International University for Intercultural Leadership

Bahçeşehir University, Istanbul


July 9, 2018



On Monday July 9, 2018, Bahçeşehir University hosted the opening conference of the sixth International University for Intercultural Leadership of the Aladdin Project, held from 9 to 17 July 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey, on the theme "Mobility, Migration, Refugees and Xenophobia".

Bringing together 60 students as well as political leaders, representatives of partner institutions, academics, journalists and civil society activists, the conference "The dynamics and challenges of migration and refugees in a globalized world" addressed the following issues during two round tables:

- Migration, refugees: How to deal with the crisis?

- The rise of xenophobia and populism: What answers?

Leah Pisar, President of the Aladdin Project and Abe Radkin, Executive Director of the Aladdin Project and Special Adviser to UNESCO Director General opened the conference and delivered the welcoming address. They warmly thanked UNESCO and the European Commission, the institutional partners of the program, for their support, as well as the academic partners - some of which were represented in the assembly. They also thanked Enver Yucel, founder of Bahçeşehir University and Chairman of the Board for hosting the event as well as for his strong support since the launch of the program in 2013.


Mr. Radkin and Dr. Pisar then recalled the Aladdin Project's missions and actions: the promotion of intercultural relations and the fight against intolerance. They highlighted the city of Istanbul, located at the crossroads of civilizations, religions and cultures which, through to a unique combination of history and geography, made it the ideal location for the flagship program of the Aladdin Project.

Furthermore, they pointed out that the rapid growth of the program (which now includes more than 45 partner universities from Europe, the United States, Brazil, Africa and the Middle East) reflected the fact that the program provided a response to real needs and that it was paramount to uphold the values ​​of tolerance, youth empowerment and intercultural dialogue: In the face of social transformations, the rise of new technologies and migration crises it is necessary to build new bridges of dialogue to fight against identity conflicts and the collapse of intercultural relations as well as to create new skills for global citizenship. Both emphasized education as a powerful tool to fight the influences that lead to fear and exclusion from others - through capacity development, independent judgment, critical thinking and ethical reasoning.

H.E Mr Cihad Erginay, Ambassador, Deputy Undersecretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, representing HE Mr Mevlut Cavusoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, stressed the importance of holding such a conference, especially in Istanbul which was created, enriched and developed through migration. He highlighted the challenges posed by the large population movements observed around the world and stressed the need to find new approaches to the management of human mobility based on a unified and strengthened cooperation and a reasonable division of responsibilities.

A message from H.E Mr. Sheikh Mohamed bin Issa Al Jaber, Founder and Chairman of the MBI Group, Saudi Arabia, who could not attend the conference, was read to the assembly. In this message, he emphasized the importance of organizing this conference in Turkey, which has opened its borders and welcomed a large number of refugees over the last 7 years. He emphasized Turkey’s generosity and encouraged the strengthening of cooperation, peace, solidarity and respect for human dignity.

Sylvie Rocard, wife of former French Prime Minister Michel Rocard, spoke about her husband's important ties with Turkey and the need to strengthen intercultural relations, particularly with Europe.

Bertrand Buchwalter, Consul General of France in Istanbul reaffirmed the support of the French government for the actions of the Aladdin Project and paid tribute to Michel Rocard, Claude Lanzmann and Simone Weil. He emphasized the need to know the Other, to fight racism and anti-Semitism and to promote freedom, equality, justice and universalism. Finally, he stressed that the collective response to the migration, humanitarian and political crisis will define who we are as societies.

Round table 1:

Nazli Bolak, Media executive at International Management Group moderated the first panel discussion on “Migration, refugees: How to deal with the crisis?” with Aissietou Diop, Director General of the African Alliance for Migration and Development; Dr. Thorsten Jelinek, Europe Director of the Taihe Global Institute (China); member of the World Economic Forum’s Advisory Committee; Katharina Lumpp, Representative to Turkey, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Ozcan Mutlu, former Member of the German Bundestag; Prof. Ilber Ortayli, University of Galatasaray, President emeritus of Topkapi Museum; Ann-Belida Preis, Chief of Section, Intercultural Dialogue, UNESCO and Ulas Sunata, Founding Chair, Center for Migration and urban Studies, BAU.

Round Table 2:

Zeynep Dereli, founder and CEO of TINK, former Television presenter, moderated the second panel discussion on “The Rise of xenophobia and populism: What answers?” with Prof. David Katz, Fellow of the Royal Historical Society of England; Arno Klarsfeld, Member of the State Council of France, former President of the French National Council for Integration; Yves Kugelmann, Anne Frank Foundation, Switzerland; Prof. Nilufer Narli, Dean of the Faculty of Sociology, BAU and Dr. Leah Pisar President of the Aladdin Project