Ra­ghi­da Der­gham:

« Bei­rut Ins­ti­tute met en avant des op­tions po­li­tiques et des stra­té­gies in­fluentes »

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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.

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