Literary Conversations Across Borders: Shashi Tharoor, Jane Goodall and Zaki Nusseibeh among speakers in new online series

The digital sessions will focus on issues including diplomacy, the environment and science, in a bid to promote cultural understanding

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - December 04, 2019: Zaki Nusseibeh, Minister of State on Ministry of Foreign Affairs cultural diplomacy programme. Wednesday, December 4th, 2019. Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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What impact does cultural diplomacy have in an increasingly polarised world? And can science's leading role in combatting the coronavirus pose a threat to the future of religion?

These are some of the thought-provoking ideas set to be covered in a series of online discussions featuring some of the world's leading intellectuals.

Organised by the Office of Public and Cultural Diplomacy and the Emirates Literature Foundation, the eight-part Literary Conversations Across Borders programme aims to discuss some of the pressing issues facing the world today in the wake of the pandemic.

Beginning on Saturday, May 30, each session will be streamed on Emirates Literature Foundation's YouTube page upon pre-registration on the foundation's website.

Guest speakers include Indian politician and writer Shashi Tharoor, English primatologist and anthropologist Jane Goodall, and Emirati cultural and key government figures such as Minister of State Zaki Nusseibeh, UAE Minister of State for Food Security Mariam bint Mohammed Almheiri and Omar Ghobash, Assistant Minister of Public and Cultural Diplomacy.

Nusseibeh hailed the initiative as “a ground-breaking project for the UAE".

“Having these conversations across cultures strengthens our bonds and brings greater appreciation of the topics that affect us in the world today, no matter where we live,” he said.

“This project provides a platform for Emiratis to be part of the international discussions that are happening at the moment and shows that the UAE is an open, forward-thinking nation, eager to engage with other countries and cultures. Two-way dialogue will foster understanding, helping to break down stereotypes and a recognition of the common concerns, joys and sorrows that affect us all.”

With more sessions yet to be announced, here's a look at the first trio of events coming our way.

Saturday, May 30: How will the events of 2020 change the course of history? (5.30pm)

JAIPUR, INDIA  JANUARY 28: Congress Leader Shashi Tharoor speaks to media at the day 4 of Zee Jaipur Literature Festival (JLF) 2018, at Diggi Palace, on January 28, 2018 in Rajasthan, India.  (Photo by Raj K Raj/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)

In what promises to be a riveting first session, Indian parliamentarian and author Tharoor and Nusseibeh will look at how this extraordinary year will shape the future of nations and societies to come.

With both speakers renowned for their keen appreciation of the modern and cultural history of the region and the developed world, their shared analysis and appreciation of the power of cultural diplomacy should be nothing short of insightful.

Saturday, June 6: Sustainability – Have we pulled back from the brink? (7.30pm)

epa08150873 Jane Goodall, English primatologist and anthropologist, addresses a press conference during the 50th annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, WEF, in Davos, Switzerland, 22 January 2020. The meeting brings together entrepreneurs, scientists, corporate and political leaders in Davos from January 21 to 24.  EPA/ALESSANDRO DELLA VALLE

This conversation focuses on the environmental struggles facing our world today, with celebrity scientist Goodall and Almheiri sharing their thoughts on a topic that has become further highlighted by the present pandemic.

Saturday, June 13: Will science be the new religion in the post-pandemic world? (9.30pm)

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates - Reporter: Anna Zacharias: Omar Ghobash as he steps into his new role at the office of cultural diplomacy. Monday, February 3rd, 2020. Abu Dhabi. Chris Whiteoak / The National

Ghobash, author of 2017's Letters to A Young Muslim, joins award-winning journalist and author of 2013's The First Muslim, Lesley Hazleton, in looking at how our increased reliance on science – a key feature of this pandemic – could impact our established series of beliefs such as faith, hope and trust.

More information about Literary Conversations Across Borders series is available at