The Regional Peace&Security Project in Beirut, together with its partner IFI (Issam Fares Institute at the American University of Beirut) organized the first edition of the Beirut Security Debates to unpack the meaning of global shifts for the Middle East and North Africa region (MENA).
On January 26-27, 2023, experts from around the world came together at IFI to discuss with each other under the title “Geopolitical Shifts and Global Crises: What Implications for the Middle East?” what is unfolding and what is to be expected throughout the region and beyond.
In his opening remark, the project director for the Regional Peace&Security Project of FES, Marcus Schneider, noted that from a European point of view, the current state of global affairs has paved the way for geopolitics as a “category of analysis”. It is, however, not yet determined whether the Russian war on Ukraine leads to a comeback of the collective “West” and its commitment to a rules-based international order or can be interpreted as a sign of its demise. IFI director Dr. Joseph Bahout said that to understand the global system and its developments we must not only analyze hard security but also soft and human security. This is exactly what this conference did: starting with the analysis of the global shifts that came to the surface with the Russian War on Ukraine and then zooming in on Lebanon, Iran, as well as geo-economics, the effects of climate change and the state of the Women, Peace, Security Agenda in the region.
The conference’s panel discussions covered six workshops and accompanying discussions, namely: “Middle East Crises amidst Global Shifts and Rise of New Regional Powers”, “Lebanon, How Deep is the Abyss?”, “The Iranian Unknown post-JCPOA: Domestic and Geopolitical Implications of the Current Protest Movement”, “Regional Issues of Soft Security”, “MENA Economies and Global Geo-economics”, and “Europe and the MENA Region; Is There a Security Architecture in Sight?”
One of the speakers, Egyptian senator Dr. Abdel Monem Said Aly Abdelaal, argued that “this war [in Ukraine] is a symptom of revising the world system”, adding that we are witnessing the emergence of a new bipolar world order between the US and China.
In his concluding remarks, Dr. Joseph Bahout concluded that the discussions underline that there is no clear definition of the current international system, that the so-called “Middle East” is now in disorder and seems to be left alone for the first time in centuries, potentially even posing a chance to define its own course. Undeniably, the geo-economic shifts in the region are pushing oil-producing countries to diversify their economies; however, these attempts have been halted by ongoing global events such as the war on Ukraine and other regional and global shifts in power.
A full summary report of the conference will be posted on the FES Regional Peace & Security Project and IFI websites soon.