The Middle East Leadership Initiative (MELI) -- a collaborative venture between the Aspen Institute and a consortium of leading regional sponsors -- seeks to develop a new generation of community-spirited leaders in the Middle East. Using the time-tested Institute method of text-based dialogue and building upon the Institute’s commitment to values-based, action-oriented leadership, the program will provide the tools and perspectives necessary for effective, enlightened leadership in business, government and the nonprofit sector – and in society at-large.  The Middle East Leadership Initiative is made possible by the generous support of the Saudi Telecom Company, Booz & Co and the Danny Kaye and Sylvia Fine Kaye Foundation.

MELI Fellows join more than 2,100 other Fellows from 49 countries to become members of the Aspen Global Leadership Network (AGLN).  The AGLN is comprised of accomplished leaders who have participated in one of the Henry Fellowship modeled leadership initiatives designed to help Fellows move from personal "success to significance."



Click here to nominate a candidate for the fifth class of the Middle East Leadership Initiative. Please direct any questions to Julie Song, Program Manager, at

Each class of is comprised of 20-24 Fellows who are between the ages of 30 and 45 when selected and hail from across the Middle East. Fellows, nominated by recognized local business, government and community leaders, are men and women who:

  • have already achieved significant success in their fields of endeavor;
  • have demonstrated their potential for future leadership at the very highest levels;
  • come from diverse backgrounds in terms of occupation, industry, political leaning, ethnicity, religion and gender.

The 18-month curriculum, which has been designed specifically for the Middle East Leadership Initiative, comprises four seminars of 5-6 days each and a required leadership project of the Fellow's own design and choosing.  Three of the seminars will be held in the region, with the third seminar in the series of four – Leading in an Era of Globalization¬ – being held in locations in the US, Central America, Africa, the Middle East and India.  During this third seminar, Fellows will have the opportunity to mix with other Fellows from across the Aspen Global Leadership Network.  



raed kaldiRaed Kaldi is the managing director of the Middle East Leadership Initiative. He began his career in the United States three decades ago in the field of professional and personal development. He led leadership courses for both individuals and companies, including American Express, IBM and KPMG. He joined Andersen Consulting in their change management practice.  He advised Frito Lay and the Texas child and adult welfare agency, among other clients.  Raed’s organizational change work led him to move to the Middle East to become the managing director of a communications firm based in Saudi Arabia that was undergoing significant operational and human resources challenges. Within a short span of time, Raed led the firm to become the largest independent communications company in Saudi Arabia.  More recently, Raed was co-founder of two IT startups, one based in New York City, and the other in Saudi Arabia.  Raed’s background in seminar facilitation, his knowledge running businesses and projects, and his experience working and living in both the United States and the Middle East further guide his work as managing director of MELI. Raed received his master's degree in organizational psychology from Columbia University.

julie songJulie Song is the program manager for the Middle East Leadership Initiative and the China Fellowship Program at the Aspen Global Leadership Network.  She was previously the Project Coordinator for the Project on U.S. Relations with the Islamic World at the Brookings Institution's Center for Middle East Policy. In this capacity, she helped organize the annual U.S.-Islamic World Forum, held in Washington DC and Doha, Qatar, as well as all other events for the Project. She has also served as a Brent Scowcroft Award Fellow at the Aspen Strategy Group and as a research assistant for the Advocacy Planning and Evaluation Program. She has a BA in International Studies from the Johns Hopkins University and an MSc in Middle East Politics from the University of London's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS).