Monday 12, October 2015

Abu Dhabi – MENA Herald: An inclusive political and military effort is needed to resolve the ongoing conflict in some Arab countries, according to leading experts addressing a rapt audience at the second day of Beirut Institute Summit in Abu Dhabi.

Moderated by Becky Anderson, Host of CNN International’s Connect the World, the third session of day two of Beirut Institute Summit, entitled “Where Do We Go From Here? The Future for a Roiling Region”, hosted a number of International foreign affairs experts including His Excellency Mohamed Dayri, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of Libya; Gen (Ret.) David H Petraeus, Member and Chairman of the KKR Global Institute; Dr Philip Gordon, Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations; Sigrid Kaag, United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon; Khalid Abdulla Janahi, Chairman of Naseej Co. & Solidarity Group Holding, and Karim Sadjadpour, Senior Associate, Middle East Program at Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Referring to the current instability in some Arab countries, His Excellency Mohamed Dayri said: “Security is essential for rebuilding conflict torn countries, and ultimately this requires strong armed forces. However, the international community must also do more to facilitate national reconciliation and help develop civil society, especially through investment in healthcare and education.”

Alluding to the same issue, General Petraeus observed: “The key to resolving conflicts in Iraq and Syria is the adoption of a comprehensive, inclusive approach that focuses on broad based politics in Baghdad to bring Sunnis back into the fold and offers support to moderate groupings across Syria. Russian involvement in Syria complicates such efforts.”

“Ultimately, the solution cannot be a military one, though a military effort could create the necessary space for a political solution,” added General Petraeus.

Dr Philip Gordon added with regard to Syria: “So long as we have raging wars and sectarian civil and geopolitical strife then it is impossible to realise the economic potential of the region. It is as simple as that. What needs to happen now is that all sides must immediately de-escalate and focus on a political and diplomatic compromise. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the Russian presence in Syria, intended to secure their interests, may provide a new opportunity.”

Dr Gordon warned that “unless the sectarian divide across the Arab region is addressed by community leaders, all the military and political will in the world‎ will not solve these fundamental problems.”

Turning to the economic sphere, Sigrid Kaag said: “We need to invest in a knowledge based economy in the region. While there are many sound recommendations made, there is a deficiency in the ability of states and private sectors to follow through on these. I think we need a renewed drive for drastic reforms in many regional states, though this is likely to be a long term process.”

“Religious identity has been mostly used to oppress and to manipulate and channel personal agendas and not necessarily for a good cause. It is our responsibility as an international community to not feed that frenzy and help oppress it,” added Kaag.

Calling for a new social contract between the rulers and their people, Khalid Janahi said: “We must see change through sustainable economic development and ask ourselves if we are we dealing with the regimes or dealing with the people?  Instead of holding each other’s hands and thinking about what we can do to change the situation, we have been so negative in dealing with our problems.”

Janahi added: “Retaining the status quo is not going to work. Rather than being scared of what’s next, we should be actively asking the people what they want and deal with the issues without the help of mediators from outside the region.”

Contrasting the legacy of conflict and potential for a better future in the region, Karim Sadjadpour said: “The fact is that we are dealing with generations of people in this region who have lived their lives under horrific circumstances. When we talk about job creation and measures to empower people for the future, I would suggest that the most valuable profession to invest in is mental health, in order to help break the cycle of oppression and help the population heal.”

Set to conclude today (October 11), Beirut Institute Summit seeks to explore the Arab region’s challenges and potential through integrated inter-disciplinary perspectives that move beyond a traditional understanding of the concepts of “political economy” and “security threats”.  Among the issues under the spotlight at the open-door plenary sessions are the role of smart cities, Arab women’s viewpoints and the relationship between ideas and policy.

Saudi-based ACWA Power is supporting the Summit as gold sponsor, with Consolidated Contractors Company (CCC) as silver sponsor, and the UAE’s national carrier, Etihad Airways as the official airline partner. A.T. Kearney is supporting the Summit as the exclusive Knowledge Partner.