“The Arab world is living in a bipolar landscape. We cannot get out of the bottlenecks that face us in the region without some serious efforts,” Fouad Siniora, former Prime Minister of Lebanon, told a panel discussion on “The Future of the Arab region 2030.”
“Politicians in Lebanon have taken the reins of power to boost their profits at the cost of its people. If this corruption continues, and leaders in power disregard the people’s demands, Lebanon will remain vulnerable to economic and security issues,” he said, adding that corruption needed an institutional solution.
He said, “I believe we need to have honest, open and transparent dialogues between decision makers and citizens to successfully implement reforms in the region.”
Dr Marwan Muasher, former Deputy Prime Minister and former Minister of Jordan, who also spoke, said, “In Iraq and Lebanon, citizens have become increasingly dissatisfied with the gradual reforms and are no longer willing to accept the authoritarian regimes or political systems in power. They have called for an end to sectarian regimes and their representatives.”
Dr Muasher added, “I believe the Arab world is stuck between the rock of reforms and the hard place of the current situation. If we remain as we are, in 10 years, the world will be way ahead of us. There are many issues that have become a thing of the past, and other developed nations don’t pay heed to them anymore. We are lagging behind in the Arab world.”
The session was moderated by Emad El Din Adeeb.
Race for relevance
At an earlier session on “The Race for Relevance and Influence in the Region: GCC, Iran, Turkey & Russia”, moderated by CNN’s Becky Anderson, Dr Elena Suponina, Advisor at the Russian Institute for Strategic Studies, said: “Russia has always maintained friendly relations with the Middle East region. The Russian people want to see the conflicts resolved here. Despite challenges, both economic and political, we can integrate our efforts to create a long-term solution to the issues plaguing the region. It is strange not to combine our efforts when we all want the same thing. Rebuilding Syria should be one of our biggest concerns – Russia welcomes the GCC region, the United States and China, among others, to come together to restore the country.”
Dr Abdulaziz Bin Sager, Founder and Chairman of the Gulf Research Centre, said, “The GCC states are witness to a lot of promises and initiatives that other countries offer to the region…Russia does want to strengthen relations and build more associations, but even in trade, it is not as strong an alliance as China.”
He added, “Solid efforts need to be made to rebuild conflicted areas in the region. A country like Syria needs to be overseen by a powerful group that will work towards its betterment.”
Karim Sadjadpour, Senior Fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said, “After 40 years of a clerical regime and a military autocracy, there is now a rise of Persian nationalism in Iran. This is a shift from the sheer revolution ideology. There is also the evolution of the identity of the Arab Shia.”
Speaking about war-afflicted countries, he added, “Mental health and post-traumatic stress disorder are the major challenges that nations like Syria and Yemen will face in decades to come. Ancillary effects like radicalism will pose a threat.”
Professor Hüseyin Bağcı, Chair of International Relations Department at Middle East Technical University and Deputy Director of Foreign Policy Institute in Ankara, also spoke.