"It is your commitment that will shape the future of the region."

On the occasion of the Middle East Mediterranean Forum, hosted online on Saturday 29 August by Università della Svizzera italiana, in a video message Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis addresses the young people participating in the forum from across the entire Middle East Mediterranean region. Also on the agenda is the current situation in Lebanon, where Swiss Humanitarian Aid is providing support to the population of Beirut.

A group of young people, in a semicircle, looking at a phone screen.

Participating online from different countries, the 'young change-makers' have the opportunity to interact and debate. © USI

This year, the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs (FDFA) takes part once again in the Middle East Mediterranean (MEM) Forum organised by Università della Svizzera italiana, a discussion platform to give a voice to young people in the MEM region. The region is of considerable importance to Switzerland from an economic, cultural, security and migration policy perspective. The FDFA has run a multitude of cooperation projects in the region in recent years, geared mainly towards young people, who in some countries account for more than half of the population.

The third edition of the MEM Forum on Saturday 29 August provides video links and discussion panels throughout the day. The network of 'young change-makers', established during past editions of the MEM Forum in Lugano, have the opportunity to debate issues with political figures and others active on the international stage, and promote dialogue on current challenges facing the region.

The MEM Forum is live-streamed from 9am on the dedicated website (www.mem-summersummit.ch), where the content will remain accessible after the event.

You are the driving forces of tomorrow and your commitment will shape the future of the Middle East and North Africa region, which is of great importance to Switzerland.
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis
Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis speaking on a stage with young people sitting next to him at the MEM Forum in 2019.
The annual MEM Summit enables young people to have their voices heard and to come together and share ideas and projects with representatives from various countries. © USI

Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis opens the MEM Forum 2020 with a video message, addressing young people participating online from the various parts of the MEM region, who are the real protagonists of the meeting and key figures for the development of new ideas and projects. "You are the driving forces of tomorrow and your commitment will shape the future of the Middle East and North Africa region, which is of great importance to Switzerland," Cassis states in his message. Also the President of the French Republic, Emmanuel Macron, spoke in a video message about the importance of the MEM region and its political weight, with particular reference to the conflicts in Syria and Libya and the crisis in Lebanon.

Message of Federal Councillor Ignazio Cassis addressed to MEM Forum 2020 participants.

Current developments in Lebanon

The MEM Forum focuses also on the current situation in Lebanon, where Swiss Humanitarian Aid teams are active on the ground, working in particular on the rehabilitation of schools and in the health sector. In an interview, Ambassador Monica Schmutz Kirgöz talks about the difficult situation in the country, which is now dealing with the impact of the violent explosion which tore through the capital on 4 August. The impact of that devastating event has added to the economic crisis, the governmental crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic. Ambassador Schmutz Kirgöz highlights the initiatives and support projects that Switzerland has promoted over the years.

A group of young people, sitting in a circle, talk and share experiences from their respective countries.
The MEM Forum builds bridges between the various parts of the MEM region. Lugano provides participants with the ideal setting to get to know each other and exchange ideas. © USI

Food system: the 'transfoodmation' initiative

Climate change, increased urbanisation, rising prices of primary goods: these factors affect the future of the food system in the MEM region, where food and its production play an important role. Ambassador Pio Wennubst, Switzerland's Permanent Representative to the FAO, IFAD and WFP in Rome, talks about the 'Bites of transfoodmation' initiative, which aims to bring together young innovators to reflect on the future of food systems.

Switzerland's cooperation programmes in the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA)

The FDFA has been present for many years in the MENA region, where it has been pursuing a regional cooperation strategy. Among the key pillars of Switzerland’s strategy are the promotion of security, job opportunities, human rights and sustainable development. Emphasis is also placed on collaboration in the fields of science and technology and making greater use of digitalisation.

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