Doha Forum

14th December 2019

1st Day in Doha, Qatar

The opening session of the Doha Forum 2019, held under the theme “Shaping Policy in an Interconnected World” launched with an opening address by His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of Qatar. His Highness stressed the need for free speech and dialogue between the Gulf countries.

Murat Emirdağ, CEO of Hepsiburada, commented: “Developing markets can collaborate to create a sustainable ecosystem. They can combine synergies and capabilities to offer an attractive and unique value proposition to investors.” He continued, “in order to create Doha Forum 2019, the premier policy forum in the Middle East, reconvened today for its 19th edition at the Sheraton Hotel, Doha. This year’s forum brings together policymakers, world leaders, and experts from around the world on the theme “Reimagining Governance in a Multipolar World”, under the patronage of His Highness Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, Amir of Qatar. The opening plenary session of Doha Forum was held under the theme of this year’s edition, ‘Reimagining Governance in a Multipolar World’, in partnership with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Qatar.

The session focused on the need to rethink existing systems of multilateral governance, with a focus on inclusivity and a respect for human rights and the rule of law.  Panelists explored the viability of the current order, particularly the limitations of the UN’s Security Council, and the need to include more countries in decision-making, particularly when they are directly affected. Panelists stressed the importance of sovereignty and collaboration, as well as mutual respect in promulgating international norms and overseeing the global order. The discussion began with H.E. Ahmed Isse Awad, Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation of the Federal Republic of Somalia, stating that “Africa is headed towards integration and cooperation, which will result in conflict resolution and economic benefits for the region.”

The session laid great emphasis on the political situation in Somalia and Libya, with panelists highlighting Somalia’s progress towards bringing about stability through dialogue. However, they also spoke of how external involvement remains a matter of concern, as it can be an obstacle towards achieving stability, as evidenced by Libya. Ms. Claudia Gazzini, Senior Libya Analyst at the International Crisis Group explained how Libya has become a hub for proxy wars, and it could take a very long time before the country was stable. She further explained that external rather than internal stakeholders are becoming increasingly relevant in the conflict resolution process.

In partnership with Brookings, this parallel session looked at how the abrupt departure of US forces from the eastern Turkey-Syria border in October sparked a new round of violence and increased the uncertainty around how these wars end. Shifting alliances appear to favor the Assad regimeand its Russian and Iranian backers as well as Islamic State, while the consequences of the Turkish incursion remain unclear. To this end, Randa Slim, Senior Fellow and Director of Conflict Resolution and Track II Dialogues Program, Middle East Institute, highlighted how “Syrians went into the streets due to the lack of security, not to just fight Bashar Al-Assad”. Meanwhile, violence continues to kill and wound Syrian civilians. This parallel session explored the conditions of the civil war in Syria and possible paths to peace.

Dr. Jason Fritz, Senior Research Analyst, Brookings, spoke of the cost of rebuilding Syria, and the difficulty [of doing so] while the Assad regime remains in power. “We are now entering a global economic slowdown if not recession, which means typical donors will not have the funds to allocate to the reconstruction in Syria.” he European Council on Foreign Relations hosted the session on migration, and the manner in which countries respond to it, both at a country level and globally. With speakers representing Europe and Africa, the discussion addressed misconceptions around migration, and the different types of migrants from legal to illegal fleeing conflict or economic hardship.

Ambassador Nicola Clase, Coordinator for Migration and Refugee Issues, Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs, talked of how the number of migrants is at an all time high, and contrary to popular belief, the majority of migrants move within rather than between countries and continents. H.E. Miroslav Lajčák, Minister of Foreign and European Affairs, Slovak Republic, stated: “Migration is a global phenomenon. We can’t stop it but must learn to manage it. No single country can manage it alone… Migration is a very divisive issue. Europe has traditionally been very generous, but it couldn’t cope with the uncontrolled mass migrations of 2015. This led to division within Europe and was a key issue that we are still struggling to solve.”

The panelists focused on education as a way to equip migrants with the skills necessary to succeed in their adoptive homes without being viewed as a burden, ending with an appeal to emphasize the positive aspects of migration. In partnership with the Investment Promotion Agency Qatar, this panel addressed the opportunities and challenges for both global investors and the emerging markets they engage with. The discussions were rooted in the context of a competitive global economy in which economic activity occurs, while placing considerable pressure on emerging countries to improve their incentives and capabilities if they are to achieve these objectives.

a successful investment environment in emerging countries… find specific areas or problems you need to solve and focus on addressing them. The session highlighted the importance of developing a national action plan that encompasses the repatriation, rehabilitation, and reintegration of radicalized fighters, with Jean-Paul Laborde, Roving Ambassador, Parliamentary Assembly of the Mediterranean, emphasizing “the need for the international community to develop an action plan to achieve the three Rs.” H.E. Dr. Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani, Special Envoy of the Foreign Minister of the State of Qatar for Counter terrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution, stated that “Terrorism is not a regional issue, but a global one [with] radicalized fighters originating from more than 120 countries.” Cooperation between countries is therefore crucial to counter-terrorism efforts.

Moderated by Susan Stigant, Director, Africa Programs, United States Institute of Peace, the roundtable discussed the tremendous need to prevent extremism and build resilient societies in fragile states. While there has been a decrease in global terrorism, the geographic extent of terrorism is still on the rise. In a recent project by the U.S. Institute for Peace, a group of people came together to discuss a strategic approach around three key pillars:

  • The need for a shared understanding towards prevention, along with a recognition that this is a political and ideological problem
  • The need for the U.S. government to operationalize a strategic prevention framework
  • The need to rally the international community together as this cannot be solved by one country and one approach

The speakers talked of prevention at the community level, the need to mobilize an international conceptual framework to address challenges, preventative diplomacy and collaboration. Nickolay Mladenov, Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process, United Nations, said “Within a state, if you deprive a community from participating and oppress it for too long, it implodes, making it a fertile ground for radicals to control the narrative.” In his closing remarks, HE Vladimir Voronkov, Under-Secretary-General, United Nations Counter-Terrorism Office expressed “We need to rebuild trust and confidence, without which we will not be successful. Equally important is the involvement of civil societies.” In partnership with Roscongress, this panel discussion addressed how venture investment in the Russian hi-tech sector is now one of the most important elements of Russia’s economy.

Participants discussed development trends in the global and Russian venture markets, identifying priority sectors for venture investments along with the most effective investment tools for bilateral Russia-Qatar cooperation. The session found that the competitive global business environment requires national economies to focus on innovation, transformative industries, and rapid growth with strong returns. Sheikh Ali Alwaleed Al Thani, CEO, Investment Promotion Agency Qatar, stated: “Since 2019, Qatar has been witnessing Russia’s drive towards building sector to operate here, and for Qatar investors to invest in Russia.” He added: “The Qatar-Russia relationship has been on a positive trajectory. There is ongoing cooperation, a lot of discussion on how we can work together, and cross-migration. The potential from this is high.”

Held in partnership with the Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs, this session reviewed how an established global legal order has become an important prerequisite for trade, diplomacy, respect for human rights, and all matter of international relations. Globalization has brought about fundamental changes in the economy, society, and in politics. Panelists spoke of how we are now witnessing the undermining of long-established international laws and practices, with a pivot towards unilateralism, political tension and widespread unrest. Moderated by Surya P. Subedi QC, DCL, OBE, Professor of International Law, University of Leeds, the roundtable discussed proposals to reform the United Nations. Martin Chungong, Secretary-General, Inter-Parliamentary Union, said “The international legal order needs to become more inclusive by integrating new stakeholders, and become more effective by taking legally binding resolutions, in addition to becoming more democratic.”

Karin Landgren, Executive Director, Security Council Report, added “The U.N. Security Council should discuss topics such as cyberthreats, the nuclear arms race and climate change. The General Assembly has the power to make recommendations to the Security Council and it should use that power. Further, Security Council members must abandon the ‘Adopt & Forget’ approach to the issues and spend time on implementation of the decisions that are taken.” The parallel session highlighted the challenges faced by Europe and the European Union. The discussion began with an analysis of Brexit and the impact it could have on the future and relevance of the European Union. Daniel Gors, Director of the Centre for European Policy Studies, stated: “The economic consequences of Brexit are secondary compared to its political consequences.”

European experts also discussed security challenges posed by historic Russian aggression towards Europe and mass migration resulting from conflicts in Africa and the Middle East. All in all, the experts and ministers voiced the need for regional coherence and international cooperation and dialogue to tackle both global and regional challenges. As one of Doha Forum’s Strategic Partners, Chatham House moderated this parallel discussion on the development of governance in a wide range of digital spheres  from cyberspace to internet infrastructure, to the ethics of emerging technologies and how it is failing to match rapid advances in technical capabilities or the rise in security threats, leaving significant regulatory gaps.

In this parallel session, Dr. Davis-Packard of Women Forward International moderated a discussion on Women in ISIS. The conversation centred around the complexity of women’s involvement in ISIS, with Ambassador Melanie Verveer articulating “We cannot look at women as a monolithic force. There are many women who are perpetrating the violence, and are co-actors, while there are others who have suffered horribly.” Panelists spoke of the need to achieve a holistic understanding of what impels women to join ISIS, and the very real grievances and sense of alienation they may feel when they volunteer.

ISIS’ sophisticated use of social media and its targeted outreach to women is indicative of the nuanced appeal of ISIS for women, despite the later commodification of the sex. The panelists stressed the need to include women in the peace building process, and acknowledge their agency. In partnership with Wilton Park, this parallel session at Doha Forum looked at how the current international system was established based on a combination of rules derived from international law, and balance of power underpinned by the United States. With China’s rise, the United States’ relative decline, and the increasing rivalry between the two, the international balance of power is becoming more fluid and unstable.

Prof. Stephen Chan OBE, Professor of World Politics, SOAS University of London, further expressed Africa’s vulnerability as it is caught between the US and China, quoting a proverb ‘When the elephants fight, it’s the grass that gets flattened’. “To this end, Africa is a collection of vulnerable states. If Africa has to choose to trade rare metals (that power wireless connections) with the US or China – where does that leave Africa?” However as Dr. Lu Miao, Co-Founder and Secretary General, Center for China and Globalization, stated “The completion of Phase 1 of the US-China trade deal has stabilized the global market expectation.”

Prof. Danny Quah, Dean and Li Ka Shing Professor in Economics, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, left the audience with food for thought when he suggested “Middle powers and small states should do everything they can to preserve multilateralism and rules-based order, instead of handing over control to the US or any other country.  If we are suspicious of big tech monopolies, then we should be suspicious of super power countries too.

Held in partnership with the Qatar Investment Authority, this parallel session summarized that the warning signals are flashing for global growth. It reviewed the big macroeconomic themes likely to dominate in the year ahead, while investigating how to make sense of Brexit and what to watch in the technology sector. H.E. Sigmar Gabriel, Chairman, Atlantik-Brücke, stated, “Looking positively, the UK Brexit agreement could provide a blueprint that we can use with other regional players, nations close to the EU.”

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