American Univesity of Beirut

AUB Alums Attend Prestigious Global Youth Conference at UN

Three AUB alumni, Mamoun Mahayni (BA ‘14), Hayder Al-Shakeri (BA ‘13), and Sally Itani (BArch ‘18) were chosen to attend the 8th United Nations Alliance of Civilizations Global Forum as members of the youth cohort. The Forum brings together activists and diplomats from all over the world to discuss strategies for promoting interethnic and religious dialogue as a means of combating extremism; ultimately, serving as a networking venue where young, ambitious activists can recruit state-support for progressive causes in their home countries.

Mahayni, Al-Shakeri, and Itani, from Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon respectively, each succeeded in an extremely competitive application process to gain a spot at the Forum, held at the United Nations Headquarters in New York this past November. Each brought to the conference his or her own personal agenda for dialogue and development back home.

Mahayni, now a student at Case Western Reserve Law School and intern at the Cleveland Clinic International Operations Internship Program, hopes to return to Syria to get involved in the country’s post-war reconstruction, particularly as concerns the flow of foreign goods and investment into and out of the country. “We have lots of potential. A lot to offer the world,” Mahayni says.

Al-Shakeri, who has long experience as an activist in Iraq, as a citizen journalist, and an officer at the United Nations Mine Action Service, wants to buck the trend by being one of the few Iraqis to return home after years spent studying abroad. “All Iraqis leave and don’t come back. I want to counter that.” To combat extremism and promote dialogue, Al-Shakeri is writing stories, talking to neighbors, hosting events, and reaching out to the international community. “I’ve been experimenting with several methods,” he says. “I want to change people’s views of Iraqis, especially how Iraqis view other Iraqis.”

Itani, an architect by training, is thinking about building design as a means to improve neighborhoods and promote social cohesion. She worked as a project manager at Architects for Change and acted as host during portions of the Forum.

For Itani, inspiration and relatability are the big takeaways for the group. “It was very inspiring to see what people are doing and just pushes you more. I thought, Oh I want to reach that level, have that sort of impact. Everyone’s struggling in their own ways, but at end of day we all relate.” Itani says. Al Shakeri and Mahayni agree.

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