The ceremony featured welcoming remarks from keynote speakers, including Dr. Abdulhakim Elwaer of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), emphasizing FAO's commitment to empowering leaders who can steer their nations towards sustainable and equitable food systems.

Delegates also heard from Rt Hon Andrew Mitchell MP, Minister of State for Development and Africa of the United Kingdom, emphasized the UK government's commitment to supporting food security and sustainable development in the NENA region through partnerships like THRIVE Academy.

Their addresses highlighted the critical importance of equipping decision-makers to tackle the complex challenges facing food systems, such as climate change impacts, environmental sustainability, food security, and nutrition. 

The first day of the five-day academy focused on the theme of "Harmonizing Leadership: Co-Creating Common Language." Sessions demonstrated how participants can collectively reflect on their own leadership styles and develop shared understanding and communication capacities needed to drive collective action on food systems. The region is struggling with multifaceted issues surrounding food and water management, which can be addressed through creating common language. The issue of communication is complex, even more so when decision making depends on the power of explanation, the ability to listen and appreciate nuance. 

“This is a groundbreaking collaboration between the FAO and the University of Cambridge to move the region to equip high-level policymakers with state-of-the-art skills and tools for evidence-based decision-making on food systems.” ~ Dr Ahmad Muktar, Senior Economist & Head of Strategy and Policy, FAO RNE.


Over the following four days, participants from 19 NENA nations took part in immersive workshops and exercises applying systems thinking, scenario analysis, collaborative intelligence and other approaches to address interlinked challenges related to policy, finance, environment, nutrition and more.