« Beirut Institute met en avant des options politiques et des stratégies influentes »
Difficult to define Raghida Dergham in few words. Political analyst, correspondent, commentator, she is above all an international journalist. Animated by curiosity and courage, she has an exceptional persistence and self- confidence. The retreat of her candidacy from the parliamentary elections raised multiple questions. In a precious interview given to Prestige, Raghida, founder of Beirut Institute and awarded in London the prize of the Arab woman 2017, reveals to Prestige her projects and feelings. Journalist, political analyst, correspondent, commentator, are the qualities that define your rich path. What are the qualities required to make a good journalist? Who is Raghida Dergham? Raghida Dergham is curious. This is the first tenant of being a journalist- be it a reporter, or columnist. Curious and courageous, because without courage, no journalist can gain admiration for pushing the envelope. Persistence is the only way for a journalist to get the story, but gaining confidence requires consistency and credibility. That’s why I have been able to carve my place as a fearless global journalist, columnist, and commentator. The art of the pointed question that reflects command of the subject. Last but not least, the skill of writing is essential to the success of a journalist.
In your opinion, what is the relation between politics and journalism? Why were you interested in becoming a member of the parliament? I am what is referred to as the Diaspora Lebanese, having spent over 40 years in the United States. My determination to contribute to the evolution of Lebanon by applying my experience in policy and media to the public sphere brought me back home. As Founder and Executive Chairman of Beirut Institute, I value the notion of convening minds, collective thinking, and attracting the return of confidence and investment in the infrastructure in order to provide basic services and rights to citizens. As a Geo- political columnist and a strategic thinker, I have the benefit of a wider reflection on the impact of global policies on local matters, which would have cer- tainly guided my performance in the parliament. Being a natural communicator fine- tunes my attention to the public’s needs, which will always be my top priority. Whether legislating laws that are fair and uphold accountability, or expanding the definition of national security, this will always be my task and my challenge.
You also are founder and Executive Chairman of Beirut Institute. Tell us about it… Beirut Institute is my passion and my project. Beirut Institute has now become an international brand as an independent non- partisan think- tank for the Arab region, with activities and events in multiple locations globally. This is a forwardlooking, solution- driven institute adamant at achieving sustainable impact on local and global policy. Beirut Institute is proud to serve as a catalyst for intergenerational, innovative, and solution- oriented thinking putting forward thoughtful policy options. Designed as an Arab Brain Trust and a collective of expertise, Beirut Institute provides a dynamic platform for enlightened thinkers to shape the debate and develop influential policy options and strategies. I started developing Beirut Institute in 2010, because I was pained by the sense of resignation amongst even the brightest in the Arab region, young and old. Eight years later the need to step up and take the lead in shaping the future of the Arab region and its place in the world is more urgent than ever. Collective brilliance and passion, coupled with persistence and resilience, can enhance the discourse towards moderation locally and place the diverse landscape in the Arab region on the map as effective and influential players globally.
Tell us about the summits organized by Beirut Institute? In October 2015, the city of Abu Dhabi welcomed Beirut Institute to host its first summit entitled: Reconfiguring the Arab Region and its Global Space Beyond Political Economy and Security Threats. The summit took place in the presence of 250 global leaders, dignitaries and senior public policy experts from the UAE, the Arab region, USA, Europe, Russia, China, South America and Africa. We promised to deliver a forward- thinking and dynamic summit that would address and find solutions to problems related to the security and stability of the region, and we did just that. We opened the dialogue of change, presented recommendations and viable solutions to decision makers, and encouraged cooperation and unity. We discussed the importance of educating our youth and equipping them with the skills needed to embrace an ever- changing and challenging future. We heard individual perspectives on the potential of Smart Cities, and how best to promote a truly digital Arab region. Experts had differing opinions on how to bring about peace and security to help realize the economic potential of the region - should we use military force or political efforts- and there was a call for increased legitimacy, good governance and regional cooperation across the GCC. We discussed popular culture, and how films can counter negative regional influences such as ISIS. On May 12 & 13, 2018, we held Beirut Institute Summit Edition II in Abu Dhabi. This year’s theme was: Constructing the Arab Region’s Engagement in the Emerging Global Future. An unprecedented conversation was held among two current and two former Secretary- Generals of the GCC and the League of Arab States on regional responsibilities in joining the emerging global future. Sitting and former ministers took the stage to explore how developments in the region, from unparalleled reforms to ongoing geopolitical challenges, have changed the strategic imperatives. Women leaders offered their bottom- line prescriptions with one- minute messages regarding what specifically is required, while young men and women gave their perspective on how technology can reshape the regional future. With experts from US and Russia, as well as the United Nations, we discussed the new American – Russian dynamics in the Middle East, and what Russia really wants in the Middle East. Global experts discussed how the regional order will evolve over the next 15 years, and what are the policy opportunities for creating a resilient regional and global order. Personalities from USA, China, Russia, France, UK, GCC, Libya, Lebanon, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Palestine, and Iraq explored the new contract between the region’s governments and people. What role can and must privatization play? What will the next generation inherit? This is the sort of conversation we have at Beirut Institute Summits which we hope will have further editions in the near future. During your professional career, you encountered numerous Lebanese and foreign personalities. Which memory truly marked you from these encounters that you would like to evoke? Of course, it always is the memory of the nonaligned summit in Belgrade in 1989, on my first assignment as Al Hayat’s Senior Political Correspondent. This was the scoop every journalist dreams of, interviewing ten heads of states and eight foreign ministers in the span of eight days. Surely, I slept merely two hours a night, but the exhilaration at such historic opportunity for any journalist erased all the exhaustion. 1989 is a very special year for me, the year of conceiving my daughter. No matter how many scoops and what heights I have reached professionally, my greatest accomplishment is my daughter Thalia. She remains the true source of pride and happiness, and I remain forever blessed and grateful to be her mother.
If you were elected member of Lebanese parliament, what would you have done to improve women’s condition? It’s time that women get their rightful place as policy makers and that girls are protected by laws legislated in the parliament. While this was my prime reason for running for elections, it remains my agenda after I dropped out. I will not disappear from the political scene. There is way too much to do on the issue of women and girls. But that is not my only drive. I will be in public service, one way or another, to shape the debate and to prove that women are fully capable and entitled to be serious policy makers.
Conducted by MIREILLE BOUABJIAN
Raghida Dergham, journalist, Founder and executive Chairman of Beirut Institute.
Raghida Dergham, Beirut Institute Summit Edition II in Abu Dhabi - Gala Dinner.