Q: Ghida, what are Doha Debates and why is the timing so right for this work?
A: Doha Debates is a place where we bring in diverse perspectives. We explore the rifts that divide us and we come up with real solutions that we can all use. It’s a place where we engage in a constructive discussion around the issues that define who we are today ― issues that will shape our future. It’s a place where we listen and challenge our own assumptions.
We will tackle some of the most difficult and urgent issues we face. We’ll do this through a combination of live events — which I’ll be hosting, both in Doha and in cities around the world — digital content that provides deep background and context, and podcasts, where we’ll be able to go deeper with experts and influential voices. As we debate the big issues that divide us, our focus will always be on finding solutions — solutions that can be reached through individual commitment to action.
Why now? Because we must change the way we address the world’s most pressing challenges! Because the state of discourse in the world reflects the widening polarization we see virtually all over the globe. Polarization leads to paralysis — or conflict. It’s a space for contradictory debates to help narrow contradictions.
We will engage with each other to find solutions and inspire action. At the core of who we are is a deep respect for difference, including difference of opinion.
“At the core of who we are is a deep respect for difference, including difference of opinion.”
Q: What most excites you about this opportunity?
A: I couldn’t be more thrilled to be part of this extraordinary new initiative for addressing the world’s challenges. As a journalist with more than 20 years’ experience in covering conflict, I have seen and heard firsthand the devastating human effects of some of the world’s most pressing problems — from the global refugee crisis to the impact of climate change; from poverty and income inequality to sexual abuse, violence and gender inequality; the rise of populism and the threats it represents to the crushing effects of capitalism and debt on the world’s poorest and most vulnerable.
I am keenly aware of how the world’s young people, in particular, are affected by these problems and how much they see it as their role to address the world’s challenges in new ways. With Doha Debates, we’re creating those opportunities for the new generation to be heard and, critically, to get involved and be the agents of change.
This is an exciting opportunity to challenge the status quo and defy conventional wisdom by going straight to the people and the places directly affected. It’s an opportunity to show that we all have a stake in this debate, that we all must speak out and give voice to those who can’t.
That is a thrilling opportunity for me.
“We are creating an entirely new way of debating, one that is built on the understanding that there will be no winner, no loser.”
Q: Can you give us a hint about what to expect from DD and how that will differ from other debating and discussion initiatives?
A: Without revealing too much, I can say this: What you should expect is the unexpected! We are creating an entirely new way of debating, one that is built on the understanding that there will be no winner, no loser. Rather, there will be a call to action based on solutions to challenges that impact millions around the world. Take our first topic: the global refugee crisis. I won’t be sitting there trying to control two people with opposite viewpoints, each trying to shout over the other. I will be speaking with — and challenging — experts with rational but definitely different and opposing points of view, building toward actions that our audience of young people and socially conscious people around the world can and will commit to. The keys to understanding DD are solutions and audience commitment. Not winners or losers. We will all have succeeded by jointly addressing an issue, a problem, a challenge. We want to add real insight and value to every debate, and ultimately we want to turn new, bold ideas into action.
Q: What would be the most exciting result to emerge from a Doha Debate?
A: I would love to see the urgency of the issues that we address in our live Doha Debates galvanize grassroots activists and young people around the world into action. Whether that’s learning about refugees and actively promoting positive stories about their contributions to the world, learning to be more tolerant and being less prone to demonizing those we disagree with, committing to never again using a plastic bag, or buying local food to reduce the carbon footprint, whatever that action is — that will be the result I’m keen to see!
Q: What is your personal goal for the first season?
A: I have several goals for the first season, beyond the numbers of people I hope will be watching and listening! I would love to see people using the Doha Debate style — respectful of difference and focused on solutions and individual actions — to resolve problems. Let people copy us! We’d love it. Because the goal ultimately is to find a new way of living in this world that we all share.
But we’ll take it one theme, one issue, one debate at a time. I hope you’ll join us!
Ghida Fakhry is Doha Debates’ live events moderator and is a current affairs presenter for TRT World. She anchors the network’s flagship political program, Bigger Than Five, from Washington, DC, and serves as its managing editor.