The MERI Forum 2015 was hailed as a great success, consolidating our record since last year’s inaugural MERI Forum 2014. MERI Forum 2015 focused on Sharing Visions for the Future of the Middle East, and brought together senior ranking national and international policymakers, world renowned academics, and opinion-makers who engaged in spirited debates on wide-ranging topics from the Kirkuk conundrum, combating ISIS, the displacement crisis, the Iran nuclear deal and its implications for the regional politics, the political crisis in Kurdistan, Erbil-Baghdad relations and the challenges of keeping Iraq united. As in 2014, this second annual Forum generated lively debates both inside and outside the conference hall, by engaging the delegates as well as viewers who watched the debates via MERI’s live-stream or the numerous national and international media outlets.
In convening such high-level panels and making room for the participation of diplomats, government officials, civil society representatives, and media, the MERI Forum 2015 fostered greater debate and, more importantly, action on these issues. An important and concrete outcome of the Forum, for example, was the Kurdish political parties agreeing to stop using their media platforms for slandering campaigns against one another and to continue dialogue to end the political stalemate. MERI will continue to serve as a neutral institution providing space for discussion to resolve this crisis and pave the way for more inclusive and open political debate. For the years to come, the Kurdistan Region will need an impartial platform committed to fostering high level and content-based debate.
This document reports in detail on the MERI Forum 2015 and summarises the debate in each session, and accurately reflects the contributions of each panellist individually. It is a document rich of speaker quotes, echoing the actual debates during the Forum. The concluding section is dedicated to describing how dialogue generated during the Annual Forum connects to MERI’s research and public activities for the coming year. We hope this document will be a reliable reference of high interest to policymakers, academics, media and the wider public.