MEI's International Youth Summit 

The Middle East Institute in partnership with Southern Methodist University (SMU) and Howard University (HU) launched the international youth summit, an initiative which brought together university students from the MENA region with a group of American students and MEI interns to discuss common social, political, and cultural topics. 

During the spring of 2021, the summit focused on human rights with topics ranging from refugee and women’s rights to criminal justice and prison reform. Over 20 students met on a monthly basis to discuss these issues. The summit sessions included presentations by MEI experts relevant to the meeting topic, small group discussions moderated by experts based both in MENA and the US, and problem solving among the larger group in search of a greater understanding of these human rights topics and the ways in which they play out differently in the Middle East and US.

The summit culminated in three group projects reflecting the main topics of the discussions, in which participants contributed their own research and analysis. You can view the projects and find more information including the youth participants and expert moderators below.

Student Projects

Following the completion of the summit, the students broke up into groups to collaborate on final projects. Each project reflected one of the subtopics discussed throughout the summit.

Refugee Rights

This webinar discussed refugees and displaced people in the context of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, violations against indigenous Assyrians in the Nineveh Plain, Lebanon's economic crisis, and Turkey's role in Syria. This program featured students of Southern Methodist University and the American University of Madaba, alongside former MEI interns. The speakers delved into the challenges facing underrepresented displaced communities and what steps the US and regional governments can take to ensure the protection of their rights

View presentation

Prison Reform & Criminal Justice

The prison systems in countries all around the Middle Eastern region struggle with issues such as overcrowding, human rights abuses, poor conditions, and a lack of reliable data. These issues have brought to light the serious and growing need for prison reform in the Middle East. In order to provide an overview of the criminal justice system in the region and why critical steps need to be taken in order to fix the prison system, this paper examines the Israeli occupation, the non-state system of detaining relatives of ISIS members in Syria, and Egyptian authoritarianism.

Read report

Gender Equality

Three summit participants collaborated to design a website showing what women, men, and others go through in a life of constant inequality. The website explores gender equality, the gender pay gap, and celebrates successful Muslim women. It also features a discussion between one of the participants and summit moderators. The website will be updated frequently as time passes to stay up-to-date.

Visit website

Resource Guide

This subject guide was compiled in support of the International Youth Summit. The resources presented here will likely be useful to researchers of all levels who are interested in the various aspects of human rights.

View guide


About the Participants 

The summit participants comprise of MEI interns and students from the United States and Middle East. Throughout each session of the summit, they are joined by expert analysts who provided brief presentations and moderated the discussion. 

Learn More About the Spring 2021 Participants

University Partners