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MISSION


Shaping a new conversation on the Middle East and North Africa in its global context.

MEIS is a global network of scholars, experts and practitioners who

  • Conduct research on the Middle East and North Africa in its wider global context (MENA+)
  • Provide stakeholders with strategic advice and policy analysis on key actors, developments, as well as on political and economic risks
  • Create engagement opportunities for governments, multilaterals and the private sector
  • Act as non-ideological and pragmatic broker to engage stakeholders in knowledge transfers, capacity building and cultural exchange.

MEIS builds on Swiss values of neutrality, independence and impartiality to drive positive change in the Middle East, North Africa and the wider world.

  • A networked organization generating insight for Swiss and international stakeholders
  • An inter-cultural bridge for knowledge transfer and capacity building
  • A global network of scholars, experts and practitioners who are fluent in the languages and cultures of their region
  • An aggregator of information and knowledge – from the Palace to the Street and from Washington to Beijing

TEAM

MEIS is run by a team of dedicated professionals
who are in charge of its projects and institutional development.

MANAGEMENT

Victor J. Willi | MEIS

Victor J. Willi

Executive Director

Short Bio

Victor J. Willi is Executive Director at MEIS and an expert on Middle East history, geopolitics, political Islam, and MENA-China relations. He is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at Ca’ Foscari University in Venice, where he works on the history and geopolitics of the Red Sea and Yemen. He has over 25 years of professional experience in the Middle East and has worked and lived in Egypt, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, Lebanon, and Turkey. Previously, he taught and lectured at different global institutions and managed public-private partnerships during six years at the World Economic Forum, where he also earned an Executive Master’s in Global Leadership. He is the recipient of several scholarships, including from the Swiss National Science Foundation. He received his PhD in History from the University of Oxford and his Master’s from the University of Zurich. He is the author of The Fourth Ordeal: A History of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, 1968-2018 (Cambridge University Press, 2021).

Andrea Cellino |MEIS

Andrea Cellino

Senior Non-Resident Fellow
Head of North Africa

Short Bio

Andrea Cellino was the Head of the North Africa Desk at DCAF, the Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, from 2015 to 2023, managing operations in Egypt, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. Before joining DCAF, Andrea spent six years leading fieldwork for the OSCE in the Balkans and in Ukraine, where in 2014 he led a monitoring team in the Donbas conflict zone. Previously, Andrea was Deputy Secretary General for Policy at the NATO Parliamentary Assembly in Brussels, directing the PA’s outreach programs with parliaments in the MENA region and in Eastern Europe. Andrea published several analyses on international relations and security issues, including three studies on security sector reform in the MENA region. An Italian and Swiss national, Andrea holds a MA in Political Science from the University of Torino and a Master’s in Contemporary History from the University of California, San Diego. He is a member of the Scientific Board of the NATO Defence College Foundation as well as a member of the Italian Institute of International Affairs (IAI) and of the International Institute of Humanitarian Law in Sanremo (IIHL).

Adel Hamaizia | MEIS

Adel Hamaizia

Vice President
Head of Gulf Region

Short Bio

Adel Hamaizia is Vice-President Advisory at MEIS and the Managing Director at London-based Highbridge Advisory, a strategic advisory focused on information advantage, risk mitigation, policy development and implementation for companies and governments working in the Middle East, the Balkans, and Africa. He is currently a visiting fellow at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Harvard University and a researcher at the University of Oxford, where he focuses on the political economy of the Maghreb, and where he previously taught Middle East Politics. He is an associate at Global Partners Governance and an associate fellow at the Chatham House MENA programme. Adel regularly convenes track 1.5 and 2 meetings, and is engaged in a range of volunteering activities related to employability skills training for students across the Middle East and North Africa. He was formerly the Committee Vice-Chairman of the Oxford Gulf and Arabian Peninsula Studies Forum (OxGAPS) and provides regular commentary for media outlets such as the New York Times, the Financial Times, the Economist, the Wall Street Journal, Reuters, Arab News, the National, and Al Jazeera.

Adel Hamaizia | MEIS

Jessica Obeid

Senior Non-Resident Fellow
Head of Energy

Short Bio

Jessica Obeid is Head of Energy at MEIS and an energy engineer and policy consultant with more than 15 years experience. She is Founding Partner at New Energy Consult based in Dubai and has worked in engineering, think tanks, and consulting across Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. She is Senior Advisor for Azure Strategy consultancy in London, and a Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington DC. Previously, she was Resident Fellow at Chatham House’s energy program and before served as chief energy engineer at the United Nations Development Programme in Beirut. Jessica is a widely published author and has shared her deep knwledge on enegr with leading institutions and international media outlets, such as New York Times, Washington Post, Bloomberg, and Reuters. She has been awarded the EUVP, US State Department’s Techwomen, and UK FCDO International Leaders’ fellowships. She holds a Master’s degree in political sciences with emphasis on strategic negotiations, and a Bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering.

ADVISORS

Marianne Affolter

Advisor on Communications

Short Bio

Marianne Affolter is an advisor and communications strategist working for national and international NGOs as well as for the Swiss federal and cantonal authorities on issues regarding strategy building, politics, research and communication services raising awareness for social, environmental, and humanitarian issues. She holds a Master’s in Religious Studies focusing on perception and communication sciences and Arabic and Islamic Studies, with a focus on the history of the Middle East, and postgraduate degrees in Sustainable Business Strategy and Communication. Her background is in research and internal politics in journalism among others for the NZZ, with a focus on migration, human rights, communication and project management work in North Africa and Sub-Saharan Africa.

Malik Faraoun

Advisor on Economic Development

Short Bio

Malik Faraoun is an Investment Manager at the OPEC Fund, leading the execution of large-scale investments in emerging markets. Previously, he was Director at Themis, a leading project developer and investor focused on renewable energy assets in Sub-Saharan Africa. He also was a Director at the World Economic Forum, in charge of strategy, content, and engagement with top businesses, governments, and civil society leaders in the Middle East and North Africa. Additionally, he was Principal Investment Officer of Africa 50 at the African Development Bank, where he led technical activities and participated in closing multiple project finance transactions worth $1.5 billion. Malik holds an MBA from EDHEC Business School in France and an Executive Master degree in Global Leadership from a joint program of INSEAD, Wharton School, London Business School, Columbia University, and China Europe International Business School.

Shirley Ze Yu

Advisor on China-MENA Relations

Short Bio

Professor Shirley Ze Yu is the Director of the China-Africa Initiative at the Firoz Lalji Institute for Africa at the London School of Economics and a Senior Practitioner Fellow with the Ash Center of Harvard Kennedy School. She is a professor at the IE Business School and a distinguished Foreign Faculty Professor at the National Defence University, Islamabad. She is an expert of the Davos World Economic Forum Expert Network on China, 5G, and Geo-economics and an opinion contributor to the FT and the Wall Street Journal, among others. Shirley is a frequent commentator and contributor on China’s strategic and economic affairs for BBC News, Bloomberg, CNN, Al Jazeera, PBS Frontline, and S&P Global, among others. She has a Master’s degree in Government from Harvard University and a PhD in Political Economy from China’s Peking University. Her research and public policy work focuses on China’s geo-economic and geopolitical implications in the emerging world.

FELLOWS

Jamal Abdullah

Senior Non-Resident Fellow

Short Bio

Jamal Abdullah is a scholar and a senior analyst specializing in the international relations of the Gulf region. He is currently an Adjunct Professor at the American University in Dubai and a visiting scholar at the University of Montreal in Canada. He previously had senior research and academic positions with Saint Antony’s College at the University of Oxford, the Head of the Gulf Studies Unit at the Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, the TRT World Research Centre in Istanbul, as well as UIN Jakarta. Jamal holds a PhD in Law and International Relations from Avignon University and a Master’s in International Relations from the University of Lyon in France. He has widely published, speaks Arabic, English and French, and has authored Qatar’s Foreign Policy 1995-2013: Leverages and Strategies (Al Jazeera Centre for Studies, 2014).

Nada Al-Sayari

Non-Resident Fellow

Short Bio

Nada Alsayari is a financial management specialist with extensive experience in the World Bank and the private sector in Yemen. Her competencies include financial accounting modelling, supporting systems and budgets, audits, and project management. She has conducted extensive research in international and development economics with specific expertise in climate change. Her recent work experience includes serving in the US embassies in Sana’a and Riyadh for over 10 years, and previously with Hunt, EnCana, and the Yemen LNG company for four years. She is currently enrolled in an Executive Master's Program on Development Policies and Practices from Geneva Graduate Institute. She has a Master’s in Business Administration from Antalya Bilim University in Turkey and a Batchelor in Accounting and Economics from Sana’a University in Yemen.

Karim Elgendy

Senior Non-Resident Fellow

Short Bio

Karim Elgendy is an urban sustainability and climate consultant based in London with more than two decades of experience in advising on sustainable and resilient cities, climate policy analysis, and the energy transition. In the Middle East and North Africa region, he focuses on how policy responses to climate change shape the geopolitics of the Eastern Mediterranean and the Gulf, while also covering Europe, North America, and sub-Saharan Africa. Karim has written widely and is a regular speaker and lecturer at leading global universities. He also has appeared in many mainstream media outlets. Karim is an Associate Fellow at Chatham House, a Non-Resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington, the founder of Carboun, and the recipient of the 2013 Global Green Building Entrepreneurship Award from the World Green Building Council. He is also a member of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Alice Gower

Senior Non-Resident Fellow

Short Bio

Alice Gower is a geopolitical, security and energy specialist with over 15 years of experience focusing on the Middle East and North Africa. She is a founding partner of Azure Strategy, a London-based strategic advisory firm. A former diplomat with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, she was seconded to the Foreign & Commonwealth Office in London to lead on UK energy security policy in MENA. She subsequently worked in global government affairs for a major international energy company. She has advised corporates, governments, and investor clients on geopolitical, security, and energy themes across the region, including responses to the rise of the Houthis in Yemen. She has written for several think tanks, industry and foreign affairs publications and appears in international media outlets, including the Economist, Reuters and the Petroleum Economist. She holds a Bachelor’s degree in international relations and security studies from the Australian National University.

Andrew Hammond

Senior Non-Resident Fellow

Short Bio

Andrew Hammond is a tutor in Turkish history at the University of Oxford and author of Late Ottoman Origins of Modern Islamic Thought: Turkish and Egyptian Thinkers on the Disruption of Islamic Knowledge (Cambridge University Press, 2022), Popular Culture in North Africa and the Middle East (Bloomsbury, 2017) and What the Arabs Think of America (Greenwood, 2007). He worked as a journalist with BBC Arabic and Reuters in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE, covering the Iraq invasion of 2003 and the Arab Spring uprisings of 2011-2013, and he was also a Mideast policy analyst with the European Council on Foreign Relations (ECFR) and HSBC Middle East. He writes at Substack and Middle East Eye and his work can be found at Academia.edu.

Molly Hickey

Non-Resident Fellow

Short Bio

Molly Hickey is a PhD candidate in the Department of Government at Harvard University, working primarily within the field of comparative politics in the Middle East. She is interested in the political economy of authoritarianism, the politics of foreign aid, and social policy reform in the Middle East. Prior to her graduate studies, she worked on USAID projects in the MENA region and from 2019 to 2020 was a Fulbright Student Fellow in Jordan, where she researched the politics of Syrian refugee labour permits and the closed professions. She graduated with a BA in International Political Economy and Middle East/North Africa Studies from Pitzer College.

Brendon Novel

Brendon Novel

Non-Resident Fellow

Short Bio

Brendon Novel is a third-year PhD student at the University of Montréal in Political Science. His research focuses on international security and foreign affairs, particularly in the Arabian-Persian Gulf and the Horn of Africa, which was also the focus of his Master’s thesis. Financially supported by the Kuwait Program at Sciences Po, Brendon conducted extensive fieldwork in Soudan, Djibouti, Somalia, Qatar, and the United Arab Emirates. He also interned at the Emirates Centre for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in Abu Dhabi and worked at the Delegation of the European Union to the UAE. Currently, he consults on various research projects focusing on geopolitical, political, and economic dynamics in the Gulf and Horn regions. He holds a Master’s from the Paris School of International Affairs (PSIA) of Sciences Po where he also received his Bachelor’s. He is fluent in French and English and is currently learning Arabic.

Mariam Sharbash

Non-Resident Fellow
Short Bio

Mariam Sharbash is an independent researcher and investigative documentary film producer based in London. She advises governments and the private sector on social-political issues in the Arab world and previously worked for Al Jazeera Media Network, based in Doha, Qatar as a researcher for Al Jazeera English and its various bureaus internationally. She was previously based with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) regional bureau for Arab States in Cairo, Egypt as a Research Associate for the Economic Growth and Poverty Reduction Unit. From 2009 to 2010, she was with Amnesty International headquarters in London with the Middle East and North Africa department. She holds an MA in International Studies and Diplomacy from the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) and a BA in English from Queen Mary, University of London. Her research interests lie in migration and diaspora studies; identity politics; globalization and global governance. Mariam is trilingual, fluently speaking English, Arabic and French.

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen

Senior Non-Resident Fellow

Short Bio

Kristian Coates Ulrichsen is a Fellow for the Middle East at Rice University’s Baker Institute in Houston. His research examines the changing position of Persian Gulf states in the global order, and the emergence of longer-term challenges to regional security. Previously, he worked as Senior Gulf Analyst at the Gulf Center for Strategic Studies and as co-director of the Kuwait Program on Development, Governance and Globalization in the Gulf States at the London School of Economics. Kristian has published extensively on the Gulf, including The Gulf States in International Political Economy (Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), The United Arab Emirates: Power, Politics, and Policymaking (Routledge, 2016) and Qatar and the Gulf Crisis (Oxford University Press, 2020). His articles have appeared in numerous academic journals, including Global Policy and the Journal of Arabian Studies, and he consults regularly on Gulf issues for government and private sector agencies around the world. Kristian holds a doctorate in History from the University of Cambridge.

RESEARCH ASSISTANTS

Tony Antoury

Senior Research Assistant

Short Bio

Tony Antoury is a professional and a researcher with a focus on the Euro-Mediterranean region and the Middle East, and experience in diplomacy, humanitarianism and academia. He has worked at the Lebanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, working on diplomatic negotiations and strategic analysis. At the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP), he gained experience in research, mediation and peace support by facilitating complex dialogue processes. He holds a Master’s in in Strategic Studies from the Lebanese University, a second Master’s in Diplomacy and International Security from the Holy Spirit University of Kaslik and a Bachelor’s in Political Sciences from the same university. He is fluent in Arabic, French, English, Greek, and Italian.

Alia Yasmin Jawad

Research Assistant

Short Bio

Alia Yasmin Jawad is a researcher focusing on global politics and international relations, specifically on foreign policy analysis, security and conflict, and human rights. She has a particular interest in American foreign policy, Middle East and South Asia geopolitics, and the European Union. She gained professional experience in human rights organizations in Washington DC, working as project manager and as a designer of security simulations at the Institute of Strategic Risk Management in London, and taught seminars in political science and international relations at the University of Bucharest while preparing for her PhD. She holds a Bachelor’s in International Relations from George Mason University and a Master’s in Comparative Politics from the University of Bucharest. She speaks English, Romanian, French, Turkish and Russian and is currently learning Greek and Arabic.

Alexandra Grace Mina

Research Assistant

Short Bio

Alexandra Grace Mina is a researcher focusing on economic and financial history, international security, the history of international organizations and the intersection of religion and political economy, with a focus on the Middle East. She has gained professional experience in different organizations, including at the Swiss Diplomacy Student Association, at a Paris-based law firm and as a delegate at the International Model United Nations. She holds a Bachelor’s in International Relations from the University of Geneva and is currently completing her Master’s degree in International History and Politics at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. She is fluent in English, French and Italian and is currently learning Arabic.

Emma Moody

Senior Research Assistant

Short Bio

Emma Moody specializes in cyber security, geopolitics, the energy transition and business. She presented policy briefs to the UK Ministry of Defence and analysed state responses to hybrid tactics for the US Department of Defense. As Intelligence Analyst for AirWars, she reported on weaponry and Middle East geopolitics, designing a threat preparation training programme for policymakers. She also published international law reviews and worked with the Digital Forensic Research Lab to conduct open-source intelligence investigations. She has experience as an editor with a focus on security and technology. She has a Master’s degree in Security Intelligence and Strategic studies from the University of Glasgow and a Bachelor’s in Journalism from Cardiff University.

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