MENA’s future in a climate of innovation explored in lively debate

Friedrich Naumann Foundation bids farewell to its Head of Beirut Office
Liberal K

Friedrich Naumann Foundation (FNF) for Freedom in Lebanon and Syria held the latest debate from its popular Liberal Alphabet Series, which has now reached the letter ‘K’, on Tuesday June 25 at Garage 664, the organization’s office in Beirut in the presence of the German ambassador Dr. Georg Birgelen. 

In keeping with the concept, a high-profile panel of speakers shared their views on the chosen theme ‘Khalas’ (translating from Arabic to English as ‘Enough’)… What’s next for MENA?’ 

Key speakers at the event included Dr. Werner Hoyer, President of the European Investment Bank (EIB), who came to Lebanon especially for this event at the invitation of the FNF. 

In his speech at the debate, Dr. Hoyer highlighted the pivotal part played by international organizations in the Middle East, such as the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom, and the significance of personal relations in driving projects forward. “The European Investment Bank – the EU bank – is committed to supporting the economic resilience of Lebanon”, he noted. “We are substantially scaling-up our financing activities for economically sound public and private sector projects in the country, and we stand ready to support the implementation of the Capital Investment Plan.”

Michel Moawad, Member of the Lebanese Parliament and Executive Director of the René Moawad Foundation (RMF), also gave a talk, in which he reflected on his experience working at a developmental level with both the RMF and international institutions like the FNF. 

The discussion was a lively one, moderated by Karl Sharro, the London-based, Lebanese-Iraqi architect who has carved a successful, second career as an author and political satirist through his hugely popular blog Karl reMarks.

Sharro kept the audience entertained with his biting wit, while guest speakers explored the impact that conflicts and political instability continue to have on the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. The high number of factors at play, which range from religious and ethnic tensions, local rivalries, proxy and civil wars to the fight for highly sought-after resources, were among the topical issues examined. In addition, participants discussed Europe’s longstanding connection to the region and the role earmarked for international institutions, such as the FNF, in shaping the geo-political landscape.

Significantly, the event provided guests with an opportunity to bid farewell to Dirk Kunze, the outgoing Head of Beirut Office for the FNF, as he prepares to take up the role of FNF Regional Director for the MENA region.

Taking to the stage in an emotional, farewell address, Kunze returned the conversation to the subject of what the future holds for the region under the banner ‘Innovation and Change: Let’s meet MENA!’ He also reflected on the role Lebanon continues to play as an important facilitator in the region. “I want to say thank you Lebanon - My Lebanon, a true enabler– and at the same time, Hello MENA region,” he said with affection. In addition, Kunze outlined an exciting new initiative which the FNF will be launching in the near future.

Ahmad El Hariri, Secretary General of the Future Movement, delivered the final speech in which he praised the work of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation in Lebanon and especially the efforts of the Head of the Beirut office Dirk Kunze, and wished him all the success in his new role.

Pictures from the event may be found here