Beirut Institute Summit hosts political leaders, senior policy makers, prominent thinkers, major CEOs, and civil society leaders to reflect on different tracks of transformation in the Arab region and to put forward actionable policies and innovative solutions that will help reconfigure the region and its global space.


Liana Abed Rabbo
Author and Filmmaker (Palestine)

Liana is an accomplished writer and film director who has directed documentary films in addition to publishing four novels (including one collection of novellas), three collected short stories, six children's books, a book of interviews and a book of poetry. Many of her works were translated into several languages. Badr is the general director of arts at the Palestinian Ministry of Culture in Ramallah.

Mireille Korab Abi Nasr
Corporate Communication Officer, FFA PB (Lebanon)

Leading the Business Development Department, Mrs. Abi Nasr continuously works on developing FFA Real Estate’s corporate image, branding and positioning to set FFA Real Estate as a leading reference in the Industry. Moreover, with her 12 years of experience in the real estate industry both locally and on a regional level Mrs. Abi Nasr is continuously setting marketing and sales processes and strategies for projects handled by FFA Real Estate. In line with the mission of FFA Real Estate, Mireille is responsible of sourcing new Real Estate investment opportunities in Lebanon and the region to satisfy clients’ needs and ensure the expansion of the FFA Real Estate know-how and services. Mireille holds a Bachelor Degree in Business Administration from the American University of Beirut, and sits on the Board of Directors of REAL (The Syndicates of Real Estate Consultants & Brokers) and the Board of REDAL (real estate developers association of Lebanon)

Baria Alamuddin
Award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK, Editor of the Media Services Syndicate (UK)

Baria Alamuddin is Lebanese and was educated in Beirut. She graduated from the American University of Beirut in 1972 with a degree in journalism, mass media and political science. She has been editor of the Lebanese television news programme and of Al Assayad magazine and, since 1986, editor-in-chief and chairman of Media Services Syndicate. She is a freelance journalist, specializing in interviews with heads of state. She is also visiting lecturer on journalism to Lebanon and London Universities and a Middle East political advisor to Lebanese and British television. Baria Alamuddin is married and has two daughters.

Farida Allaghi
Former Libyan ambassador to the European Union (Libya)

Dr. Farida Allaghi was appointed Chargée d’Affaires of the Libyan Mission to the European Union in January 2015. Since the early 1980’s she has been actively involved in establishing countless national, regional and international foundations and non-governmental organizations. She has been focusing primarily on promoting the status of women, children and youth, minorities and the poor. Since 1975, Dr. Allaghi has worked closely as an advisor on human development, policy formulations, strategic planning, fundraising, networking, and capacity building issues to several United Nations. In 1981, Dr. Allaghi became the Program Officer for UNICEF in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Afterwards, between 1983 and 2001, she became the Director of the Women and Children department at the Arab Gulf Program for United Nations Development Organization (AGFUND). She is also a member of the Board of Trustees and former Executive Director of the Mentor Foundation.

Farah Al Atassi
President, National Syrian Women Association (NSWA)
Arab Information & Resource Center / ACT Group International

Farah AL Atassi is a Syrian American political activist, entrepreneur, and expert in Middle Eastern. She is the founder and president of the Arab Information & Resource Center in Washington DC, an independent research and translation center which provides consultancy, media monitoring, strategic assessment and analysis to both U.S and Arab governments and business corporations.

When the Syrian revolution started in 2011, Mrs. Farah Al Atassi supported the Syrian revolutionary and opposition forces working mainly on empowering women and youth inside and outside Syria, and at the refugee camps in Jordan and Turkey. She is a member of the Syrian High Negotiations Committee (SHNC) representing the Independents Block and participated in all intra Syrian talks in Geneva and all other international conferences on Syria. She is the Founder and Secretary General of the National Syrian Women Association (NSAW) which work with political parties and civil society on programs and initiatives focusing on empowering Syrian women politically, economically and insure their full participation in political and decision-making process, emphasizing the role of women in peace and security in Syria.

Mrs. Farah AL Atassi is also a prominent female public voice against the regime of Bashar AL Assad and the Iranian influence in Syria and Lebanon. She writes and appears frequently on Arab and American media discussing Syrian issues. Mrs. Atassi was chosen as an Ambassador of Peace by Universal Peace Foundation for her work and efforts in interfaith dialogue and building cultural bridges between United States and the Arab world.

Mrs. Farah Atassi is a holder of MA in English Literature, Philosophy and History. She also holds graduate certificates in Economy, Public Diplomacy and Political Science from Georgetown and Harvard Universities. She has been awarded lots of certificate of appreciations from major US and Arabic media and non-government organizations for her work in the field of writing, Trade and Economy, women rights and political media.

Thalia Dergham
Senior Insight Specialist, NET A PORTER
Co-Founder, Beirut Institute

As an insight specialist at Net-A-Porter, Thalia delivers research led global insights on customer demographics and the online shopping landscape to inform strategic decision making across the Net-a-Porter group. Previously Thalia was a Senior Strategy Consultant within the trends and culture team at insight consultancy SCB Partners, where she specialised in applying strategic thought to global quantitative and qualitative research.

Zak Dychtwald
Author, Founder and CEO, Young China Group (USA)

Zak Dychtwald is the author of Young China: How the Restless Generation Will Change Their Country and the World (St. Martin’s Press; February, 2018), which examines the future of China through the lens of the Jiu Ling Hou―Zak’s peer generation, the Chinese generation born after 1990. He is the Founder & CEO of Young China Group, a think tank and consultancy based out of New York with consultants spread throughout China. He graduated from Columbia University in 2012. Fluent in Mandarin, Zak splits his time between China and New York.

Ahmed T. el-Gaili
Partner, Vinson & Elkins LLP (UAE)

Ahmed el-Gaili is the Managing Partner of the Dubai office of Vinson & Elkins LLP, an international law firm. He represents corporate clients and governments on complex cross-border M&A and private equity transactions as well as energy projects. He was recognized by Chambers Global among the 5 leading legal experts on Iraq. He was also named "UAE Energy Lawyer of the Year" by Lawyer Monthly. He was previously an attorney at the London offices of Sullivan & Cromwell and prior to that an investment banking analyst at Morgan Stanley’s Global Energy Group in New York.

He received a Juris Doctorate, cum laude, from Harvard Law School and a Bachelor of Arts, magna cum laude, in Economic Development Studies from Harvard College. While at Harvard College, he served as President of the Society of Arab Students and was a founding organizer of the Intercollegiate Arab Students Conference. At HLS he was the Managing Editor of the Harvard International Law Journal and the founding President of Justice for Palestine (JFP). His published essay on "Federalism and the Tyranny of Religious Majorities" was assigned as a required reading at a course at the Kennedy School of Government. Prior to Harvard, he attended Dhahran Ahliyyah Schools and Phillips Academy (Andover)

He is currently the Director for the Middle East and North Africa on the Board of Directors of the Harvard Alumni Association (HAA). Ahmed also serves on the Advisory Board of the Beirut Institute, and is a Board member of the Alumni Council of Dhahran Ahliyyah Schools. He previously served as the President of the Harvard Arab Alumni Association (HAAA) and on its Executive Board from 2010-2016. He is an amateur chef and an aspiring writer of classical Arabic poetry. Ahmed is originally from Sudan, but he grew up in Khobar, Saudi Arabia.

Mirna Halaby
Attorney At Law, Halabi Law Firm (Lebanon)

Based in Beirut, Mirna Halaby is an Attorney at Law with Halai Law Firm in Lebanon.

Mona Makram-Ebeid
Former Fellow, Woodrow Wilson Center; Distinguished Lecturer, American University, Cairo; and former Member of Parliament and Senator (Egypt)

She is a prolific writer for a variety of national and international newspapers, speaks fluent English, French and Arabic and has traveled extensively to the US, Europe, Africa and Asia. She has received several awards, among them: Officier de la Legion d’Honneur, Distinguished Alumni Award (AUC), and Hall of Fame, and often appears as an analytical commentator on various Television programs such as CNN, BBC Hard Talk, NBC, the Doha Debate, Al HURRA, DREAM, TV5, France 24 and on local television and Radio Broadcasts.

Chama Mechtaly
Visual Artist, Social Entrepreneur, Founder of Moors & Saints (Morocco)

Chama Mechtaly is a Moroccan artist based between Boston and Casablanca. Chama's diverse interests include exploring North Africa’s ethnic and religious diversity, upending stereotypical orientalist portraits of female identity, and preserving the art and culture of Morocco’s native Amazigh Jews. Chama has exhibited her work five times in the US in the past couple of years. Chama has exhibited in the United States several times.

Ediola Pashollari
Secretary General, World Assembly of Youth (Malaysia)

Holds a Master’s Degree in Business Administration (UK); a Master’s Degree of Arts in Political Science (UK), a Master’s Degree in Entreprenology (USA) and also a Degree in LLB (UK) and presently is the Secretary General of the World Assembly of Youth (WAY) which is headquartered in Melaka, Malaysia. She is of Albanian nationality and has resided in Malaysia for the past 17 years. Through her capacity as the Secretary General of WAY and the Director of the World Youth Institute (WYI), she has been instrumental in assisting and supporting various youth initiatives locally, regionally and internationally. Her heart desire is seeing that the youth around the world be prepared to face the many changing challenges that are occurring globally and educating them for achieving a sustainable future.

Shady M. Qubaty
President, Yale Arab Students Association (Yemen)

As the first Yemeni undergraduate to be admitted to Yale University, Shady has just finished his second-year majoring in Economics and Political Science. Having been to eight schools in five countries, including Yemen, Lebanon, Egypt, the UK and the USA, his schooling has been rich in diversity and left him feeling like a wandering Bedouin. At Yale, Shady is heavily involved in a number of activities: he is President of the College Council, President of the Arab Students Association, President of the Yale Arab Conference, President of the Table Tennis Club and an active member of the Model United Nations Team. Shady also works as a Student Assistant at the Macmillan Center's Council on Middle East Studies. In addition, he has co-founded Yemen's first non-aligned and non-governmental legal organization 'Adalah', which is based in London but operates in Washington and Sana’a. Currently, Shady serves as Adalah’s Chief Operating Officer and Director of Economic Affairs.

Rayya Salem
Managing Director, Advisory Group, Layalina Productions (USA)

Rayya is a partner at Houston-based investment firm Williamsburg Enterprises, which focuses on the development of commercial, office and retail properties in Houston and Austin.

After having grown up in Houston and graduating from Rice University (’07) with a degree in Economics and Political Science, she completed a two-year stint in an accounting firm and set off to Beirut. She spent two years as a business journalist at Executive Magazine before moving to London to work at the Lebanese Embassy. Her role in research and planning in the commercial department supported the overall goal of increased bilateral trade between the UK and Lebanon.

In Houston, Rayya sits on the Roundtable at the James A Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. Two of her longtime heroes are Former Secretary of State James Baker III and his devoted wife Susan Baker, not just for their public roles but for their personal convictions and guidance.

Shahad Abdulaziz Turkistani
Assistant Researcher, King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies (Saudi Arabia)

Shahad earned her bachelor's degree in International Affairs and Political Science from Temple University Japan Campus, Tokyo.

She is the first Saudi female to intern in the Japanese Parliament (House of Representatives), where she worked with the Japanese Minister of Education, Science and Technology and then the Japanese government spokesman his Excellency Mr. Hirano Hirofumi.

After that, she has assisted in several research projects on the Middle East at the Asian Population Development Association (APDA) operating under the Asian Forum of Parliamentarians on Population and Development (AFPPD), where she has been trained for several months.

Shahad speaks Arabic, English and Japanese.

Research Interests:

  • One of the first Saudi researchers on Saudi-Japanese relations; and is currently conducting a series of studies and research on the Far East.
  • Japanese Politics, Japan-Middle East Relations, Conflict-Resolution, International Affairs.

Toni G. Verstandig
Executive Vice President, S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace - Washington, DC (USA)

Ms. Verstandig is a leading expert, policy advisor, communications strategist and facilitator who generates and develops transformational ideas and programs that impact the economic landscape, drives innovation and economic development in countries in transition. Extensive experience in forging public-private partnerships to stimulate economic growth and stability, create sustainable jobs through innovation and entrepreneurship, and strengthen civil society and governance. Through extensive experiences, Ms. Verstandig has developed a deep understanding of the complexity of the strategic framework of public-private partnerships their implementation. Beyond ideation and thought leadership, Ms. Verstandig forges longstanding relationships. She is known for the ability to develop goals that multi stakeholders can embrace. Ms. Verstandig has also consistently demonstrated the leadership to execute on these on these goals.

Ms. Verstandig is currently the Executive Vice President at the S. Daniel Abraham Center for Middle East Peace whose primary objective focuses on ending the Arab-Israeli Conflict. Previously, Ms. Verstandig served as a Senior Advisor to the Public Programs Department at the Aspen Institute which included the Abu Dhabi Ideas Lab, a high-level international convening in the UAE of the next generation of leadership. She also served as Chair, Aspen Institute Middle East Programs where Ms. Verstandig provided leadership, strategic vision and management for all aspects of the Middle East Programs and the Partners for a New Beginning a public-private partnership.

Previously, Verstandig served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Near Eastern Affairs at the U.S. Department of State and served as member of the US negotiation team tasked to reach a comprehensive agreement to end the Arab-Israeli conflict.

She is a longstanding member of the Council on Foreign Relations.

Ms. Verstandig has provided leadership and experience in healthcare governance as Chair of the Children’s National Medical Center Foundation Board, as well as the Board of Trustees of Children’s National Medical Center. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the Center for Global Development and the University of Denver’s Korbel School of International Studies.