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UCL Qatar’s collaborations shed fresh light on Doha’s rich architectural heritage

Sian EGardiner18 December 2017

Earlier this month, UCL Qatar joined forces with various partner organisations in a series of public events exploring the city of Doha’s architectural history.

Most notably, the British Council Qatar’s fourth annual British Festival included a panel discussion and exhibition brought to the festival thanks to the ongoing partnership between UCL Qatar and Qatar University’s College of Engineering.

‘The Streets of Doha’ panel featured the winners of the Unlimited Doha Design Prize (Deena Terawi, Gizem Kahraman, Ming Teong, Can Askoy and Alex Scott-Whitby) along with special guest speakers including Ibrahim Mohamed, CEO & Chief Architect of Jaidah Group and Dr Fodil Fadli, Head of the Department of Architecture and Urban Planning at Qatar University.

An educational partnership with the British Council

The panel’s wide-ranging discussion covered the distinctive character of Doha’s architecture, the transformation of the city’s built environment and its impact on architectural identity, everyday life and public space.

Professor Rob Carter, Professorial Research Fellow and Research Lead at UCL Qatar, was in the 120-strong audience to hear the discussions take place. Speaking about the event he said, “UCL Qatar is honoured to participate in this year’s British Festival as the British Council educational partners.

“We are proud to be the first British institution in Qatar to offer high quality UK Education, and of the outstanding outcomes we’ve achieved in developing research and capacity-building in cultural heritage in this country. I’m particularly delighted to be involved in this event and exploration of Qatar’s rich urban heritage, which is often underestimated in academic circles and public debate.”

Exchange of knowledge and ideas

Along with the panel, an exhibition showcased the Doha Unlimited Design Award 2016 prize-winning team’s vision for the city. Awarded by the British Council Qatar, the competition saw UK- and Gulf-based designers take part in a week-long design residency under the theme of ‘The Open City’, with a particular focus on mobility and making Doha more open and accessible to all.

Commenting on the collaboration between the British Council and UCL Qatar, Dr. Frank Fitzpatrick, Director of the British Council Qatar, said, “Both the United Kingdom and Qatar are well-known for their remarkable architecture, and we hope to strengthen our relationship with Qatar by creating opportunities for further collaboration and the exchange of knowledge and ideas.”

Ongoing collaboration with Qatar Museum

Following the festival, Professor Carter continued the exploration of Doha’s rich architectural heritage with a lively Rob Carter lecturing in Qatarpublic lecture, ‘The History Beneath Your Feet: What Urban Excavation Can Tell Us About Historic Doha and the World.’

The lecture provided further evidence for the breadth of UCL Qatar’s collaboration with external partners. The latest milestone in the successful architectural collaboration between UCL Qatar and Qatar Museums, Carter and Dr Ferhan Sakal, Head of Archaeology Operations of Qatar Museums, shared updates on recent achievements of the partners’ Qatar Old Doha Rescue Excavation.

The excavation helps to document lives of the people of Doha, from the town’s foundations being laid in the early 19th century through to the impact of the discovery of oil in the 1950s.

Following his talk, Professor Carter said: “Together with our partners at Qatar Museums, we have made remarkable progress in uncovering news and important aspects of Qatar’s rich history, building up a detailed understanding of the country’s past.

“The rapid, exciting development of Doha now adds a real urgency to our work – and whilst a great deal has been achieved already, thanks to the level of collaboration to date, we’re enormously excited about the next phase of the project.”

Moving from ‘burden sharing’ to inclusive prosperity: A RELIEF workshop

GuestBlogger16 August 2017

By Hannah Sender, Projects, Planning and Advocacy Manager, UCL Institute for Global Prosperity

Students at the Second Bourj Hammoud Public SchoolIn April 2017, UCL’s Institute for Global Prosperity (IGP) in collaboration with the Issam Fares Institute for Public Policy and International Affairs at the American University of Beirut (AUB) hosted a one-day workshop in Beirut, supported by UCL’s Global Engagement Fund. The workshop explored the demands placed on Lebanon since 2011 with the arrival of over one million refugees from Syria, and potential areas of work for those wishing to enhance inclusive prosperity for hosts and refugees in Lebanon.

This workshop was the first to be organised as part of RELIEF (Refugees, education, learning, information technology and entrepreneurship for the future): an interdisciplinary centre led by Professor Henrietta Moore (IGP Director) and funded by the UK ESRC’s Global Challenges Research Fund.

The RELIEF Centre is a five-year initiative of UCL, the AUB and the Centre for Lebanese Studies at the Lebanese American University (LAU). UCL’s Development Planning Unit, the Department for Civil, Environmental & Geomatic Engineering, the Institute of Education, Centre for Advanced Spatial Analysis and the Institute for Security and Resilience Studies are all partners.

The recent workshop brought together participants from INGOs, local NGOs, universities in Lebanon and the UK and social activists. Drawing on professional and personal experience, these participants gave rich and varied insights into some of the key ideas of RELIEF, and into the changing relationship between refugees and hosts in Lebanon.

Hospitality in Lebanon

The first session of the workshop, opened by Dr Nikolay Mintchev (IGP), invited participants to problematize and discuss the cultures of hospitality in Lebanon, as they related to Syrian refugees. Lebanon’s hospitality is often referenced by INGOs and foreign governments: in the same breath, they celebrate Lebanon’s hospitality, and announce that it is now over-stretched to the point where conflict is likely. The question they then pose is: how can we enable Lebanon to continue to be a good host to refugees?

The term ‘hospitality’, however, proved to not only have multiple meanings for the participants, but also to be a seriously limited and problematic term. As one participant remarked, it may be depoliticising what is a deeply political issue, and neutralising the real burden placed on Lebanese communities and Lebanese resources.

One observation did unite the participants: since 2013, interactions between hosts and refugees have changed for the worse. Some participants suggested that as time has gone on, people’s perceptions of the possibility of Syrian refugees returning to Syria have changed. This has engendered a fear that Syrians will continue to put pressure on scarce resources, and become competitors for work, housing and education.

Inclusive growth

The RELIEF Centre proposes that inclusive growth – in the broadest sense of the term – is a necessary and good ambition for places severely affected by mass displacement. However, as Dr Nasser Yassin (AUB) put it, inclusive growth is a notion which challenges 27 years of development in Lebanon. It makes demands on governments to consider what kind of growth is desirable, and how it impacts people differently. Too often, these considerations are overlooked in favour of one kind of growth – economic growth – without much concern for how it impacts people differently.

A further discussion arose on how transformative change can occur on the level of the community and individual. Many participants spoke from their own experiences of working with local governments, which had created their own strategies for managing limited resources. Researchers need to consider the value of politics and economic strategy at the local scale, and see whether there is room for manoeuvre at this scale, as well as at the national level.

Education as a practical intervention

Moving on to the afternoon session, the participants were invited to turn their minds to another important component of the RELIEF project: education for communities affected by mass displacement and conflict.

Professor Maha Shuayb (Centre for Lebanese Studies) gave a presentation about the state of education for refugees and host communities in Lebanon. She prompted important questions about identity and difference, and how these imposed categories have created unnecessary divides in delivery of education between refugee and host communities. She suggested that the notion of vulnerability is relevant to both Lebanese and non-Lebanese children, and that educational programmes need to confront and properly function in student groups with a diversity of needs and capabilities.

Pathways to practice

Whilst critical analysis of the challenges which host communities and refugees face in Lebanon is vital to understanding the context in which we are working, the RELIEF team wanted to end the workshop with an insight into spaces of potential action: new policies, engaged institutions, and cultural shifts which could serve as a platform for innovation.

In the final session, the workshop participants were joined by Marina Aksakalova and her team from UNHCR (the UN Refugee Agency). The Lebanese Prime Minister, Saad Hariri, she reported, had given renewed support for a cohesive response to the refugee crisis. It is now possible to develop a strategy and take a more entrepreneurial approach towards it.

The question of inclusivity – who is included and in what – dominated the debate throughout the workshop. The acute needs of people in Lebanon – from host communities to refugees – have created a tense situation in the country, where claims of difference have been deployed to ensure and, conversely, prevent, access to resources. In the final session, there was a hope raised, shared by the partners in the RELIEF Centre: that responses to individual crises can be integrated with the provision of goods and services that are required to live a good life in Lebanon.

Image © Dominic Chavez/World Bank: Students at the Second Bourj Hammoud Pubic School in Beirut, Lebanon. Two-thirds of the students at the school are Lebanese and one-third are Syrian.

UCL in the Middle East: a critical discussion

GuestBlogger9 June 2017

By Dr Ruth Mandel, Vice-Dean (International) for Social and Historical Sciences

Speakers at UCL in the Middle East
In an event sponsored by UCL’s Global Engagement Office, Professor Andrew Barry (Geography), Dr Elena Fiddian Qasmiyeh (Geography) and I brought colleagues together to launch a critical discussion about the fundamental problems inherent in the category of ‘Middle East Studies’ in particular, and area studies more generally.

In her ethnographically rich keynote talk, Dr Yael Nararro (Cambridge) described her recent research on the Syrian/Turkish border with a Muslim minority group. This was followed by a panel made up of four speakers whose topics ranged from historical analysis of provocative material pertaining to refugees in Greece who survived the Turkish War of Independence (Georgos Kritikos), the complexity of successively incoming layers of refugees in camps in Lebanon (Elena Fiddian Qasmiyeh), an analysis—spatial, photographic and political—of the devastation of neighborhoods of a Kurdish city in Eastern Turkey (Ulrike Flader), as well as a description of the rehabilitation through an invented ritual, designed to reintegrate Yezidi women and girls who had escaped from the violent captivity of Isis (Tyler Fisher).

Afternoon talks included Bev Butler’s presentation in which she raised questions about the myriad ways heritage is used and understood by different actors, particularly in the context of different refugee camps in Lebanon.

Other talks touched on research methods, ethics, and the political-history of oil.

Andrew Barry’s talk nicely closed the session by interrogating the inherent politics of entailed in decisions about oil pipelines, but also the cultural politics of seismic behaviour and research, and the observation that geological mapping and political mapping can be at radical odds.

A final summing up of the day’s themes tied together a number of issues. The huge ramifications of shifting and contested borders, for example, with political/cultural/economic/geological boundaries rarely mapping easily, raised the notion of a viewing the complex configurations as a palimpsest, with layers revealing the historical reverberations and remnants (Navarro) of multiple iterations of violence.

Moreover, with millions of refugees and exiles in Europe and beyond, the very notion of a geographically-bounded Middle East no longer is relevant in the way it once might have been.

This led to a discussion of digital migration and identities, transnational relations, and digital heritage coming to the fore in diasporic contexts. The metaphor of palimpsest arose, useful to the study of overlapping territories, people, reverberations and remnants.

Ask GEO: Clare Burke, Partnership Manager (Africa and Middle East)

JasonLewis24 May 2017

Clare_5901_SquareClare is GEO’s Partnership Manager for Africa and Middle East. She gives us an update on her work and recent visit to Ghana and South Africa.

Tell us more about your role in GEO and activity in your regions.

Since GEO was established in November 2015, I have spent time developing links with UCL colleagues who are working across Africa and the Middle East and have learned (and still continue to learn) about the type of collaborations that colleagues are engaged with. I have been amazed with the breadth of collaboration taking place across both the institution and the number of UCL Faculties and Departments who are working across these regions.

To date, I have information on almost 200 collaborations taking place on the African continent and around 45 collaborations taking place across the Middle East but I have just scratched the surface of this work and I plan to build on this data over the summer.

In terms of intensifying our engagement, UCL is exploring how we can strengthen our existing partnerships with a number of institutions including the University of Witwatersrand (Wits) , the University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN), and the African Health Research Institute (AHRI).

You recently returned from a visit to Africa. Could you tell us what countries you visited and how the trip went?

I recently visited Ghana and South Africa as part of a larger UCL delegation to meet with universities and to learn about their research strengths and to identify potential areas of collaboration.

In Ghana, together with the Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, I attended the inaugural ARUA Conference. The African Research Universities Alliance or ARUA , as it is more commonly known, comprises of 16 of the top research intensive universities from 9 countries across the African continent. Led by Professor Ernest Aryeetey, ARUA’s Secretary General, this ‘Russell-Group type’ alliance will boost higher education across the continent and encourage more Western collaborations with African universities outside South Africa.

In South Africa, the delegation led by the Vice-Provost (International) visited the University of KwaZulu-Natal to strengthen the existing partnership with the university in relation to the wider African Health Research Institute (AHRI) collaboration and to explore collaborations within other disciplines (beyond health) including Arts and Humanities and Laws.

What’re you working on at the moment?

At the moment, I am following up on post-visit actions. For example, the UCL delegation met with over 40 UKZN colleagues in South Africa so I am identifying possible areas of synergy and facilitating introductions between UCL and UKZN colleagues to see if there is scope for future collaboration.

Similarly, we held a data-sharing day with UZKN colleagues here in London to build on some of the initial conversations held in Durban so that UCL and UKZN colleagues could meet each other face to face.

I am also working with SLMS colleagues on the AHRI collaboration, while we explore if this type 2 partnership could become one of future strategic partnerships given its close alignment to a number of the Strategic Drivers of the Global Engagement Strategy (GES).

Finally, over the summer, I will continue to build on the regional data mapping exercise and will capture more information on UCL’s activities and collaborations across the region so that we can share this across the institution. If your work is not included, let me know!

How can people keep up to date with UCL’s activity in Africa and Middle East?

I regularly circulate details of upcoming regionally-focussed events and funding calls as well as our termly newsletter which includes regional highlights and success stories. Together with the Pro-Vice-Provost (Africa and Middle East), I also coordinate termly meetings which all network members are invited to. We hold region specific events each year; our successful Knowledge Africa 2017 – Africa Unheard event took place in February and the next event, UCL in the Middle East 2017: The Middle East re-mapped will take place on 5 June. Network membership has increased significantly in the last 12 months and I would encourage colleagues with an interest in the region to sign up to our mailing list.

 

Contact Clare on:

clare.burke@ucl.ac.uk
+44 (0)20 3108 7776 / internal 57776

Giving Syrian child refugees a voice through film

GuestBlogger24 May 2017

The Refugee Film Project was founded by three UCL alumni: Aphra Evans (BA Latin American Studies), Shyam Jones (BSc Psychology) and Michael McGovern (BA European Social & Political Studies), to support Syrian child refugees.

Written by Aphra Evans 

Three UCL alumni have set up the Refugee Film Project to support Syrian refugee childrenThe Refugee Film Project teaches Syrian child refugees the art of filmmaking, and it was founded thanks to a serendipitous series of events involving three UCL alumni.

Michael McGovern works for an NGO called SB OverSeas which operates in Syria and Lebanon. Wanting to help, I volunteered as a teacher in their school in Beirut for children living in Shatila refugee camp. Soon after, I was contacted by Shyam Jones, a filmmaker who suggested we collaborate. Before long, the Refugee Film Project was born.

Shyam and I wanted to give the children a creative outlet that the school could not provide, and teach them technical skills as well as life skills such as teamwork, cooperation and leadership. By being at the helm of the project, the children built their confidence, self-esteem and sense of self-worth. Meanwhile, Shyam and I had a great time harnessing the bold personalities of the kids on film.

The Refugee Film Project helps Syrian child refugees tell their stories through filmThe children dreamt up stories and characters, had them made into scripts, picked costumes and locations, used a camera and tripod with great finesse, and then watched themselves on screen in our makeshift cinema. If nothing else, with professional equipment and a team of three adults at their beck and call they felt pretty important, and the project took them out of the camp where they could not play on the streets for the danger it presented.

Slow but steady progress

At the beginning, the children could not think of any ideas for a film. At school there were just 45 minutes a week devoted to creative endeavours (involving pencils and a piece of A4), so we had to work through a creative blockage. Film by film, the ideas multiplied. By the end, they were coming so thick and fast I had trouble writing them down.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, many were analogous to the life-altering experience of being a refugee. One story was of a village that had to be re-won, another about a king being unfair to his subjects. Violence and the divide between rich and poor were recurring themes, in their ideas as much as their lives. We let them tell the tales they wanted, as we firmly believed film was a means to process their trauma.

Shatila’s got talent

One of the children supported by the Refugee Film Project films his friendsWe were lucky to work with some very gifted children. Tahani, 12, was a fantastic actor who needed no direction and had an impressive knack for remembering dialogue. Moustafa, 11, learnt his way around a camera quicker than we thought possible. For one music video, Hanadi, 15, alternated between rapping, singing and playing the oud with ease.

More important than showcasing these talents, however, was how much the kids obviously enjoyed the course. They were constantly suppressing smiles while acting (which make their films all the more enjoyable to watch), and they would turn up at school with enthusiasm at 9am on a Sunday. One of them, Khaled, 14, even said he might work with us again when he was a grown-up actor!

Far from over

Our six-week course in Lebanon was merely the project’s first iteration. We are planning to repeat it in partnership with an NGO called SAWA that works in Lebanon’s Beqaa valley, home to half a million refugees living in tents. But this venture, as our last one, is dependent on the generosity of our crowdfunders.

The odds are stacked so highly against the 2.5 million Syrian child refugees that humanitarian organisations fear they will become a ‘lost generation’. But with the right resources they still have the chance to be children. And I hope we can find the funds to continue giving them an outlet for their energy, happiness and big personalities – on the big screen.

All images courtesy of the Refugee Film Project.

Help us celebrate UCL in the Middle East

SophieVinter30 August 2016

The Africa & Middle East Regional Network is excited to be hosting its second regionally focussed event, this time exploring UCL’s work in the Middle East.

Following the success of Knowledge Africa in June, UCL in the Middle East will take place on Friday 16 September, between 1-5pm in Roberts 110.

There will be the chance to find out more about different initiatives and opportunities through presentations and a photo exhibition. Students are also encouraged to take part by submitting a poster illustrating their work for display.

Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu, Pro-Vice-Provost for Africa & the Middle East, said: “Knowledge Africa was a great way to bring together staff and students from across the university to share knowledge, network and showcase our partnerships. UCL has a range of innovative collaborations underway in the Middle East and we’re looking forward to celebrating them at this event.”

Register to attend on Eventbrite.

Itinerary

13.00 – 13.15: Registration

13.15 – 13.30: Welcome and introductions, Professor Ijeoma Uchegbu

13.30 – 13.45: Seth Anziska (via Skype), Hebrew and Jewish Studies

13.45 – 14.00: Beverley Butler / David Wengrow, Institute of Archaeology

14.00 – 14.15: Fatemeh Farnaz Arefian, Institute for Risk and Disaster Reduction

14.15 – 14.30: Jonathan Dale, Institute of Education

14.30 – 14.45: Refreshments and poster session

14.45 – 15.00: Carlos Huggins, UCLC

15.00 – 15.15: Deborah Gill, MSEC

15.15 – 15.30: Sam Evans, UCL Qatar

15.30 – 16.15: Panel discussion: Sustainable Economic Development Post Petroleum

16.15 – 17.00: Reception

Knowledge Africa: Join us to celebrate UCL’s work in the region

SophieVinter3 June 2016

Audience members pose questions to the panel at the African Voices 'Question Time' eventThe Africa & Middle East Regional Network is excited to be hosting its first “Knowledge Africa” event, to celebrate UCL’s work in the area.

Taking place on Thursday 16 June, the event will cover topics ranging from UCL’s frontline stance in the fight against HIV to connecting East African households to electricity supplies.

There will be the opportunity to find out more about different initiatives and opportunities through a series of presentations and a photo exhibition. Students are also encouraged to take part by submitting a poster illustrating their work for display on the day.

Find out more about speakers due to take part here.

Knowledge Africa was established following feedback from members of the Africa & Middle East Regional Network, which meets once a term, who wanted to find a new way to engage colleagues from across the university in the latest initiatives.

Ijeoma Uchegbu, Pro-Vice-Provost for Africa & the Middle East, said: “UCL has a great range of collaborations underway with partners across the continent and we’re really looking forward to bringing together academics and students to showcase these and celebrate their work.”

Knowledge Africa will take place from 9.00 – 13.00 in Roberts 110. Register to attend on Eventbrite here.