MERI Forum 2024 will seek to:

  • Provide a forum for dialogue and the exchange of visions between policymakers, academics, and decision makers.
  • Develop creative and constructive answers and offer recommendations for today’s most pressing policy issues, focusing on the prospects for legitimate stability in the Middle East.
  • Highlight areas for further research that can contribute to greater understanding of the challenges facing the Middle East, now and in the future.

Forum themes and sessions:

Peace in the Levant

The Levant is home to the World’s most diverse ethno-religious communities, that had been integrated for millennia until the post WWI partition. Tragically, over the last century, the people of Levant, encompassed by the modern states of Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Jordan, suffered largely externally driven divisions, conflicts and devastating wars.  This legacy of conflict and external intrusion has generated immense challenges culminating in weakened states with polarised, militarised and largely impoverished communities. Drawing on a long history of shared resources, culture and traditions, it is time to focus policy makers and public minds on visions for long-term peace, stability and prosperity. It is time to build a platform to promote closer regional cooperation in the Levant, one which draws on the common history of the region, the close ties of its peoples and a common desire to escape the legacy of almost a century of violent conflict.

Iraq For All
Amidst numerous political, security, economic and environmental crises that have plagued the Middle East, Iraq is one of the worst affected. The Iraqi politics remains dominated by complex and rapidly shifting dynamics. This year’s Forum coincides with the second anniversary fo the inauguration of MS Al-Sudani’s government which adopted an ambitious program for  improving services, employment opportunities, diversification of the economy and greater investment in the country’s infrastructure. In this forum, a group of prominent policy- and decision-makers will share pertinent insights and communicate their vision about how the nation can serve all Iraqis.

Iraq and its International Partners
Iraq adopted a democratic constitution in 2005. However, this nascent democracy has faced numerous challenges to state-building, nation-building and democratisation projects, resulting in pervasive and lingering state fragility. Despite domestic and regional challenges, the international community continued to invest in supporting the pillars of democracy within Iraq: enhancing the capacity of state institutions, supporting the implementation of rule of law, and promoting the professionalisation of the security apparatus. At MERI Forum, we will engage with international partners to understand their strategies in our region and solicit their predictions for the future and map their ongoing role in moving the country forward. Furthermore, we shall try to benefit from the experience of other countries in Asia and Africa when tackling fragility and economic reform.

Beyond Barriers: Contours and Complexities of IDP Return
MERI has over the years conducted research on the barriers to internally displaced persons’ (IDPs) return. IDPs from Nineveh, particularly Yazidi from Sinjar and Christians in Nineveh Plain experience multiple layers of barriers, some of which are unarticulated, invisible in the context of existing societal concerns stemming from Nineveh’s history of violence and displacement. While millions of IDPs have returned, almost two hundred thousands remain in displacement. At this Forum, Participants will discuss the return needs of IDPs, and how local, national and geo-political dynamics affect this objective.

Iraq’s Economy
The on-going instability, protests and security challenges in Iraq are inextricably linked to the country’s decades-long financial and economic crises. Policy- and decision-makers in Iraq need to develop the will and determination to address the structural weaknesses of the economic system and initiate a radical reform programme. Iraq must reduce its dependence on the oil sector, diversify its economy and minimise the dominant role of the public sector in the economy. The country must modernise the underdeveloped financial system and develop prudent fiscal policies to support the private sector.

Erbil-Baghdad Relations
Over the past decade and a half, the KRG’s share of the federal budget and oil revenue has been the most significant point of tension between Erbil and Baghdad. An effective and sustainable resolution of this issue will require the two entities to interpret the constitution in a mutually agreeable way and to collectively legislate for permanent solutions. To date, however, no such resolution has been achieved. It is time for Erbil and Baghdad to practice total transparency in order to address this roadblock and move toward improved relations. It is time to generate the goodwill, and build confidence for this important process.