Università della Svizzera italiana



The Summit

The idea

Università della Svizzera italiana launched the MEM Summer Summit in 2018, in collaboration with the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Division of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs that is one of the main partners. The acronym MEM stands for the extended region of the Mediterranean and the Middle East (from Morocco to Iran) and it refers to a complex and heterogenous geopolitical and cultural space that has undergone and is still undergoing profound and rapid changes. The MEM Summer Summit aims to develop new approaches, different narratives, as well as new projects that transcend physical and cultural boundaries between communities on all shores of the MEM region and beyond with the active contribution of the young participants, called young change-makers. Furthermore, the Summit aims to create a safe space for the young change-makers to meet, to exchange experiences, to collaborate and to build a common understanding.

The structure

The MEM Summer Summit takes place during the summer in Lugano, and it is composed of a Seminar and a Forum.

Our main objectives are:

  • to offer a safe space for dialogue between young change-makers from the Middle East Mediterranean region where to lay out a vision for common future of the region, by starting from the present
  • to build a common ground and intergenerational exchange between young people and decision-makers, public and private institutions, non-profit organisations, social enterprises
  • to develop novel approaches to tackle persisting critical issues
  • to act as a breeding ground for developing across border and multilateral project proposals
  • to initiate collaboration and start networks among several actors in the region
“The MEM is a safe space where we get to know each others’ stories and therefore become a part of them.”
Boutheina, Tunisia
“This time it felt more special, to meet by brothers and sisters from the neighboring countries, I could feel a strong thirst of unity among us, away from any conflict.”
Amin, Iran
“Participating in the Summit has been life changing for me. It helped me create this network of young believers in a better region for us.”
Tracy, Lebanon
“The event was very promising, and it did not disappoint! From the hand-picked young leaders that brought so much life and diversity to every conversation to the high caliber guests that shared valuable insights and advice.”
Fatima, Morocco
Previous slide
Next slide

Why the Youth

90% of the world’s youth now live in low-middle income countries and face challenges caused by climate change, economic and social insecurity, conflicts and health emergencies. Despite this, there is a growing number of young people active in their communities, proposing innovative solutions, fostering progress and inclusive change across borders and national identities. 

The Young change-makers

Every year the MEM Summit Summer receives a growing number of applications, testimony of the interest of the youth to be part of the Summit. So far, around 500 young change-makers have been selected and participated in the Summit in presence and online. The ideal candidates are young people, aged from 25 to 35, with diverse educational backgrounds and work experience, and with a proven interest in the region and engagement in civil society, keen to share their ideas, and envision and foster change. The call for applications is released at the beginning of every year. A Selection Committee chooses the candidates through a careful process of evaluation, always mindful of a good balance between countries, professional backgrounds, and gender equality. The network of Swiss Embassies in the MEM region plays a crucial role in identifying the best candidates.

Countries of the young change-makers that participated in the MEM Summer Summit.


The MEM goes on

The activities of the MEM Summit Summit go beyond the Forum and the Seminar. This year the MEM goes on by presenting new initiatives to the change-makers and to the public. 

Bites of Transfoodmation

The MEM Summer Summit will go to Rome for Bites of Transfoodmation. The event is organised by the Permanent Representation of Switzerland to FAO, IFAD and WFP, in partnership with Istituto Svizzero, the Swiss Embassy in Rome, Présence Suisse and Università della Svizzera Italiana. The event aims to lay the foundations for momentous changes in the global food systems.

Federica Frediani and the MEM team are contributing to shaping and organising the event, and will be present in Rome. Accompanied by a group of MEM Summer Summit Alumni, they will be taking part as facilitators, speakers and moderators. USI’s Rector, professor Boas Erez, will deliver the closing address at the Dispute with the Swiss Ambassador in Rome, Rita Adam.

Cultural Narratives – New Horizons

The New Horizons Project originated from Stream C of the Seminar. It comprises of online and on-site workshops; a team of MEM Summer Summit Alumni, led by Federica Frediani, come together for discussion and working together over topics like:

  • The mobility of people, ideas, cultures and commodities transcending barriers of space and time;
  • The role of culture and creativity in the process of economic and social reconstruction after Coronavirus;
  • Digitalisation of cultural activities.

Why Switzerland

There are only a few countries in the world today that can offer a high degree of credibility in peacebuilding and peace promotion such as Switzerland. Thanks to its neutrality and a strong humanitarian tradition, Switzerland plays an important role in the area of peace promotion at a global level. 

Switzerland focuses on areas of peace policy where it has particular strengths. Over the past 15 years, it has developed a wide range of instruments to promote peace and security. It is actively involved in crisis and conflict management and also conflict prevention, helping to develop international codes of conduct and standards for the international community and to improve their application.

According to the Swiss Constitution, Article 54, paragraph 2: “The Confederation shall ensure that the independence of Switzerland and its welfare is safeguarded; it shall in particular assist in the alleviation of need and poverty in the world and promote respect for human rights and democracy, the peaceful co-existence of peoples as well as the conservation of natural resources.”

For more: https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/fdfa/foreign-policy/human-rights/peace.html

Volunteer Programme

Call for volunteers

Volunteers play an important role in supporting the MEM Summer Summit and are key to creating a positive and welcoming atmosphere for the young change-makers, speakers and guests while assisting the team in the smooth and professional running of the ten-day event.

Volunteers can get involved in the entire Summit, or in either the Seminar or the Forum.


Applicants should:

  • Be over 18 years of age
  • Preferably, be enrolled in a Swiss university
  • Have a very good command of English (additional language skills are a plus)
  • Preferably, have a keen interest in politics, society and culture of the Middle East Mediterranean region
  • Have a genuine interest in or some experience of event management, hospitality and communication

Personal and professional growth

By acting as a volunteer at the MEM Summer Summit, you will enrich your CV with an exciting experience. At the end of the event, you will be issued with a Certificate of attendance mentioning the tasks you completed and responsibilities involved. Students of USI’s PMP, MEP or MEPIN degree programmes may obtain credits from the Volunteer Programme.

Volunteers can make the most of the opportunity to work in a dynamic and cooperative team of professionals, build hands-on experience from observing what goes on behind the scenes of an international event, get inspiration for their future, and enrich their personal cultural baggage.The Volunteer programme offers learning and networking opportunities within an international environment: speakers and guests from NGOs, governmental institutions and prestigious universities.

Please note that accommodation and travel are not covered, hence have to be borne by the volunteers. However, food and drinks will be free for volunteers while on duty; and the official MEM Summer Summit shirt they receive remains their property.