The MENA Summit held virtually on 23rd November, 2021, debated and discussed the role of Think Tanks, politics and policy advice in an age of policy dilemmas and disruptions.


The Bahrain Center for Strategic, International, and Energy Studies (Derasat) in partnership with the Think Tank and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) of The Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania, hosted the 2021 edition of the MENA Think Tank Summit – under the theme, “New Partners & Paradigms in an Age of Conflict & COVID”.

The Summit highlighted the impact of COVID19 on the economy, public health, politics, and social issues in a representative sample of countries from the regions, the global trends and transitions in Think Tanks, politics and policy advice in the age of policy disruptions, and an overview of transitions in the region.


H.E. Aymen Tawfeeq ALMOYED | Bahrain

Minister | Ministry of Youth and Sports Affairs

Aymen Tawfeeq Abdulrahman Almoayed is a Bahraini diplomat and the youngest member in the Cabinet of Bahrain. H.E. Almoayed was appointed as the Minister of Youth and Sports Affairs in December 2018.

Prior to public service, His Excellency played key roles in the formation of investment and consulting institutions, conglomerates, and family offices, among other industrial and strategic projects. He was retained as advisor, board member, and trustee, by institutions and high net-worth individuals and families throughout the Gulf region, assisting them with their strategic decision-making and corporate maneuverings.


James G. MCGANN | United States

Senior Lecturer International Studies & Director | Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP), University of Pennsylvania

James G. McGann, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer of International Studies at the Lauder Institute, Director of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program and a Senior Fellow at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to assuming his current post, Dr. McGann was Assistant Director of the International Relations Program at the University of Pennsylvania.

Dr. McGann has served as a consultant and advisor to the World Bank; the United Nations; the Asian Development Bank; the United States Agency for International Development; the Soros, Rockefeller, MacArthur, Hewlett and Gates foundations; the Carnegie Corporation; and foreign governments on the role of non-governmental, public policy and public engagement organizations in civil society. He was an assistant professor of Political Science at Villanova University where he taught international relations, international organizations and international law.  He has served as the Senior Vice President for the Executive Council on Foreign Diplomats, the Public Policy Program Officer for the Pew Charitable Trusts, the Assistant Director of the Institute of Politics, John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He also served as a Senior Advisor to the Citizens’ Network for Foreign Affairs and the Society for International Development.

Dr. McGann earned his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania. He was a National Fellow at Stanford University while writing his doctoral thesis, which examined the nature and evolution of public policy research organizations in the United States such as Brookings Institution, Heritage Foundation, RAND, Urban Institute and others. He compared and contrasted the mission, structure and operating principles of these leading think tanks to determine how those factors influenced the institutions’ role in policymaking. His research and consulting have enabled him to work with governments and civil society organizations in over 100 countries. He has authored over 15 books on think tanks and is the creator and editor of the annual Global Go To Think Tank Index.

Abdulla bin Ahmed AL KHALIFA | Bahrain
Chairman of the Board of Trustees | Derasat

On 31 January 2017, Dr. Shaikh Abdulla bin Ahmed Al Khalifa was appointed Chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies, in addition to serving as Deputy Secretary General of the Supreme Defense Council, and as Undersecretary for International Affairs at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Bahrain, a post he has held since August 2015.
Previously Shaikh Abdulla held the post of Director General for External Communications (2014) at the Information Affairs Authority, during which he played a pivotal role in drawing up and implementing a strategy for strengthening the country’s national communications and public engagement. Prior to this Shaikh Abdulla served as a political advisor to the General Secretariat of the Supreme Council for Defense (2011) and as a Legal Specialist at the Bahrain Economic Development Board from 2007-2009. He also served as a Research Assistant with the Dean of Law Faculty at Queen Mary College, University of London from 2008-2009.
In 2015, Shaikh Abdulla was awarded a PhD in International Relations and Diplomacy from the École des Hautes Études Internationales, France. In 2008, he earned a Master of Law (LLM) from Queen Mary College, University of London, UK, focusing on negotiation and mediation. He also holds a Diploma in Political Development (Honors) from the Bahrain Institute for Political Development, Bahrain 2007 and a Bachelor of Law (LLB) (Honours) from the Applied Science University, Jordan 2006.
Shaikh Abdulla is an international expert in Mediation, accredited by the Centre for Effective Dispute Resolution (CEDR) in London where he participated in their training initiatives for international agencies and experts. He is also accredited as a Master Practitioner in Neuro Linguistic Programming by the United States’ National Federation of Neuro Linguistic Programming.
Shaikh Abdulla has a passion for the arts and is proficient in Arabic, English and French. He has been Vice President of the Paris based, ‘French Bahraini Friendship Society’ since 2011 and a member of the Jordan-based ‘Arab Thought Forum’ since 2013. He is an advocate of cross-cultural public diplomacy and publishes papers in various fields on a regular basis. He enjoys scuba diving, chess and collecting antiques.

SPEAKERS - in program order

Fabrizio CARBONI |Switzerland
Regional Director for Near and Middle East | ICRC

Fabrizio Carboni is the Regional Director for the Near and Middle East with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), overseeing some of the ICRC’s largest humanitarian response operations including Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. He has over 20 years of operational experience working in armed conflicts and situations of violence in the Americas, Asia and the Near and Middle East. Prior to his current role, he led operations in Afghanistan and Colombia, and served in the ICRC’s legal division focusing on the promotion and implementation of international humanitarian law. From 2010-2013 he served as ICRC Deputy Head for the Division of Multilateral Organizations, Policy & Humanitarian Action; 2013-2017 as Head of Delegation in Lebanon; and 2017-2018 as Head of Delegation in Myanmar. Carboni holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Law and a Masters in International Law from the Université Libre de Bruxelles. He currently resides in Geneva with the ICRC, a global humanitarian organization that works to support populations affected by armed conflict and violence. The ICRC is present in over 100 countries with 18,000 staff members working around the world, including in armed conflict settings, humanitarian diplomacy hubs and its headquarters in Geneva.


Roberta GATTI| United States    

Chief Economist | World Bank

Roberta Gatti is the Chief Economist of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region of the World Bank. In that role, she oversees analytical work to support the Bank’s operations and economic surveillance in countries in the region. In her previous capacity of Chief Economist for the Human Development practice group, she co-led the conceptualization and release of the World Bank Human Capital Index and oversaw the Service Delivery Indicators data initiative. Roberta joined the World Bank in 1998 as a Young Professional in the Macro unit of the Development Research Group. She has since led analytical agendas on growth, firm productivity, gender, social inclusion and labor markets, including as the Global Lead for Labor policies. She has also managed teams and lending portfolios in both the MENA and the Europe and Central Asia regions.

Roberta’s research is published in top field journals such as the Journal of Public Economics, the Journal of Economic Growth, and the Journal of Development Economics. Roberta is also the author of numerous flagship reports, including Jobs for Shared Prosperity: Time for Action in the Middle East and North Africa; Being Fair, Faring Better: Promoting Equality of Opportunity for Marginalized Roma; The Human Capital Project; and The Human Capital Index 2020 Update: Human Capital in the Time of COVID-19.

Roberta holds a B.A. from Università Bocconi and a Ph.D. in Economics from Harvard University. She has taught at Georgetown and Johns Hopkins Universities.

Abla ABDEL-LATIF | Egypt    

Executive Director | Egyptian Center for Economic Studies

Dr. Abla Abdel Latif is currently the Chair of the Presidential Advisory Council for Economic Development; and the Executive Director and Director of Research of The Egyptian Center for Economic Studies (ECES). She is also a Member of the Central Bank of Egypt’s Coordinating Council, and has been a Board Member of the National Bank of Egypt – the first female in this position, for over six years. In 2013, she was honored with membership of the Committee of Fifty, whose mission was to draft Egypt’s Constitution following June 30, 2013. In that capacity, she was officially representing the Egyptian Federation of Industries, and one of only five women in the Committee. She is also a cofounder and Board Member of BASEERA (the Egyptian Center for Public Opinion Research), and “El Nidaa” Foundation for job creation for women and youth. In addition to her teaching career as Professor of Economics at the American University in Cairo (AUC) for over twenty years, she has been selected to be a Life Time Research Fellow at the Economic Research Forum (ERF) and has authored a large number of publications in class A internationally referreed Journals. She has also been a senior international expert in several UNIDO projects and other international organizations. Her professional experience is also extensive, starting from being the Policy Unit Manager in the Industrial Modernisation Centre (IMC) to being the Minister of Industry’s Advisor shortly after the 25th of January Revolution and since 2015, she became the main economic advisor to the President of the Republic. Dr. Abla received a special award for outstanding achievement and excellence in research from Sussex University in the UK and another faculty excellence teaching award from the American University in Cairo. She was also invited by the Singapore Government to participate in the 10th Leaders in Governance Programme in 2017. She is an Egyptian national with a B.A. in economics from the American University in Cairo (AUC) (with highest honors) and an M.A. and Ph.D. in economics from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California.

Paul SALEM | United States
President | Middle East Institute

Paul Salem is president of The Middle East Institute. He focuses on issues of political change, transition, and conflict as well as the regional and international relations of the Middle East. Salem is the author and editor of a number of books and reports including Escaping the Conflict Trap: Toward Ending Civil Wars in the Middle East (ed. with Ross Harrison, MEI 2019); Winning the Battle, Losing the War: Addressing the Conditions that Fuel Armed Non State Actors (ed. with Charles Lister, MEI 2019); From Chaos to Cooperation: Toward Regional Order in the Middle East (ed. with Ross Harrison, MEI 2017), Broken Orders: The Causes and Consequences of the Arab Uprisings (In Arabic, 2013), “Thinking Arab Futures: Drivers, scenarios, and strategic choices for the Arab World”, The Cairo Review Spring 2019; “The Recurring Rise and Fall of Political Islam” (CSIS, 2015), Bitter Legacy: Ideology and Politics in the Arab World (1994), and Conflict Resolution in the Arab World (ed., 1997). Prior to joining MEI, Salem was the founding director of the Carnegie Middle East Center in Beirut, Lebanon between 2006 and 2013. From 1999 to 2006, he was director of the Fares Foundation and in 1989-1999 founded and directed the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies, Lebanon’s leading public policy think tank.
Salem is also a musician and composer of Arabic-Brazilian jazz. His music can be found on iTunes. Salem holds a B.A., M.A., and Ph.D. from Harvard University.

Mohamed Mounir ZAHRAN | Egypt                  

Chairman and Ambassador | Egyptian Council for Foreign Affairs   

Dr. Mohamed Mounir Zahran holds a Licence Cum Laude from Cairo University, Diplomes d’Etudes Superieures from Cairo and Paris Universities, and a Ph.D in Public Law from Paris University. He has been involved in Egyptian diplomacy ever since 1958.  He has served in the Departments of International Organizations and International Economic Affairs. He was then an adviser to the Egyptian Foreign Minister. From 1985 to 1989, he served as the Egyptian Ambassador to the Kingdom of Morocco  and from 1991 through 1999, he was the  Ambassador of Egypt in Geneva. Mounir Zahran was then appointed as the special envoy and personal representative of the President of Egypt for conflict resolution in Africa, and then as personal representative of the President of Egypt to the G-15 developing countries.

He chaired several legislative bodies and committees, inter alia, GATT/ WTO, the Conference on Disarmament (C. D), ILO, UNCTAD, WIPO. In the United Nations system, he was elected by the U.N. General Assembly in 2002 as member of the Advisory Committee on Administrative and Budgetary Questions of the United Nations (ACABQ) , and later appointed by the UNSG in 2006 as member of the Advisory Board of the United Nations Peace Building Fund (UNPB/AB). At its 61rst session in 2006/2007, the UNGA elected and then appointed Dr. Zahran was an Inspector in the Joint Inspection Unit (JIU). In June 2009, he was elected as Vice-Chairman of the JIU and then in December 2010, he was elected as Chairman of the JIU twice for the years 2011 and 2012.

SPEAKERS - in program order

Natalie COLBERT |United States
Executive Director | Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Before coming to the Center, Colbert served in the Central Intelligence Agency for 13 years. Most recently, she was Director of Analytic Resources and Corporate Programs for the Near East Mission Center, where she led strategic management of analytic personnel resources and created a career development seminar for mid-level analysts. Prior to this role, Colbert led multiple analytic teams to produce intelligence assessments covering fast-paced issues in the Middle East for the President and other customers in the policymaking, intelligence, and military communities. Colbert previously served as an intelligence analyst covering conflict zones in Africa and Latin America. Across her CIA career, Colbert has earned awards for leadership excellence and in 2021 received the Near East Mission Center Award for Excellence in Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Colbert is a 2008 graduate of Harvard Kennedy School, where she earned a Master in Public Policy. She graduated in 2006 from New York University, majoring in International Relations and Francophone Studies.

Maha YAHYA |Lebanon

Director | Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center

Maha Yahya is director of the Malcolm H. Kerr Carnegie Middle East Center, where her work focuses broadly on political violence and identity politics, pluralism, development and social justice after the Arab uprisings, the challenges of citizenship, and the political and socio-economic implications of the migration/refugee crisis. Prior to joining Carnegie, Yahya led work on Participatory Development and Social Justice at the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (UN-ESCWA). She was previously regional adviser on social and urban policies at UN-ESCWA and spearheaded strategic and inter-sectoral initiatives and policies in the Office of the Executive Secretary which addressed the challenges of democratic transitions in the Arab world. Yahya has also worked with the United Nations Development Program in Lebanon, where she was the director and principal author of The National Human Development Report 2008–2009: Toward a Citizen’s State. She was also the founder and editor of the MIT Electronic Journal of Middle East Studies. Yahya has worked with international organizations and in the private sector as a consultant on projects related to socioeconomic policy analysis, development policies, cultural heritage, poverty reduction, housing and community development, and post conflict reconstruction in various countries including Lebanon, Pakistan, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. She has served on a number of advisory boards including the MIT Enterprise Forum of the Pan Arab Region and the Lebanese Center for Policy Studies. Yahya  is the author of numerous publications, including most recently Unheard Voices: What Syrian Refugees Need to Return Home (April 2018); The Summer of Our Discontent: Sects and Citizens in Lebanon and Iraq (June 2017); Great Expectations in Tunisia (March 2016); Refugees and the Making of an Arab Regional Disorder (November 2015); Towards Integrated Social Development Policies: A Conceptual Analysis (UN-ESCWA, 2004), co-editor of Secular Publicities: Visual practices and the Transformation of National Publics in the Middle East and South Asia (University of Michigan Press, 2010) and co-author of Promises of Spring: Citizenship and Civic Engagement in Democratic Transitions (UN-ESCWA, 2013).

Ebtesam AL-KETBI | United Arab Emirates

President | Emirates Policy Center

Dr. Ebtesam al-Ketbi is the President of the Emirates Policy Center (EPC), which she founded in Abu Dhabi, the United Arab Emirates in September 2013. EPC undertakes the task of studying and foreseeing future regional and international geopolitical projects and their impact on the Gulf region based on the region’s self-perception of its concerns and interests. The center also focuses on exploring current and future issues that have an impact on the security of the UAE and the region as a whole. EPC provides strategic analysis and policy papers on these issues that serve the UAE and Gulf governments. The center is considered now as one of the most renowned think tanks in the region. Abu Dhabi Strategic Debate, which is organized annually by EPC, has also become one of the key platforms for dialogue in the world to discuss regional and international security. EPC has ranked 7th in the Middle East and North Africa region in the annual global think tank index report 2018 released by the University of Pennsylvania. The center has also ranked 10 th in the top best think tank conference worldwide. In recognition of her role as a leader of one of the most important think tanks in the Arab world and the great respect she enjoys as part of the distinguished elite, not in the UAE only, but also in the Gulf region as a whole, Dr. al-Ketbi was appointed in 2015 as a member of the Consultative Commission of the Cooperation Council of the Arab States of the Gulf (GCC). She was also chosen by Arabian Business magazine in July 2018 in its list of 50 Most Influential Women in the Arab World as she was the first woman to lead one of the most important think tanks in the Arab world. Dr. al-Ketbi also received the Women Super Achiever Award during the WORLD WOMEN LEADERSHIP CONGRESS (WWLC) that took place in Mumbai, India in Feb. 2019, and the Arab Social Media Influencers Award in the Politics Category by Dubai Press Club in Dec. 2018. In 2021, she was chosen as an advisor in the Global Commission for Post-Pandemic Policy for her distinguished contributions in research on the comprehensive consequences of COVID-19 pandemic on the world and the Middle East. Before she founded EPC, Dr. al-Ketbi was a professor of political science at the United Arab Emirates University. She also held several posts such as the General Coordinator of the Gulf Development Forum, and served as a member of the Executive Committee of the Arab Association for Political Science and as a member of the board of trustees in the Center for Arab Unity Studies, the Arab Thought Foundation, and the Arab Anti-Corruption Organization. She is currently a member of the Board of Directors of the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington and the Global Advisory Board of Observer Research Foundation in India. Dr. al-Ketbi published a number of research papers on Gulf Security, US-GCC relations, and War on Terrorism. She has recently published two books; the first titled The UAE Power-Building Model and Foreign Policy Shifts (the Emirates Policy Center, 2021) and the second titled Iran and the Biden Administration: A Potential Return to Negotiations (the Emirates Policy Center, 2021). Moreover, she has participated in many conferences that address regional and global affairs, and is frequently hosted by many Arab news channels as an expert in the Gulf and Iranian affairs. She holds a PhD in political science from Cairo University.

Nabil BARKATI | Tunisia

Chief Programs Officer | Maghreb Economic Forum

Nabil Barkati is a researcher at the Maghreb Economic Forum. He worked on the research study “Tackling Youth Radicalization in Post-Revolutionary Tunisia Through Inclusion”. He has worked in several initiatives related to mitigating and preventing Violent Extremism in Tunisia since 2012. For instance, he worked on advocating alternative messaging as a tool to prevent and counter Violent Extremism. He, also, has been part of an initiative that promotes youth leadership to reinforce community resilience to radicalization. Additionally, Nabil worked on a project that worked on measuring youth susceptibility to violent extremism in vulnerable areas in Tunisia in order to reinforce youth resilience to radicalization and extremism.

Osama EL-GOHARY| Egypt

Chairman | Information and Decisions Center

Osama El-Gohary is currently the Prime Minister’s assistant and Chairman of Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC). He previously held the position of the Head of the Technical Office of the Prime Minister of Egypt since 2016 and before that, he was the former Head of Department in the Minister of Petroleum Technical Office. Throughout his academic journey, he managed to achieve key milestones not only in the academic and research arenas but in the overall petroleum sector. He participated in many research works on the oil and gas industry and in task forces of international consultancy firms in preparing studies on the future of the petroleum industry in Egypt. Over his long academic career, he played a dynamic role in bridging the gap between university graduates and knowledge and skills required in the workplace as Lecturer of Marketing & Consumer Behavior at Misr International University (MIU) (2000-2015). His career trajectory  triggered the idea of enhancing personal skills and so he joined The HULT International Business School in the USA to study digital Marketing. He received a Post Graduate Diploma in Human Resources Management from The American University in Cairo (AUC) in 2008 and Certificate in Economics from Edinburgh Business School in the United Kingdom (2009).

Gil MURCIANO | Israel

CEO | Mitvim

Dr. Gil Murciano is the CEO of Mitvim. Gil serves (until September) as an expert on Israeli foreign and security policy at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP), a Berlin-based think-tank, which advises the German and European foreign policy community. In collaboration with local partners, he founded and developed the Techne Initiative, which aims to turn members of the Middle-Eastern diaspora in Europe into foreign policy advisers. Gil is a member of the adjunct Faculty of the Hertie School of Governance Berlin, where he serves as a lecturer on the International Politics of the Middle East. He holds a PhD in International Relations from Freie Universität Berlin and served as Fox Fellow at the MacMillan Center/Yale University. His dissertation focuses on the role of honor in peace negotiations in the Middle East.  Gil has also served as a senior foreign policy analyst at the Tel Aviv-based Reut Institute for Strategic Thinking (currently known as the Reut Group). In addition, he is a member of the Israeli-Arab forum of the London-based Atkin Foundation.

Sihem DRISSI | Turkey

Assistant Executive Manager | Strategic Fiker Center for Studies

Sihem Drissi is the assistant to the executive director of Strategic Fiker Center for Studies (Think Tank/Turkey), where her research focuses on civil society, socio-economic policies, politics and regional balance of power in the Arab Gulf region.She has worked with International organizations and research centers as consultant on projects related to gender issues, voting behaviors and socio-economic analysis. She addressed the challenges of the democratization process in Tunisia (Phd dissertation). She is the author of numerous publications on Arab political reforms, foreign policies and analysis of International Indexes and public opinions.

Nader KABBANI| Qatar

Director of Research | Brookings Doha Center

Nader Kabbani is Director of Research and Senior Fellow at the Brookings Doha Center (BDC) and Non-resident Senior Fellow with the Brookings Institution’s Foreign Policy Program. Before joining BDC, Kabbani served as Director of Policy and Research at the Silatech Foundation and before that was the founding Director of the Syrian Development Research Centre at the Syria Trust for Development. Kabbani also served on the economics faculty of the American University of Beirut and on the research staff of both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the California State Senate. Kabbani has been an ERF Research Associate since 2006. His current research interests include private sector development, social entrepreneurship, and post-conflict recovery. Kabbani holds a B.A. in Economics from Claremont McKenna College and a Ph.D. in Economics from Johns Hopkins University.

Mohammed ALSULAMI| Saudi Arabia

President and Founder | Rasanah

Dr. Mohammed Alsulami is the founder and president of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah) in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He received his Ph.D. from Leiden University in 2014, where he explored notions of the ‘other’ in modern Iranian thought. He is also a scholar of contemporary Iranian–Arab political, cultural and social relationships. Dr. Alsulami is a professor of Iranian Studies at Saudi Arabia’s Umm Al-Qura University. He is the founder and chairman of Rasanah: International Institute for Iranian Studies. His most recent publications include “Iran Attempting to Blackmail Iraq into Submission” and “Iran’s Expansionist Misadventures Prompt Domestic Crises.”

Zaid EYADAT | Jordan

Director | Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan (CSS)

Zaid Eyadat is the Director of the Center for Strategic Studies at the University of Jordan. He is a member of the Arab Barometer’s steering committee. Eyadat is a political scientist and game theorist. He is also the founding Dean of the Prince al-Hussein School of International Studies at the University of Jordan, where remains a full Professor. He has held Professorships and Visiting Scholarships at various US and European Universities. He has consultant and advisory roles in Government and Non-Governmental Institutions, including the Hashemite Royal Court in Jordan. Zaid Eyadat is also the founder of Jordan Youth Commission, an NGO that designs policies and programs that encourages political participation and civic engagement, aiming to integrate the youth of Jordan in the political process. Furthermore, Eyadat is Chair of the Board of Arab Renaissance for Development and Democracy (ARDD), a Member of the Steering Committee in the Center for Ethics and Global Politics at the University of Rome as well as the West Asia and North Africa Institute (WANA).

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