Posted on February 10, 2019

Doha Debates, an initiative of Qatar Foundation (QF), has hosted a series of talks in partnership with TED, during the TED Salon titled ‘Up for Debate’ in New York City, US.

The speakers at the TED World Theater were joined by five groups of people live onscreen via Portals – walk-in shipping containers equipped with audiovisual devices – that beamed them in from Doha, Qatar; Kigali, Rwanda; Herat, Afghanistan; West Virginia, United States; and Mexico City. Designed by Doha Debates’ partners at Shared_Studios, the Portals allowed the groups to share thoughts on the most pressing issues in their parts of the world and respond in real time to the speakers in New York.

Doha Debates’ innovative new concept was unveiled in December 2018, as the relaunched QF initiative aims to bring new voices, perspectives, and solutions to challenges facing the world, and inspire a new generation of global change-makers. Presented by TED Residency director Cyndi Stivers, the talks in New York City saw journalist Steven Petrow discuss what “civility” looks like today, emphasizing that civility does not stifle debate, but instead requires listening and talking about differences with respect for people who hold opposing views.

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Human rights organizer Rana Abdelhamid spoke about her experience creating Malikah, a grassroots organization teaching self-defense to women and girls, in response to having experienced an attack herself as a teenager. Meanwhile, Eve Pearlman, journalist and co-founder of Spaceship Media, talked about the need to restore public trust in journalism by moving away from clickbait reporting, and toward transparency and care for the communities that journalists serve, as well as by bringing people together across political ideologies to create “dialogue journalism.”

Speakers also included author Reniqua Allen, who discussed stories she heard about systemic racism and racist ideologies, as well as breakthroughs and accomplishments, from millennials while researching her book It Was All a Dream; and counter-terrorism expert and blogger Clint Watts, who spoke about using Twitter to connect to people he might not otherwise meet.

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Through the Portals, the audience in New York heard about how the news media has shaped students’ lives in Doha, and how social media and technology are a crucial opportunity for women in Afghanistan, hearing first-hand from participants in Herat. Students in Mexico City highlighted the need to work across differences after elections in Mexico, while students from West Virginia, in the US, discussed resistance to change in their community. Meanwhile, Rwandans in Kigali also shared thoughts about how the trade war between Rwanda and the US affects them.

TED and Doha Debates are building bridges and conversations in settings where differences are heard, assumptions are questioned, and views are openly and thoughtfully challenged. Doha Debates’ and Shared_Studio’s Doha_Portal is now available to visit at Qatar National Library.

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