Setting the Scene for MERI Forum 2018: Visions for Stabilising the Middle East
Dlawer Ala’Aldeen, President of MERI
23 October, 2018
MERI Forum 2018 is held at a very sensitive time when the entire Middle East remains in turmoil. Local, regional and international powers are heavily engaged in rivalries, while the Kurdistan Region and the rest of Iraq are entangled in conflicts and wars.
Obviously, the rival powers are not adequately engaged in dialogues among themselves for settling disputes or stabilising the region. Instead, they have resorted to more violence to solve problems, generating never-ending crises. Communities are increasingly polarised and militarised while ordinary citizens are paying the price.
Fortunately, this year’s two general elections for Iraq’s and Kurdistan Region’s Parliaments and the processes of forming new governments in both Baghdad and Erbil created a new environment and brought about new opportunities for national reconciliation, improving the governing system, institutionalisation and the rule of law. It is time for Iraq’s leaders and decision-makers, with the help of the international community, to implement reforms and reconcile with their citizens. Failing that, the factors of destabilisation are still plenty and extremist forces like Islamic State (IS) are still active among us, ready to dominate again. If the leaders fail to address the structural and functional weaknesses of the governing system as a matter of top priority, the people of Basrah, Mosul and Anbar and other cities may express their anger violetly and threaten the very existence of Iraq as a state. This is why MERI, in its research projects, pays great deal of attention to identifying the structural and functional weaknesses of the governing system and offer solution as well as help with the solutions.
MERI Forum 2018 is designed along the lines of MERI’s research activities. Over the past year, we carried out an extensive project on restructuring and empowering the local governments, Parliament and judiciary council in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq (KRI), and published the results in a book, with numerous policy recommendations for addressing the weaknesses of the governing system. We then began to study the structure of Ninevah’s local government as a representative sample of Iraq’s over all governing system, particularly the provinces that are not organised as Regions. We are well aware that both Baghdad and Erbil governments have made reform their priority. Hence, two panels (one & five) are dedicated to debating these issues at this Forum.
A major part of MERI’s research from 2014-2018 was dedicated to issues relating to the war on ISIS, stabilisation and reconstruction of the liberated areas, reconciliation between the various communities and the issues of the internally displace people. In the near future, we will start a comprehensive project on the future of the displaced people and how an environment conducive to their return home can be created.
As part of our activities, MERI paid great attention to constructive dialogue both internally and externally. During the past years, MERI has conducted series of open and closed debates and dialogues among the rival powers to help stabilise the region, away from violence. For instance, after last year’s referendum and the subsequent stalemate between Baghdad and Erbil, there was a need for ending the deadlock and reducing tensions. MERI took the initiative, in collaboration with Al-Rafidain Centre, and initiated the first step in opening dialogue between the political leaders on both sides. It was in February 2018 and in the holly city of Al-Najaf where we engaged the group of speakers who are now taking part in panel two of the Forum and discuss power sharing trust building.
For the sake of stability in other parts of Kurdistan in the neighbouring counters, MERI encourages all Kurdish political parties to look back at their experiences in a realistic and self-critical manner, and communicate new visions on how to win their political and civil rights and play important roles in stabilising their countries. MERI organised many events to stimulate dialogue between them, and here at this Forum a panel (three) is organised to complement our previous efforts.
Meanwhile, in a number of research projects and publications, MERI studied the policies of regional powers, such as Turkey, Iran and Saudi Arabia, and international powers, such as the USA, Russia and European member states. We wanted the public in the Middle Eastern understand these powers’ policies, and encouraged their leaders to engage in constructive dialogue to help stabilise this important part of the World, and save us from crises, rivalries and wars. This is the main purpose for organising panels six and seven of this Forum.
In addition, MERI collaborated with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI) and a number of European universities and think tanks, and obtained financial support from the EU within the framework of Horizon 2020 program. We conducted a three-year project on the European Union’s policy in our region, and the fourth panel of this Forum is part of this line of research.
We should not underestimate the importance and impact of the participants’ debate in this Forum. Most of the delegates are in positions that can influence the governing system and the decision-making processes. With their help, stability can be facilitated and the foundation of a peaceful region, where rule-of-law and good governance can be achieved, is laid down. The processes of dialogue, reconciliation and finding solution for the complex crises must be institutionalized, and through state- and nation-building a better environment conducive to peaceful coexistence can be created.
Here, it is necessary to remind the decision makers that successful reconciliation and nation-building will not succeed without the active participation of the more important half of the society, i.e women, our sisters, mothers, daughters and partners. It is no a secret that currently in Iraq the role of women among decision-makers and policy makers is evidently ignored. Not only they have become victims of displacement and their rights have been violated in various ways, but also they have been denied their roles and equal opportunity in leadership and the decision making process. Embarrassingly, this phenomenon is reflected in membership of our panels too. Therefore, it is expected from the top leaders to ensure that when new legislations and regulations are produced in accordance to the constitution, women’s share should be protected in the entire system of governance.