Relaunched in a new format with livestreaming, Doha Debates, a Qatar Foundation (QF) initiative, discussed the topic of refugee crisis on Tuesday in the presence of QF Chairperson Her Highness Sheikha Moza bint Nasser and QF Vice-Chairperson and CEO HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad al-Thani.

The event held at Northwestern University in Qatar (NU-Q) saw a diverse range of participants from Qatar and abroad share and debate suggestions for alleviating the world’s urgent and worsening refugee crisis. The innovative approach of the debate includes majlis-style discussions designed to bridge differences, build consensus and identify solutions to urgent global issues.

Ghida Fakhry interacts with Naraghi-Anderlini

The participants included a young Syrian refugee and education activist as well as award-winning US and British journalists and commentators. They were joined by an Iranian-born conflict mediator, a Lebanese debate moderator and an Afghan refugee as the debate’s digital host, with audience contributions from QF students and Twitter livestream participants around the world.

American professor, activist and journalist Marc Lamont Hill, British author and political commentator Douglas Murray and a 20-year-old Syrian refugee, Muzoon Almellehan, presented their views on the topic and the pressing issues the world is facing in this regard. The session was moderated by the presenter of the show, Ghida Fakhry, who challenged the participants to focus on solutions to the refugee crisis.

The debate also had Sanam Naraghi-Anderlini, founder and executive director of the International Civil Society Action Network, in the role of a ‘connector’ who collects all inputs from the three speakers, puts forward their views and comes out with a common ground. The debate’s digital host, Nelufar Hedayat, highlighted ideas from the international audience participating through Twitter.

Douglas Murray making a point during the debate.

The audience had the opportunity to actively take part in the conversations and could also participate in an online voting on the opinions of the panelists. Hill’s idea of 'Resist Power. Push Back' got the highest percentage of votes at 38.23%, followed by Almellehan’s suggestion of ‘Education is Hope’ with 34.77%. Murray’s point of ‘Keep Justice and Mercy in Balance’ got 27.01%.

Almellehan spoke about the importance of education in giving refugees hope. “Many of us think of refugees as numbers, but behind every number, there is a story,” she said. “Why judge people at a time when they need hope, believe in a better life and want to build a future for themselves and their children?”

Murray highlighted “competing virtues” in the context of migration. “The first virtue is mercy, the desire to be merciful to fellow humans who are suffering,” he said. “And the second is justice — not just for those who are fleeing countries, but for those in the countries they are fleeing to.”

Hill said, “We can acknowledge the moment and that we have borders — we can’t pretend we don’t. But we also can’t obsess about this. We can reimagine ourselves as a global community rather than a local community.”

“The refugee crisis is not an easy issue, but it is necessary to discuss it because the problem is urgent. Every day children are out of school is a day their lives are put on hold, and a day they are not fulfilling their potential,” added Naraghi-Anderlini.

Amjad Atallah, managing director of Doha Debates, applauded the response and the calibre of contributions to the first live event, saying: “The tone and quality of the Doha Debates conversation sets a new high bar for discourse on complex and difficult issues. Our guests and participants in Doha and online were able to experience being part of both a timely discussion and solutions to the global refugee crisis.”

The full debate, and highlights of the event, can be viewed on the Doha Debates website and social media channels, with the conversation continuing online using the hashtag #DearWorld.

Doha Debates’ new concept builds on the tradition of examining complex global issues established by its original launch 14 years ago, through live debates, digital videos, a TV series and blogs and podcasts on the world’s most pressing challenges.

The next live Doha Debates event is set to take place on April 3 at NU-Q, with a debate on the merits and challenges of Artificial Intelligence.

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