November 22, 2020 |Amman, Jordan – The Regional Office of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom – Middle East and North Africa (FNF MENA) brought its flagship Innovation in Politics Forum, named after the city it is organized in, to Amman this year. By gathering international expertise from organizations, projects, companies and individuals, the AIP Forum stimulated debates on the urgent need for innovation in politics and its practical and theoretical aspects. It aimed to identify inventive approaches and methodologies from various backgrounds, contributing to an understanding of democracy, freedom, and innovation from different perspectives in the MENA region.
“As a creative and innovative platform that promotes freedom across the world, our objective was to bring creative change-makers to concentrate on innovative solutions for pressing political challenges in the MENA region” said Dirk Kunze, Regional Director of the FNF MENA.
Many high-calibre speakers took part, such as H.E. Audrey Tang, Taiwan’s Digital Minister and Hans Van Baalen, Former European Parliament member and President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, among others.
The forum was divided into five main chapters that spanned over the course of these two innovation-filled days.
Chapter 1: Innovation and the Power of Networks
In this chapter, talks centred around innovating the work of political networks and changing our existing notions about how networking happens.
Hans Van Baalen, President of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, said: “The network is very supportive and important, but you have to manage it. Otherwise, there’s an inflation of opinions, of personalities, so we have to be selective.”
Chapter 2: iValues – Rethink Politics in the MENA Region
Josef Lentsch, Managing Partner of the Innovation in Politics Institute Germany, announced the launch of the iValues- Rethink Politics in MENA award, which is “about finding projects that are already working, initiatives that are already improving people’s lives […] for a prosperous post-Covid future for the MENA region.”
Lentsch added: “It is in the outskirts, not in the hallways of power, where the new emerges.”
Chapter 3: Innovation and Partnership in the Mediterranean Area
In this talk about partnership between European countries in the north and Middle Eastern and North African countries in the south, speakers stressed the need for proper policies.
Yasser Akkaoui. Editor in Chief of Executive Magazine argues that “our political establishments haven’t been able to have proper policies to migrate from their extractive models to inclusive models.”
Fireside Chat: The Future of Policy Making
In a fireside chat with Steve Clemons, Editor at Large, the Hill, our own Regional Strategy Manager, Yara Asmar, asked about several aspects of the United States presidential elections and the results’ effect on the MENA region.
Clemens voiced his hope that “the Biden administration, with diplomacy, will encourage and discuss a way to bring those new emerging nuclear weapons into some sort of negotiated regime, a treaty regime.”
Chapter 4: Artificial Intelligence, Geopolitics and Information Integrity in the MENA Region
Speakers of this panel expressed their concern about how AI is being used in the region to exercise control, especially in autocratic countries.
Mohannad Hage Ali, Director of Communications and a fellow at the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, said that “if you look horizontally at the investment of AI in the region, they are primarily in the field of surveillance technology. It doesn’t look like a bright AI future for the region.”
Chapter 5: Innovation and Gender – How to Stimulate Change in the MENA Region?
This mind-stimulating conversation started with a keynote speech by Audrey Tang, Digital Minister of Taiwan, who stressed that “achieving gender equality in its entirety may not be possible in most of the countries if we act alone, but we can act together to design and introduce innovative policies, develop and bring them forward by creative researchers and civil society organizations.”
Our panellists also discussed the need for reforms. Luna Safwan, Freelance Journalist and Communication Specialist, explained: “We lack in the MENA a lot of complementary models and a lot of laws that empower women, and we cannot keep empowering each other as women only; we need the law.”
The event did not just talk the talk about innovation but walked the walk. Multiple virtual 3D stages were created at high-end studios connecting speakers and moderators from all parts of the world to provide the attendees with the most immersive experience there is. The panels were also broadcasted Live on various Social Media Platforms as well.
You can re-watch the panels here:
Day 2: https://youtu.be/Tf_JZmKKZTw
And to top it all off, the team at FNF MENA also launched an Augmented Reality Quiz on Instagram called the Political Innovator Face Filter/Lens which tells a user “What kind of a political innovator are you?”
About FNF MENA
The “Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom” (FNF) is the open laboratory of freedom and a global liberal think-tank. Established in Germany in 1958 and with over 200 employees, we are the biggest liberal institution worldwide with a comprehensive network of partners, experts and volunteers. With our activities and publications, we help people to exercise their rights of political participation. We also provide scholarships for talented individuals.
In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), FNF has offices in, Amman, Beirut, Jerusalem, Rabat and Tunis. Each of our offices works within the frame of freedom in its national context. The Regional Office is based in Amman, Jordan.
FNF MENA has three main programs that encourage inter-country cooperation under three main themes: MENA-NET | MENA-EU | MENA-GEOPOL
All our activities target individuals who share our core principles on liberalism. We advise, motivate and inspire relevant stakeholders and create, shape and market solutions for tomorrow that are based on enhancing individual freedom and responsibility. We are the creative platform for innovation in the MENA region and a creative think-tank of liberal politics, with the aim of enhancing the values and goals of liberalism worldwide.