2 minute read

Crossing borders


Just over a year ago, the Atlantic Institute hosted a thematic forum in Jordan, the first of a new suite of gatherings for Senior Fellows designed in response to emerging themes and interest areas. The forum was designed to stimulate connection across all the programs, disciplines, cultures and ideologies in the spirit of curiosity, reciprocity and collaboration. It provided stimulating place-based content: Fellows were able to see firsthand the effects of displacement and hear about its effects on health through meeting Syrian and Jordanian people living through the crisis. The visit provided the group with significant opportunities to collaborate to explore how they might contribute to shifting the narrative on displacement.

Eighteen Senior Fellows from across the seven programs travelled to Jordan, joined by eight program staff members and the President and CEO of The Atlantic Philanthropies, Christopher G. Oechsli. They learned more about the factors surrounding displacement and how the Syrian refugee crisis has unfolded into what the UN has described as one of the worst humanitarian crises of our time.

Tala Al-Rousan, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health, who originates from Jordan, led on the design of the forum and provided guidance to ensure that while the wider goals of the thematic gathering were met, the visit was also conducted in a culturally sensitive way.

Tala is a member of a Displacement Affinity Group, along with Durkhanai Ayubi, Atlantic Fellow for Social Equity; Dominic Campbell, Atlantic Fellow for Equity in Brain Health; Zanele Figlan, Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity in South Africa; Johnny Miller; Atlantic Fellow for Social and Economic Equity; and Luqman Yesufu, Atlantic Fellow for Health Equity in South Africa. As well as contributing to the design of the convening, the Affinity Group led on facilitating workshops in Jordan and shaped the creative outputs.

At the UNHCR Branch Office in Amman, the Middle East’s largest registration center, the group received a briefing about its work, meeting families who were being registered there. At Za’atari Refugee Camp, they gained new insights into the health situation in the camp from the UNHCR and Syrian Refugee Affairs Directorate.


The Displacement Affinity Group, in collaboration with other participating Fellows, have developed long-term project strands that combine academic research, thought leadership pieces and art. They launched a dedicated website in May 2020 to host current research relating to the health of migration and refugee populations, photographs, and a collaborative thought piece entitled “The Global Republic of the Displaced”, which includes the voice of one of the Syrian refugees they met in Jordan.

The home page of the website explains: “By building bridges of understanding in an atypical way, we hope to destigmatize and contextualize the topic of displacement and assist those living in precarious situations.”

See the Fellows' website: www.narrativesofdisplacement.org

Top picture: Atlantic Fellows were greeted by Syrian people during their visit to Za'atari refugee camp, home to nearly 80,000 refugees.