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Doha Debates: Inspiring New Voices of Global Change-Makers

Doha DebatesThe innovative new concept for Doha Debates, a series that brings powerful new voices and viewpoints to global topics and themes, was launched at an inaugural event at Qatar National Library.

The Qatar Foundation initiative – produced under the patronage of HH Sheikha Moza bint Nasser, Chairperson of QF – is returning with a fresh goal six years after the original debates last aired, to seek solutions to global challenges through honest, lively debates.

The relaunch of Doha Debates paves the way for some of the world’s most pressing challenges: the global refugee crisis, water shortage, loss of faith in institutions, gender inequality, capitalism, global citizenship and artificial intelligence. Differences of opinion are encouraged in Doha Debates, where a clash of ideas can lead to common ground on today’s critical questions — live onstage, and in videos, podcasts and social media conversations.

Speaking at the relaunch of Doha Debates, HE Sheikha Hind bint Hamad Al Thani said the importance of enabling and promoting 360-degree thinking is clear and Doha Debates allows such thinking to thrive.

Its new concept continues the proud Doha Debates tradition, stretching back to its inception 14 years ago, when it was the only platform of its kind for Arab youth to speak out about the world’s most pressing matters and share their perspectives. But it also represents the evolution of this platform – and what we stand for as a culture, as a nation, and as Qatar Foundation.’

Doha Debates

The majlis format of Doha Debates promotes conversation, rather than competition. It is an equitable setting, not an adversarial one, where every voice is heard, and where issues are addressed and problems solved together. It is a platform rooted in traditions, and wholly relevant to today. And it is a reflection of values that are at the core of QF, and are woven into the fabric of Education City: a place where respectful dialogue, open-mindedness, and freedom of expression are encouraged.

Amjad Atallah, Managing Director of the new Doha Debates, said that Doha Debates was never just a talk show.

It’s a showcase for all the passions and dramatic confrontations of the Middle East and the world. Instead of just debating problems, Doha Debates will engage millions of young people to find individual solutions, not in a gladiator-style winner-takes-all shouting match to score political points, but in invigorating and creative formats across a multitude of platforms.

Our primary goal is what inspires me most: We have to find solutions, personal and global, to the failed economics and politics facing every one of us, in every part of the globe. And that search for solutions has to include global voices, representing everyone impacted by these challenges. In person and digitally, our debates are a positive step toward real solutions across the region and the world.’

Atallah said that they are introducing a local problem-solving mechanism, the majlis, to a global platform. Meaning ‘assembly’ or ‘parliament’ in Arabic, the majlis is a welcoming space for critical conversations. They are also working with curriculum specialists to support students in high schools and universities. The goal is to inspire meaningful and in-depth learning by creating content for students and teachers.

Doha Debates hopes to build on the landscape of education that Qatar Foundation has created at Education City.’

Season 1 of Doha Debates will include digital conversations and live debates at Northwestern University in Qatar at Education City and international cities, to be announced in 2019. The live events will be moderated by Ghida Fakhry — an award-winning multilingual journalist and TV host — in front of university students, and livestreamed across digital channels. Digital content is produced by the Doha Debates team, creators and executives who have built successful digital operations at AJ+, Fusion, Univision and the New York Times.

Partnerships with TED and Shared_Studios

Doha Debates also announced its partnerships with TED and Shared_Studios. TED is a global nonprofit community of innovators who believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes and lives. Through partnership with TED, Doha Debates will reach new audiences on digital channels, with the first co-partnered event happening on 16 January 2019 in New York City during the TED Salon ‘Up for Debate’, which will explore human engagement and communication.

Shared_Studios is known for its iconic walk-in portals of communication — a network of gold-coloured shipping containers outfitted with video-conference equipment for people to step inside and speak across the world. There are more than 40 portal locations worldwide, from refugee camps to universities. The portals are designed to connect people who might not otherwise meet, through thoughtful programming and immersive technology.

Doha Debates will host its own portal throughout 2019, reflecting the various debate topics as the series travels the world and connects audiences digitally.

‘We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines.’

The set for Doha Debates is inspired by the beauty of contemporary Doha architecture and the rich majlis culture and designed by a prominent Dutch team working with Storytegic, another Doha Debates production partner, which oversees all elements of the live events.

Moderator Ghida Fakhry highlighted the value of listening critically and challenging assumptions. She said that Doha Debates will galvanise people with diverse perspectives to take action for real solutions.

We must change the way we address the world’s most pressing challenges. And the timing couldn’t be more important with the current state of discourse and the widening polarisation all around us.

She said that polarisation leads to paralysis — and conflict. Doha Debates will give an opportunity to engage participants on some of the most vital and urgent issues. Respect for differences, including differences in opinion, will guide the debates. She emphasised the aim which is to inspire action.

We can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines. We must engage, we must listen, we must act.’

 For more information about the new Doha Debates, visit their website at dohadebates.com.

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