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#AUB4Refugees Forum presents a narrative of hope
1/27/2017
Jennifer Muller  |  Office of Communications  |  media@aub.edu.lb  | 
#AUB4Refugees Forum presents a narrative of hope
Six years into the brutal conflict in Syria, well over one million Syrians have sought refuge in Lebanon. The impact on this small and itself relatively vulnerable country has been immense. But what can an academic institution like AUB do about it? The answer, as it turns out, is quite a lot.

The #AUB4Refugees Initiative started in fall 2016 to bring together the myriad groups and individuals at AUB addressing the impacts of the Syrian refugee crisis. On January 27, an all-day public forum was held at Bathish Auditorium, “Innovative Responses to the Syrian Refugee Crisis," to launch this University-wide program and to highlight some of the projects currently underway at AUB.
 
AUB4Refugees Initiative Co-Chair and Interim Associate Provost Dr. Hala Muhtasib began the opening session by articulating the Initiative's goal of nurturing cooperation and building partnerships, both on campus and off campus.  The Initiative began as a mapping project, which resulted in identifying 64 projects currently being led at AUB by 35 different researchers from every Faculty as well as at numerous centers and institutes.   

During his opening remarks, President Fadlo R. Khuri highlighted the challenges faced by Syrian refugees, their host communities, and humanitarian agencies seeking to serve them. In particular, he pointed out that over 220,000 Syrian children in Lebanon are not in school and only 4% under the age of 18 are making it to higher education. 

“It is alarming and even tragic to see tens of thousands of the young generation at risk of losing their future, their moorings, and their lives," said President Khuri. He went on to laud the faculty and staff across the university who are engaging with this and other aspects of the Syrian refugee crisis, now brought under the umbrella of AUB4Refugees.

Highlighting the importance being given to the refugee issue by the Lebanese government, newly-appointed Minister of State for Displaced Affairs Mouin El Merhebi addressed the Forum. “It makes me proud to see that my university continues to be leading in innovative initiatives that are in the best interest of our country," he said. 

Throughout the opening session and continuing all day, a stream of live tweets from participants and audience members brought highlights from the Forum to the Twittersphere. 

“IGA's Berglof says local knowledge and engaged scientists will enrich global debate on refugee crisis," said @NagyMohacsi during the speech of Dr. Erik Berglof from the Institute of Global Affairs at the London School of Economics.

“Need to improve self reliance of Syrian refugees and support Lebanon in reversing its economic decline," commented @alianazarfarhat on the speech of UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator Mr. Phillipe Lazzarini.

After the opening remarks, which also included one by UNHCR Representative Mireille Girard, 18 of the 64 ongoing projects were presented.  These projects run the gamut from impactful research to direct intervention in the lives of Syrian refugees and their host communities in Lebanon. 

The first panel on “Tackling Vulnerabilities" included projects on food and nutrition security from the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences, and on mitigating determinants of early marriage among refugees from the Faculty of Health Sciences.

Innovation took center stage during the second session, “Innovation to Fend off the Crisis," with projects including new sustainable solutions to waste and sanitation issues in refugee campus, championed by Dr. Majdi Abou Najm from the Faculty of Engineering and Architecture.  Other projects brought together refugees and host community members, such as the establishment of community kitchens that are currently serving over 140,000 hot meals per year, and a community radio ​project to enhance antenatal health in refugee communities lacking regular access to healthcare providers. 

These projects are making a real difference in the day-to-day lives of refugees and their host communities, but are also being analyzed and assessed so that the research results can be used by humanitarian agencies.  

“We need to focus on the evaluation and effectiveness of interventions, and AUB is well-equipped to do this because we have the research methodologies and the skills," noted Dr. Nasser Yassin, Initiative Co-Chair and Director of Research at the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs, which is the primary engine leading this Initiative.

The third session put a spotlight on the challenges of providing opportunities for higher education, “Paving the Path for Higher Education," and the final session, “The Way Forward for Better and Innovative Policies," addressed refugee policy issues in the public and private sectors.

“This moves well beyond community service, engaged science, and scholarships to offer hope," concluded President Khuri during his opening address. “Refugees, as well as their host communities in Lebanon, need hope, and AUB is offering such a narrative. A narrative of hope that returning home and rebuilding lives is attainable and that together we will get there."

In response, @nasseryassin added a new hashtag to #AUB4Refugees in one of his posts: #NarrativeOfHope.
Story Highlights
  • ​The #AUB4Refugees Initiative started in fall 2016 to bring together the myriad groups and individuals at AUB addressing the impacts of the Syrian refugee crisis.
  • On January 27, an all-day public forum was held at Bathish Auditorium, “Innovative Responses to the Syrian Refugee Crisis," to launch this University-wide program and to highlight some of the projects currently underway at AUB.
 
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