Spotlight on...

Rana Zincir-Celal

Deputy Director of the Atlantic Fellows programme, III

I feel that the Atlantic Fellows community will be a key force in paving the way for new vocabularies on equity, justice and fairness to be more widely embraced

 Rana Zincir Celal spotlight

What, for you, is the most exciting part of the Atlantic Fellows programme?

There are many exciting things about the Atlantic Fellows programme. It’s very global in its outlook, which you can see with the incredible group of Fellows from around the world in our first cohort. After attending our inaugural summer school here in London in July, the Non-Residential Atlantic Fellows will attend additional short courses in Cape Town and again in London throughout the year, where they'll also interact with the Residential and Visiting Atlantic Fellows.  

We're also developing long-term partnerships with organisations around the world, which will significantly extend the programme's global reach and impact. We’re only one of six Atlantic programmes, with the others based in Australia, South Africa, Southeast Asia, and the US. Within our own programme, we’re already working with University of Cape Town, Young Foundation and Oxfam, and will soon form new partnerships in South America and Asia.  To be serious about challenging the pervasive, interconnected and deep-rooted nature of inequality, it’s imperative that we think and act globally.

We also have to be creative, nuanced and bold. That means adapting how we think about, study and teach inequality, integrating different perspectives and new voices, and taking on cutting-edge strategies and approaches.  As the community of Fellows and partners grows over time, I feel that the Atlantic Fellows programme has both the commitment and the potential to be a leading player in working towards all of this.

 

Where do you see the Atlantic Fellows programme in 10 years?

Atlantic Fellows come from such different fields, such as journalism, the arts, the public sector, grassroots organisations, philanthropy, to name just a few.  They will make an enormous and real difference in the world, and not just in their own communities, organisations and fields. Their collective impact will be even broader. I feel that the Atlantic Fellows community will be a key force in paving the way for new vocabularies on equity, justice and fairness to be more widely embraced, so that in 10 years, how power and leadership play out in public life - and especially the economy - will be completely different than what we see today. 

 

What is the most memorable place you’ve visited?

So hard to choose only one!  

I’ll never forget walking through the “dead zone,” which is within the ceasefire line dividing the city of Nicosia - and the island of Cyprus.  At times, only a few meters separate the Turkish Cypriot soldiers on one side, Republic of Cyprus forces on the other, with UN peacekeepers patrolling the delicate space in between. It's been completely frozen in time since 1974. As you walk down what were once bustling streets of shops and cafes, you see that posters from that era still hang on the walls; on tables you find plates, utensils and cola bottles, all covered in a dense dust.  Even so, you do sense that it was once the most thriving part of the city, a crossroads for Cypriots of all backgrounds – Turkish, Greek, Armenian, Maronite. With almost no human activity other than military patrols for more than 40 years, the vegetation is at its most raw and natural state.  

Another memorable experience was in the city of Kars in eastern Turkey, where a friend, the scientist Cagan Sekercioglu established a fantastic NGO called Kuzeydoga, to study and protect the bio-cultural diversity of that region.  To welcome us on our first evening there, he took us on “safari” to the local garbage dump.  As he flashed a light across dark heaps of rotting, steaming garbage, we suddenly saw that we were surrounded by about 15 bears, who’d been forced to start feeding as threats to their own natural habitat have grown over the years.  It was an extraordinary and disconcerting experience, not to mention a little terrifying.

And finally I’ll never forget attending the Festival of a Thousand Stars in Arba Minch in southern Ethiopia,  where 56 different tribal groups, who had travelled for days on end from far-flung villages across that part of the country to perform their own traditional dances and music for three full, exhilarating days.

I suppose these three experiences remind me of how intertwined culture and nature are, and of the power of both ordinary and extraordinary human actions.