The Chairperson of the Department of English and Translation (DET) at the Faculty of Humanities (FH), Dr. Maya El Hajj, Instructor at the Ramez G. Chagoury Faculty of Architecture, Arts, and Design (FAAD), Mr. Issam S. Chemaly, and Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of Business Administration and Economics (FBAE), Mr. Omar Sakr, represented Notre Dame University-Louaize (NDU) in the International Forum on Environmental Humanities (IFEH) at the UNESCO International Center For Human Sciences (CISH-UNESCO) premises in Byblos, Lebanon. The event took place under the patronage and in the presence of their Excellencies, the Minister of Culture, Mohammad Mortada, the Minister of Tourism, Walid Nassar, and the Minister of Information, Ziad Makary, in addition to a number of distinguished ambassadors. Students from the DET also attended the event, showcasing their support for the environmental cause.
In June 2022, NDU and CISH-UNESCO signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) for the purpose of furthering the cultural relevance and impact of the humanities, particularly in Lebanon, the IFEH being one such example of the institutions’ collaborative efforts. Organized by CISH-UNESCO, the event was led by the Institute’s Director, Dr. Darina Saliba Abi Chedid, a pioneer in implementing and inaugurating the first environment-friendly historic building in Lebanon along with CISH-UNESCO’s partner entities.
Dr. El Hajj chaired the panel on “Human and Planetary Well-Being and Health,” observing in her speech that initiatives which aim to foster awareness locally and internationally are a guiding light and a beacon of hope amidst Lebanon’s challenges and the global climate crisis. That this forum is underlining the technical knowledge and uniting diversified cultures, opinions, plans, and strategies is a necessary step in ensuring a healthy future for our planet and the generations to come.
In the panel titled, “Environmental History, Literature, and Arts,” Mr. Chemaly presented his paper, “Refurbishing Values in Times of Crisis: The Evolution of Human Values Reflected in Rural Architecture in Lebanon from Pre-modern to Contemporary Times.” He detailed the development of architecture in Lebanon’s rural areas, where habitats, in diverse dialogues with nature, reflect different human and cultural values. In this light, he underlined the specificities of the country’s recent and ongoing crisis, raising the question of the extent of our awareness of our authentic values and subsequently how they form our authentic selves.
Concluding NDU’s representation at the IFEH was Mr. Sakr, whose role in the panel, “Debate with Activists and Experts,” included an exchange of thoughts and ideas regarding the opportunities Lebanon offers in rural tourism. He proposed the introduction and development of novel tourism products, defined by the UN World Tourism Organization (UNTWO) as “a combination of tangible and intangible elements, such as natural, cultural and man-made resources, attractions, facilities, services and activities,” dedicated to expanding the tourism market. Mr. Sakr emphasized that if such a route was taken, it is imperative that these products be based on sound and responsible tourism principles.
This cooperation between NDU and CISH-UNESCO exemplifies the MoU’s objectives, made poignant by the interdisciplinary contributions of Dr. El Hajj, Mr. Chemaly, and Mr. Sakr. The multifaceted perspectives offered by three different Faculties demonstrate the significance of the human sciences, a body of study that creates a ripple effect in approaching social issues. To Dr. El Hajj, Mr. Chemaly, and Mr. Sakr, thank you for being NDU’s ambassadors at the IFEH.