OSCE-led Russian-Ukrainian peace talks. Ehrlich presented two topics drawn from his own professional experiences in Kosovo and Catalonia, examining the causes of disputes, reconciliation, and lessons learned for peaceful transformation. The program brought together young professionals from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia, including Russian-occupied territories (Abkhazia and South Ossetia), to look beyond regional conflicts and frame constructive dialogue for exchanging new ideas.

Berlin, Germany

Drawing on her own professional background in biodiversity and climate and water issues, as well as Salzburg Global’s own extensive work in the fields of international trade, governance, transboundary cooperation, and conflict prevention, Salzburg Global Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine moderated a discussion entitled (Mis)understanding of Climate – China, India, and the EU at the Public Diplomacy Forum in Berlin, Germany. The event was hosted by the Charhar Institute, Clingendael Institute, and ifa, and supported by Robert Bosch Stiftung.  Cape Town, South Africa Red Bull’s Amaphiko project is a founding partner of the YCI Forum. Through this partnership, Vice President and Chief Program Officer Clare Shine was invited to Cape Town, South Africa to speak at the Red Bull Amaphiko Academy, a launch-pad event for grassroots social innovators and entrepreneurs who are making a positive difference in their community. As well as strengthening the Red Bull Amaphiko partnership, Shine also acted as a talent scout, meeting STEM education innovator Varaidzo Mureriwa and inviting her to participate in Untapped Talent: Can Better Testing and Data Accelerate Creativity in Learning and Societies?
WANT TO HOST A SALZBURG GLOBAL FELLOWSHIP EVENT IN YOUR CITY? To find out when Salzburg Global Seminar staff might be in your city and to inquire about hosting a local Salzburg Global Fellowship event, contact Salzburg Global Fellowship Manager Jan Heinecke: 
Supporting Thoughtful, Committed Citizens
Israa Nuri Abu-Shaala leads a discussion during the session Getting Transition Right
Supporting Thoughtful, Committed Citizens
By: Louise Hallman, Alex Jackson and Sudeshan Reddy 
Several programs in 2014 sought to strengthen civil society

Nearly 70 years after Margaret Mead praised the first Salzburg Seminar in American Studies and its “committed citizens,” Salzburg Global continues to provide a safe space for current and future leaders to tackle burning issues in their homelands. This distance can enable them to listen to and learn from each other, and find solutions across geographic and ideological boundaries.

“Civil society is the society of citizens—but citizens are not just those who have a passport but who actively work to make a country better… The more active citizens we have, the stronger and better the country will be,” said one veteran Russian civil society activist during the Salzburg Global program Russian Civil Society: Building Bridges to the Future. His sentiments echoed Margaret Mead, faculty of the first-ever Salzburg Seminar in American Studies who famously stated: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Ever since that first session, Salzburg Global Seminar has sought to support civil society and strengthen democratic processes and engagement.

While civil society is represented at almost every Salzburg Global program – in addition to building the next generation of “thoughtful, committed citizens” with the year-round Global Citizenship Program – three 2014 programs in particular sought to support Fellows in their struggles toward democracy, stability, and inclusivity in the “post-revolution” Middle East and North Africa, against the increasing restrictions in Putin’s Russia, and for LGBT rights the world over.

Civil society has an important role to play in tackling all these issues. Countries in transition, such as Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen (the four focus countries of Salzburg Global’s ongoing Reform and Transformation in the Middle East and North Africa [link to] series), face deep-rooted problems, which politicians or “official” representatives alone will not solve; all stakeholders need to be engaged and included. “Ignore who is in charge and address the issues,” advised one Libyan Fellow to her Egyptian counterparts at the March program Strengthening Diversity and Inclusion in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Yemen.

The fluidity and complexity of the situation in the countries facing extreme transitions or increasing restrictions can sometimes thwart the plans made by well-intentioned civil society activists, academics, donors, and policymakers.

Indeed, between the November 2013 program Getting Transition Right: A Rights-based Approach to Diversity and Inclusion and the follow-on program in March 2014, participants spoke of a sense of inertia at best and deterioration at worst.

Following the participation of its founder Belabbès Benkredda in the November session, the Munathara Initiative, a Tunisia-based multimedia public debating platform, was inspired to expand to the four focus countries, launching a series of debates on human rights, inclusion, and diversity. But outside of Tunisia where there had been some progress, Fellows were much less positive. One Egyptian Fellow, who had been outspoken at Salzburg Global programs in 2012 and 2013, asked to have his name withheld from the 2014 program report for fear of reprisals. Two Libyan Fellows had to flee and seek asylum in Europe following attempts on their lives in retaliation for their work. Although progress had been made by March, the outbreak of war in Yemen had led many of those Fellows who could, to leave.

For the Russian Fellows who attended the Russian Civil Society Symposium, the situation could also be bleak and dangerous. Oleg Kozlovsky, a seasoned political activist, was detained at the airport on his return from Salzburg; he was released after officers took his photo and fingerprints.

So if the situation is changing too quickly to formulate long-term plans and Fellows can even face detention for their participation, why come to Salzburg?

“The [November program] was quite significant in two major ways,” explains Egyptian Fellow Sherine El Taraboulsi.

“One, it allowed us to ask questions at a distance. While we are aware of the different dimensions of the problems that face the region, we are too close to it to be able to analyze it. Salzburg brought that distance while providing a platform for us to freely discuss our ideas.

“Two, it managed to bring together academics and practitioners, and that is very unique, because we rarely speak to one another.”

This bringing together of disparate views is a hallmark of Salzburg Global. Even within civil society, there is not necessarily a homogeny of opinion or approach. Within Russia, a great level of distrust exists among various sectors of civil society. The political activists (who want to change or even overhaul the entire system) accuse the direct aid groups (who provide disaster relief or services not offered by the state) of being short-sighted and state collaborators, especially those receiving state funding. But the political activists’ clashes with the state earn them the distrust and ire of direct aid and civic activist groups who blame them for provoking the government crackdowns that affect the whole sector. They are also frequently characterized as foreign-backed, disrupting the development of civil society, and the lives of ordinary Russians.

It thus became clear in Salzburg that bridges need to be built not only between civil society and the state, but also within civil society itself.

After the session, Sarah Lindemann-Komarova, founder of the Siberian Civic Initiatives Support Center, said: “A summary of [the program outcomes] is simple: no easy answers, more questions. But that does not mean it was a failure. It is no small accomplishment to capture an accurate description of the status of civil society in Russia today…

“The identification of questions that need answers and the clarification of internal fault lines provide an essential foundation for a step forward in this 25-year-old work-in-progress. It is not clear if that step will be taken; it is only certain that, if it is not, there is no hope of improved status, increased bargaining power, and self-determination for civil society actors.”

Outside Schloss Leopoldskron, positive bridges were built in Berlin, where members of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum met in May 2014 to examine how LGBT issues are addressed by ministries of foreign affairs and their embassies, and how LGBT rights organizations, embassies, and other actors can build closer networks and more effective relationships.

During the two days of discussions between the Fellows and representatives from agencies including the German and Dutch Foreign Ministries and the European External Action Service, German Federal Government Commissioner for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, Christoph Straesser said: “The question before us, as societies, organizations, and persons wishing to protect and promote human rights, is how to halt negative developments and further advance positive developments. There is no simple answer to this question.

“To help us identify answers, we work with the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum in order to establish a global space to reflect upon and advance LGBT and human rights discussions around the world.”

As Klaus Mueller, founder and chair of the Salzburg Global LGBT Forum, wrote in the session report for Creating Long-Term Global Networks to Sustain LGBT Human Rights Organizations: “There are no easy answers and no ‘short-cuts’ to supporting, enhancing and sustaining LGBT rights. What does make a difference is ongoing networking, engagement, and dialogue between German diplomatic missions and LGBT human rights organizations…

“For a network to truly live and thrive, there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction. The momentum of Salzburg was sustained in Berlin through the processes of discovery, empathy, and learning. It must now continue.”

Continuing the spirit of Margaret Mead, Salzburg Global’s programs on strengthening democracy and civil society will support and expand the networks of thoughtful and committed citizens for generations to come.

Download the Salzburg Global Chronicle 2015 in full (PDF)
Getting Transition Right - A Rights-Based Approach to Diversity and Inclusivity
Report for Session 508 now online
Getting Transition Right - A Rights-Based Approach to Diversity and Inclusivity
By: Tanya Yilmaz 

Report on Getting Transition Right now available online

The report for our 2013 session on “Getting Transition Right: A Rights-Based Approach to Diversity and Inclusivity” is now available online.

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has long since been more than just “Arab” or “Muslim” and since the revolutions of 2011, opportunities have now arisen to make these diverse societies more inclusive.

Joining together 40 civil society activists, academics, donors and budding politicians, the session allowed the opportunity to retreat from the hectic work in post-revolution Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, and to take stock and formulate plans of how to make their countries more inclusive and accepting of their long-established diverse communities.  

You can read all about the discussions in the session report.

The report is also available for download as a PDF:

Download Report

“Inclusion Is Making Diversity Work”
Fellows of session 508 "Getting Transition Right" discuss the situations in their home countries
“Inclusion Is Making Diversity Work”
By: Louise Hallman 

Fellows return to Salzburg to continue their work on Getting Transition Right

“Diversity is what we have. Inclusion is making diversity work,” so said one Salzburg Global Fellow last year. The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region has long since been more than just “Arab” or “Muslim” (despite the oft-made assumption by many outside of the region); and since the revolutions of 2011, opportunities have now arisen to make these diverse societies more inclusive. But how?  

That was the question that faced over 40 civil society activists, academics, donors and budding politicians who came together in Salzburg, Austria last November for the session “Getting Transition Right: A Rights-based Approach to Diversity and Inclusion.” Over the course of five days, they took the opportunity to retreat from the hectic work in post-revolution Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen, and to take stock and formulate plans of how to make their countries more inclusive and accepting of their long-established diverse communities.  

This week, a dozen of this original cohort, plus a number of experts who were unable to join the original program, meet again at Schloss Leopoldskron to continue structuring their plans to create and build support across civil society for policy recommendations and related measures that demonstrate respect for diversity and foster inclusion.  

The two-day program will review and refresh their project goals, agree key objectives for each of the four countries’ projects, and set realistic steps and outputs. Their work will then be further continued through online and in-country work with the wider cohort. 

Interviews, reviews and the summary report from Session 508 are available on the session page: Discussions can be followed on Twitter #SGSmena.