The UNIMED General Assembly 2021 was exceptionally held online on the 13th December 2021, due to COVID-19 restrictions. The event saw the participation of around 90 attendees from 16 countries of both shores of the Mediterranean: Algeria, Cyprus, Egypt, Finland, France, Italy, Jordan, Kosovo, Kurdistan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, Portugal, Spain, Tunisia, Turkey.
The General Assembly is a UNIMED key event taking place once a year, where Rectors, Presidents and representatives of UNIMED associated universities meet to reflect on the work done together during the past year, on the results achieved, the challenges faced and to determine future directions and initiatives accordingly. In particular, this year’s Assembly was the perfect occasion to celebrate the 30th anniversary of UNIMED, founded in 1991.
The Assembly started with the opening messages and greetings provided by Prof. Francisco Matte Bon, UNIMED President, Prof. Hmaid Ben Aziza, UNIMED Secretary General, Prof. Wail Benjelloun, UNIMED Honorary President, Mr. Marcello Scalisi, UNIMED Director and Mrs. Hadeel Yaseen, Director of International Affairs Unit at the University of Jordan, which will host the next UNIMED General Assembly in June 2022.
After the introductory words, the UNIMED members were invited to give short contributions in order to share ideas on the future of our cooperation and beloved region, and set the stage for next activities. The most recurrent topic was the digital transformation of Higher Education Institutions due to the pandemic we are living and the importance of the sustainability of the new learning methods over time. Being aware that there will be “a new normal” after COVID-19, learning innovation is needed along with more cooperation and direct relationships among partners. According to the associated universities, UNIMED can strongly contribute to ensure the stability, security and prosperity that the Mediterranean needs today.
Another key topic was the enlargement of the academic cooperation beyond the Mediterranean region and the dialogue with neighbouring Middle East, African and Asian countries to expand the Mediterranean borders peacefully. As Ana Costa Freitas, Rector of Evora University, pointed out: “In this strange world we are living now, science and academic diplomacy are probably the only intercultural dialogue that causes no harm. The only way we have to make sure this world will not fall apart is more and more education, more and more culture”.
Finally, a series of guiding questions had been prepared in advance and most of the attendees selected the following one: “Imagine that UNIMED would disappear tomorrow: what would you miss the most from the network and its support?”. Here are a few highlights:
- “A lot would happen. We need UNIMED to help us improve the interactions with our national governments to then improve the Mediterranean region”. Markus Gonzalez Beilfuss – Vice Rector, University of Barcelona, Spain
- “The question raised is quite deep because it sheds light on the importance of the role of UNIMED. Joining an impactful network such as UNIMED has a great added value on any institutions at different levels. UNIMED has proved to have a political impact that can render positive changes to its member institutions by advocating the common goals.” Talal Hachem – President, Holy Spirit University of Kaslik, Lebanon
- “UNIMED is simply our ally in cooperation. So it would be very difficult for me today to imagine a cooperation and internationalization without UNIMED. This would mean no more promotion of the international dimension of universities, no more opportunities for international research, no more mobility in the Mediterranean region, no more networking, no more conferences, debates, seminars at national and international levels, no more trainings for academic staff, but above all less moments of sharing, intercultural dialogue and generosity.” Naouel Abdellatif Mami – Vice Rector, University of Setif 2, Algeria
It was extremely exciting to perceive the warmth of the members and the firm conviction of UNIMED’s mission.
We look forward to meeting you in person soon to share many more moments together and enrich ourselves with our mutual exchange.