December 7, 2022
8:30 am - 12:30 pm


Zoom Webinar



For More Information

Programs Department
202-785-1141 ext. 202

The Middle East Institute (MEI), in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and its Regional Bureau of Arab States (RBAS), presents the second annual MEI Futures Forum. The Futures Forum will convene top thinkers and change leaders from around the world to push the envelope of innovation and inspiration on imagining future solutions to the most pressing problems of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) and paths to realizing the region’s greatest potential opportunities. The Futures Forum is the signature annual event of MEI’s Strategic Foresight Initiative program.

Conference Agenda

Welcome Remarks

Dr. Khalida Bouzar
Assistant Secretary-General, Assistant Administrator and Director of the Regional Bureau for Arab States, United Nations Development Programme

Steven Kenney
Director, Strategic Foresight Initiative, MEI

8:30am - 9:00am EST | Session I: Megatrends and Their Implications for the Arab Region

In support of “Our Common Agenda,” the UN Secretary-General’s landmark 2021 report, and the planned “Summit of the Future” during the General Assembly’s high-level week in 2024, ESCWA is undertaking a series of strategic analyses of some of the most important megatrends impacting the MENA region. Mounir Tabet, ESCWA Deputy Executive Director, will discuss the Megatrends Project and some of the important implications of global megatrends for the futures of the Arab region with Dr. Paul Salem, President and CEO, MEI.

Mounir Tabet
Deputy Executive Director, UN Economic and Social Commission of Western Asia (ESCWA)

Paul Salem, moderator
President and CEO, MEI 

9:10am - 10:25am EST | Session II: Seeding Future Stability – Imagining Startup Ecosystems in MENA Region Peacebuilding

There is evidence of an important role that the emergence of entrepreneurial startups can play in the aftermath of conflicts, producing goods and services that mitigate the consequences on affected populations, and fostering renewal of constructive trustful relations among groups. This panel will consider futures in which public and private sector leaders are proactive in this area. Experience has shown that when governments and development organizations in the MENA region consider economic issues within humanitarian and development programs and foster entrepreneurial ecosystems as a deliberate element of stabilization and peacebuilding in conflict and  “pre-conflict” zones, the results can take root faster and be more effective. What if regional and global venture capital and venture philanthropy communities also made startups in conflict and pre-conflict zones a deliberate part of their investment strategies?

Omar Christidis
Founder and CEO, Arabnet 

Jaideep Dhanoa
Co-founder and CEO, Fenix 

Mona Itani
Founder, Riyada for Social Innovation and Shabab Lab

Auke Lootsma
UNDP Representative in Iraq (formerly RR in Yemen)

Saleha Mohsin, moderator
Senior Washington Correspondent, Bloomberg News 

10:35am - 11:50am EST | Session III: Next Urban Visions – Pathways Toward Sustainable Future MENA Cities

The cities of the future must be sustainable in a multiplicity of dimensions, from their energy usage to waste management, to the industries they build their economies on, their technological and infrastructural renovations, their approaches and commitments to social justice and equity, their health resilience, food systems and more. This panel will consider the transformational shifts needed for cities of the future to be sustainable, and the lifestyle changes, circular solutions, and planetary dimensions that need to be considered. What actions must local governments, urban stakeholders and leaders of all sectors in the MENA region take? What barriers must be  overcome to make cities sustainable and livable - not just in new-build developments like Neom and Egypt’s “New Administrative Capital” - but especially in the cities where millions already live.

Adam Giambrone
Mobility Director and Head of Road Division, Neom 

Melissa Inguruca Moreno
Researcher and designer in multispecies urbanism, 2022 Next Generation Foresight Practitioners Main Award Winner 

Steven Kenney, moderator
Director, Strategic Foresight Initiative, MEI

11:55am - 12:25am EST | Session IV: Fireside Chat: Cities Alive – Designing Cities That Work for Women

A recently completed analysis by UNDP in collaboration with the global design firm Arup and the University of Liverpool explored a future gender-responsive approach to urban planning, one that transcends the inequalities that restrict women’s social and economic opportunities, health and wellbeing, sense of safety and security, and access to justice and equity. Dr. Sara Candiracci, Associate Director at Arup, and co-author of the study, will talk with Tehmina Akhtar, Senior Strategic Advisor at UNDP, Regional Bureau for Arab States, about the study’s conclusions and frameworks and how the futures of cities in the MENA region could be reimagined and transformed by them.

Sara Candiracci 
Associate Director, Inclusive and Resilient Cities Lead, ARUP 

Tehmina Akhtar
Senior Strategic Advisor, Regional Bureau for Arab States, UNDP

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