NNA – Abu Dhabi - The “Beirut Institute” Summit Edition II kicked off in Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates on May 12, 2018, bringing together high-level leaders and officials, who shed light on the paramount importance of having Arab countries work hand-in-hand in a bid to build a sound future for the region.
The importance of this summit is really based on the fact that the region is witnessing accelerated developments in technical, geopolitical, social and economic aspects,” HRH Prince Turki Al Faisal, Chairman of the Board at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, and Member of the Board of Directors at Beirut Institute, said during the opening ceremony of the two-day summit, titled “Constructing the Arab Region’s Engagement in the Emerging Global Future.”
Beirut Institute Summit is a collaborative initiative impacting the Region, proactively. Its focus is on designing actionable policies and innovative solutions to turn back the forces of destruction and advance the construction of the Arab Region’s engagement in the emerging global future.
HRH Al Faisal went on to stress that “transformation” was a critical word for the summit. “We are in constant transformation, not just in this region, but globally. So, if we manage to bring to light the transformations and their impact and follow-up on their developments, maybe, just maybe, we can do it, because we are in a rapidly-changing world and we may be able to reach a number of solutions to tackle the region’s issues and challenges,” he maintained.
The Prince also mentioned “intersection” as another critical word. He said all the continents of the globe were interacting, using social medial platforms, which represent today a “dictator” that has unparalleled control over the entire world.
“This intersection between those civilizations is what gathers us today,” he added. “But it is sometimes the element that drives us away from each other. We witness this in all countries of the Arab world – we must do our best to work together to make this intersection a positive one, and not one that drives us away from each other.”
On her part, Raghida Dergham, Founder and Executive Chairman of Beirut Institute, spoke of the importance of the summit as a continuous dialogue and conversation. “It is not just about making a few keynote speeches or addresses, it is an ongoing dialogue,” she said. “We are no longer viewed as failed states, we are not perceived as a conflict-ridden region. We are leading states and highly-capable states, we have great diversity, which we celebrate. And, among us, there are countries that look forward to a brighter future.”
Dergham highlighted the importance of honesty and openness. “I appreciate those who participated in the summit’s first edition,” she said. “They returned to be part of this family that persists on speaking a language of building a positive future and collaboration.”
She also thanked HRH Prince Al Faisal for the added value he brought in to the institute. “He was one of the top loyal figures in this institute,” she explained. “He was the first to defend the title of Beirut Institute, saying Beirut is the lung that breathes oxygen into the Arab body.”
In turn, HE Noura bint Mohammed Al Kaabi, Minister of Culture and Knowledge Development for the United Arab Emirates, said the institute had a global role to play.
“What is going on in the region and the Arab world impacts the entire world,” she said. “I praise this summit for its pioneering role in discovering the critical dimensions of the Arab world, and in discovering all of the new political, strategic and economic changes to develop a roadmap for the future of the region.”
She spoke of the vision and values of tolerance of the late Sheikh Zayed, the founding father of the UAE. “The UAE is a country of tolerance,” she said. “Today, the language of hope is the language we should start speaking with. The major challenges we are facing require politicians and decision-makers to set a clear strategy that shapes the future and enables the youth, cultivates society and ends the extremist thinking used by terrorist groups.”
HE Al Kaabi spoke of working on sustainable future strategies, which require economic diversification, and paint a bright future for the generations to come. “This is what we are working on in the UAE,” she concluded. “We always hope that in every edition, there should be a clear roadmap into spreading the positive message. Our region deserves the best and it is also the region in which we should create hope.”
In an interview with NNA, former Arab League Secretary General, Amr Moussa, said that the current summit was a remarkable opportunity to exchange ideas. “Working as a Think Tank is essential, especially amidst the prevailing circumstances,” he said, stressing the need to share ideas about the future and to re-structure the Arab political life. He also underlined the need to build solid grounds for regional cooperation and its conditions.
Former US General David Petraeus, told the NNA that “Beirut Institute” was one of the great conveners in the region. “Beirut Institute has a track record of bringing together people with different views, promoting dialogue among them, and trying to come out with useful policy recommendations in the end. It is always a pleasure and a privilege to be engaged in Beirut institute events, especially the summit editions,” Petraeus added.
Also interviewed by the NNA, Lebanese Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, Fouad Chehab Dandan, described the summit as the outcome of “massive efforts” to bring together senior officials from all across the world.
“This is the first time that I take part in this summit, which is indeed the outcome of massive efforts to bring together senior officials from all across the world; having them sit together and discuss regional affairs under one umbrella, is nothing but the outcome of very impressive endeavors,” Dandan said.
The Lebanese diplomat went on to deem talks that were being held by Beirut Summit of great importance to the entire region. “This summit is a great opportunity for regional and international political experts, as well as people like me, to meet and discuss regional affairs, and most importantly share and learn from each other’s experiences,” he explained.
“This summit is also an occasion to reflect on the problems that the region had endured in the past, as well as to assess our current situation and seek the best means to resolve our problems -- based on our reflections and assessments. Each one of us has come here with a bundle of expertise that could give an added value to those who lack the much-needed vision, and could make use of others’ expertise,” Dandan added in his word to NNA.
“Each country has its own set of circumstances through which it could benefit from the summit’s resolutions. Lebanon, for instance, could make use of the resolutions that are relevant to its particular status, and those that could benefit the Lebanese society best. Of course, Lebanese policy makers will try to make the best use of any resolution that proves to be beneficial for the country’s best interest,” Dandan concluded.
UK Minister of State for the Middle East and North Africa, Rt Hon Alistair Burt MP, told the NNA that it was high time to hold such global talks, especially in light of the new conflicts that have been shaking the region.
“This summit couldn’t come at a better time. There is so much going on in the region; there are positive things in terms of elections taking place, yet there are very dark and dangerous things in terms of potential new conflicts taking place, so it is a good time for people to come together,” Burt said.
He added that the United Kingdom’s one specific message at the summit was to urge those in the region to do everything they could to avoid a sharp division on so many different issues.
“Everybody now seems to want to create a situation in which you are either with them, or you’re totally against them. The world isn’t like that; there are situations where you have got to understand the other side in order to try and get the compromise needed to diffuse the situation and move on. I think the United Kingdom has a role in trying to encourage that process. But this doesn’t mean ignoring things that are dangerous, yet it does mean looking for alternatives to confrontation,” Burt explained.
“As a politician and a diplomat, all I can say is that it is very rare that talking serves no purpose, and it is very important to have the conversation; it is equally important that something comes from these talks. We are all better educated and better informed by such sessions. Those of us who are decision makers and opinion formers need to use that, and we need to work with those who are making decisions elsewhere,” the UK Minister of Stated told NNA.
In an exclusive interview to NNA, Senior Fellow for Middle Eastern Studies at the Foreign Relations Council, Elliot Abrams, said that meeting at Beirut Summit was a great opportunity to get people from every country in the region, and from outside the region, to come and try to think together and share some useful ideas about solving problems -- not just the future of the Arab world, but also in the service of specific problems.
“Is there anything that can be done for example in Yemen and Libya that would actually help reduce the amount of violence and eventually lead to a solution? I hope that’s the kind of practical things that would come out of this summit,” Abrams added.
“One of the important things that had been brought up during our discussions is the matter of decentralization. In a lot of countries, the national government is sometimes very inefficient and there’s a lot of corruption and it’s unable to really deliver much. On the other hand, sometimes community leaders or tribal leaders are actually more in touch with citizens and enjoy a better ability to deliver concrete benefits to citizens,” Abrams told NNA.
======================Rana Hajj/Lina Younis