Abu Dhabi: As part of the 3rd edition of the Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi, five notable Arabs and International leading figures were honored during the Exceptional Excellence Recognition Ceremony. The honorees were recognized for their outstanding achievement in the fields of politics, arts, humanitarianism, and technology.
The Beirut Institute Exceptional Excellence Recognition aims to celebrate the achievements of exceptional leading regional and international figures who have channeled their outstanding energies and abilities for the purpose of change and progress, and to highlight success stories forming a source of inspiration for the young generation in the Arab region.
The honorees were announced during a gala dinner, they are: His Excellency UAE Minister of State Dr. Zaki Anwar Nusseibeh; the Lebanese acclaimed Filmmaker and actress Nadine Labaki; the Lebanese composer, songwriter and music and film producer Khaled Mouzanar; the Sudanese-American “Slam” poet and UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Goodwill Ambassador Emtithal “Emi” Mahmoud; and the UAE’s youngest inventor, Fatima Al Kaabi.
Notably, this is the first time Labaki and Mouzanar are honored as a couple, having been brought together by life and their creative and professional field, excelling together in the film making industry.
The awardees were granted on the basis of their pioneering contributions to thought, creativity, and innovation, leaving their own distinctive and influential marks on their respective fields of work.
During his short note, HRH Prince Al Faisal said “Each one of the selected honorees deserves to be honored for their outstanding achievements.”
In turn Raghida Dergham thanked HRH Prince Al Faisal, elaborating that his support of the summit has been the driving force for its continuity.
His Excellency Dr. Nusseibeh was honored in recognition of his outstanding political and governmental track record. Since the 1960s, he has witnessed to the rise of the UAE, accompanying the country’s late founding father, His Highness Sheikh Zayed bin Sultan Al Nahyan, during many of the latter’s activities and official foreign visits, witnessing at close hand how H.H. laid the foundations for his country’s stability and prosperity. He has worked in a large number of different political, cultural, and media positions and roles, including Assistant Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Co-operation; Cultural Advisor at the UAE Presidential Affairs; and Head of Media Bureau at the Presidential Court.
Appointed Vice President of the Abu Dhabi Authority for Culture and Heritage in 2006, he played a pivotal role in the authority’s strategic planning. Dr. Nusseibeh also translated the UAE’s first civil codes while working for the Government of Abu Dhabi Civil Service Department. He subsequently joined the Abu Dhabi government’s Department of Information & Tourism as Director of Research and Publications, later becoming Director of Information as the department was transformed into the United Arab Emirates Ministry of Information and Tourism.
His Excellency began his career as a journalist writing for numerous Arabic and European news agencies and papers, before going on to edit the first English newspaper published by the Abu Dhabi Government, Abu Dhabi Times; participating in the establishment of the UAE’s first Arabic-language newspaper, Al-Ittihad; and generally taking part in the planning and development of the government’s information and media strategy. Currently, he is a member of the Permanent Higher Executive Committee of the Sheikh Zayed Book Award, as well as a member of the Board at the Department of Culture and Tourism in Abu Dhabi.
Locally, he sits on the Board of Directors of the Paris- Sorbonne University Abu Dhabi, as he did previously on the boards of the Emirates National Schools and the National Center for Documentation and Research, while internationally he is a board member of the Aga Khan Museum in Toronto, L’Institut du Monde Arabe in Paris, and the Wagner Friendship Society in Leipzig, in addition to chairing the Advisory Board of the Middle East Centre of the London School of Economics.
He is the founding President of the Abu Dhabi branch of the International Friends of Richard Wagner Society, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan; a lifetime member of the Emirates Natural History Group; and President of the Alliance Française Abu Dhabi since 1976. In 1995, Dr. Nusseibeh helped establish the Abu Dhabi Classical Concert Committee, of which he became President, while in 2000 he contributed to the founding of the Al Ain Classical Music Festival.
“It is a great honor to receive this valuable award from a renowned entity amid such celebrated and gifted group of fellow poets and artists as well as visionary from the Arab region. Beirut Institute has established itself since 2010 as an innovative catalyst for meaningful debates of policy on regional and international level. As your Summit today has shown that our turbulent region is passing through a historic moment that is threatening the future of mankind, which I believe could only be resolved through increase understanding of people and trust between countries and cultures,” said His Excellency Dr. Nusseibeh. He added addressing other honorees “Your voices are in such a need today, may they be amplified and strengthened by the community.”
In 2014, in recognition of his long and active career, His Excellency was awarded an honorary PhD in Human Sciences by the University of Jerusalem. Other distinctions and awards received include Cultural Diplomat of the Year, Abu Dhabi Culture Summit, 2017; Gold Medal in the Arts from the Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., 2014; Al Owais Cultural Award, UAE, 2013; Cultural Foundation Pro-Europe European Arab Culture Prize, Leipzig, 2013; European Academy of Sciences and Arts Ring of Tolerance, Frankfurt, 2012; and the 2007 Abu Dhabi Award.
Nadine Labaki was recognized by Beirut Institute in honor of her outstanding achievements as an acclaimed Filmmaker, having demonstrated exceptional innovation in tackling through her films key social, economic, political, and religious concerns of pertinence to the Arab region.
She has successfully competed against the world’s preeminent cinematic works, becoming the first Arab Woman director to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign language film Capernaum (February 2019), which won the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival in the year of its release; was nominated at the Baftas and the Golden Globes; and won over 25 awards worldwide in total. Labaki also won numerous awards for her first film, Caramel, which placed her on Variety’s list of 10 Directors to Watch at the Sundance Film Festival. Similarly, Labaki’s second film Where Do We Go Now? was nominated for the best foreign film at the Critics Choice Awards in Los Angeles. In 2008, she received the Insignia of Chevalier in the Order of Arts and Letters from the French Ministry of Culture.
The ceremony also celebrated the extraordinary musical accomplishment and innovation of the composer, songwriter and music and film producer Khaled Mouzanar, who, together with his wife Labaki, embodies the epitome of a gifted and distinguished couple.
Mouzanar’s music is intimately connected with Labaki’s films, having played a key role in securing Capernaum’s Oscar nomination. His works are deeply rooted in a multitude of musical genres, ranging from classical to jazz to Mediterranean and Eastern melodies, as well as Brazilian choro and Argentine tango. Films for which he has composed the soundtracks include Beirut After Shave, winner of the 2006 Cesar Award for Best Short Film; Caramel, winner of the UCMF Award for Best Music at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival; and Where Do We Go Now? which brought him the Best Music Award at the 2011 Stockholm International Film Festival. In 2009, Mouzanar composed the music for the opening ceremony of the 6th Jeux de la Francophonie, seen by over sixty million viewers worldwide.
“Our boss in art is our heart and our intuition, our rule is the true expression of our inner-self at the service of duty, truth and good-will. We are war survivors. Art united us, made us better people, freed us from ourselves. Art is our weapon to change frustration into action, and anger to love. There are two ways to change: there is the first which is education and the second is through art. Art can make a change, it can take a moment of watching a film, of reading a book of listening to a music. Art is a shortcut to the heart and the brain, and this is our tool” they said together.
As for Emi Mahmoud, she was recognized for her mastery of the art of “slam” poetry as an effective means of raising awareness of humanitarian concerns. In 2015, Mahmoud won the Individual World Poetry Slam Championship, also winning the Women of the World Poetry Slam tournament the following year; she is still the first and youngest person to hold both titles simultaneously. Through her passion for poetry, she has collaborated with numerous other artists, using her power of creative expression to raise awareness of various humanitarian causes, most prominently the refugee crisis.
Having once been a refugee herself, she is now a goodwill ambassador for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), whose work she has seen first-hand in the field, meeting refugees in Uganda and also travelling to Lesbos, Greece, to speak with Syrian survivors of the perilous sea crossing from Turkey and Jordan in one of the world’s largest refugee camps. During the same visit, she performed a poem dedicated to the late Syrian three-year-old boy Alan Kurdi on the first anniversary of his death. On a subsequent mission to Jordan, Mahmoud met with and hosted workshops with various artists including the children of Zaatari camp.
She has also represented UNHCR and the refugee cause at a number of high-level events, including the Nansen Awards; the UN General Assembly; and the World Economic Forum. Her poem “Head Over Heels” was composed on the occasion of the one-millionth South Sudanese refugee leaving the country. In 2015, she was named one of the world’s 100 most inspirational women by the BBC. Since 2014, she has also advocated for the rights of sickle cell disease patients in Nepal.
Emi narrated during her speech a poem called “people like us,” that expresses where she is from.
In her note Emi said, “I think the reason that I use poetry to reach people because I reach them where they least expect to be released. When you speak to someone politically, they respond politically, if you speak with humanity then people can't help but respond with humanity. That is why I use art the way that I do.”
Last but not least, 17-year-old Fatima Al Kaabi was awarded for her uniquely creative technical innovations, which include the registering of twelve inventions in her name by the age of sixteen. Her passion for invention began when she was just seven years old, since that time her creations have helped serve the disabled, the environment, and society at large. Presently, Al Kaabi is working on three new inventions. An engineering student at Virginia Tech university, she won the Arab Award for the Best 10 Inventors and Innovators of 2015. The same year, she was officially recognized as the UAE’s youngest inventor by H.H. Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, the UAE’s Vice-President, Prime Minister, and Ruler of Dubai, who also named her among 44 “Pioneers of the UAE.” In 2014, she won first place in the UAE Robot Olympics. Other distinctions she has received include the 2018 Abu Dhabi Award; the Sheikha Fatima bint Mubarak International Award for Arab Youth in 2017; and Outstanding Youth Delegate at the 2018 Youth Assembly in New York.
She addressed the audience in a video from Virginia Tech where she is studying artificial intelligence “I wanted to thank Prince al-Faisal and Raghida Dergham for honoring me. I appreciate all your efforts in empowering youth and pushing us.” Her father received her award instead.
The Beirut Institute Exceptional Excellence Award ceremony concluded with a musical performance by the Emirates Youth Symphony Orchestra (EYSO), the first of its kind to comprise talented young musicians from the UAE and elsewhere in the Arab region. Since its founding in 1994, the orchestra has committed to cultural, charitable, and humanitarian efforts and to cultivating the talent of young musicians. Since 2000, it has performed at numerous international youth music festivals, raising the profile of the UAE within the classical music world. In 2007, the orchestra and national conservatory were formally recognized and accredited by the Premier Music College of Prague.
About Beirut Institute:
Beirut Institute is a pioneering independent non-partisan think tank for the Arab region with a global reach.
Beirut Institute brings to fruition a new concept of solution-oriented think tanks in the Arab region, serving as a catalyst for intergenerational, innovative and solution-oriented thinking putting forward constructive recommendations and thoughtful policy options for the Arab region. In the span of only a few years, it has managed to attain international stature and credibility, becoming recognized internationally as a respected global brand.
The Institute’s board of directors embodies the diversity of the Arab region, encompassing eminent Arab and international personalities, distinguished in the political, economic, and social fields: founder and executive chairman of Beirut Institute Raghida Dergham; HRH Prince Turki Bin Faisal Al Saud; President of the Republic of Iraq Dr. Barham Salih; former Arab League Secretary-General Amr Moussa; former Minister of Algeria United Nations and Arab League Envoy to Syria Ambassador Lakhdar Brahimi; former Minister of Public Works and Transport and former Minister of Economy and Trade in Lebanon Yassine Jaber; former Minister of State and Member of the Board of Directors, General Manager of Al Mawarid Bank Marwan Kheireddine; Chairman of Dar Al-Handasah Consultants (Shair & Partners) Talal Shair; Group CEO for Trust Re Talal Al Zain; Member of the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) Nahla Haidar; managing partner, Huqooq Legal Practice, Maitre Badih Moukarzel; founder and managing partner of Alem & Associates Maitre Mohamed Alem.
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