Arab Center Washington DC is dedicating its seventh annual conference to the issue of securitization in the Middle East and North Africa, the growth of which has led to greater economic and social insecurity for the vast majority of the region’s population. Why do new regional and global alliances emphasise military cooperation and regime security over long-term economic and social development, governance reform, and the cessation of conflict? How does foreign aid affect the region’s long-term interests? What is behind the contradiction in US policy regarding human rights on the one hand and military aid and diplomatic support for autocratic regimes on the other? What are the prospects for Arab cooperation on climate change, climate integration, and environmental protection policies? How has the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated the region’s human security crisis—and what impact has this had on refugee communities and other vulnerable populations?

This conference, to be held on 12-13 October, will also assess the impact and implications of shifting global and regional security alliances and will provide recommendations for US policy going forward.

The first day of the conference will begin with a keynote entitled Western Policy Toward the Middle East and North Africa: Anything but Human Rights, given by former Human Rights Watch Executive Director Kenneth Roth and moderated by Arab Center Washington DC Executive Director Khalil E. Jahshan. The keynote discusses the impact and implications of hyper-securitization, military investments, and weapons industries on human rights and human security in the Middle East and North Africa, as well as their relationship to social and economic development and governance reform.

Session I, entitled Regional Security Concerns and Shifting Global and Regional Alliances, will feature a panel including Omar Ashour, Professor of Security and Military Studies at the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies, Founding Director of the Critical Security Studies Graduate Program (MCSS), and Director of the Strategic Studies Unit at the ACRPS; Marina Calculli, University Lecturer in the Faculty of Humanities at Leiden University; Banafsheh Keynoush, an international geopolitical consultant, scholar, and author, as well as Non-resident Scholar at the Middle East Institute and a fellow at the International Institute for Iranian Studies; and Yousef Munayyer, Non-resident Senior Fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC. Mehran Kamrava, Head of the Iranian Studies Unit at the ACRPS and Professor of Government at Georgetown University Qatar, will moderate the panel.

Session II will conclude the day’s events by examining the impact of militarism, authoritarian alliances, and security apparatuses in the Arab world on prospects for democracy and respect for both human rights and political freedoms across the region. Panellists will discuss the region’s emerging authoritarian axis, weapons trade, and security cooperation, as well as these elements’ impact on political economy, human security, and domestic socioeconomic development. The panel will consist of Abdelwahab El-Affendi, Provost and President of the Doha Institute for Graduate Studies; Pete Moore, M.A. Hanna Associate Professor of Politics in the Department of Political Science at Case Western Reserve University; Nancy Okail, President and CEO of the Center for International Politics; and Sarah Leah Whitson, Executive Director of Democracy for the Arab World Now (DAWN). Laurie King, Teaching Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Georgetown University and Member of the Arab Center Washington DC Board of Directors, will moderate.

The second day of the conference will begin with A Special Conversation with Hady Amr, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Israeli and Palestinian Affairs and Founding Director of the Brookings Doha Center. Following the keynote will be Session III, entitled Tackling Escalating Threats: Climate Change, the Future of Energy, and Cybersecurity and dedicated to assessing both future and currently escalating security threats to the populations of the Middle East and North Africa, particularly as they relate to the rapidly growing climate crisis, the future of energy and the oil industry in the region, and an increasingly aggressive cybersecurity and surveillance industry. Panellists will discuss the impact of climate change, the energy crisis, and the cyber-surveillance industry on the people of the region and will provide policy recommendations and strategies to mitigate and adapt to climate change, to move toward energy transition and renewable energy sources, and to ensure the right to digital privacy and information.

The panellists will be Aisha Al-Sarihi, Research Fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Middle East Institute; Nisreen Elsaim, Chair of the UN Secretary General’s Youth Advisory Group on Climate Change and of the Sudan Youth Organization on Climate Change; Laury Haytayan, Oil and Gas Governance and Geopolitics Expert and Middle East and North Africa Director at the Natural Resource Governance Institute (NRGI); and Marc Owen Jones, Assistant Professor of Middle East Studies at Hamad bin Khalifa University. The session will be moderated by Tamara Kharroub, Deputy Executive Director and Senior Fellow at Arab Center Washington DC.

The final session of the conference, entitled The Future of Human Security: Responding to Economic Crises, Violence, Health Emergencies, and Food Insecurity, will address various issues related to human security and insecurity in the region, including poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, lack of access to clean water, exposure to violence, displacement, and shortages in healthcare services and medications. Panellists will discuss the impact of corruption, inadequate governance, protracted conflicts, and authoritarian rule on this lack of basic services, on personal and collective safety, and on economic security in the region, especially taking into account growing military expenditures.

The panel will include Victoria Araj, Postdoctoral Research Fellow in Public History in the Lincoln International Business School at the University of Lincoln; Yara M. Asi, Assistant Professor in the School of Global Health Management and Informatics at the University of Central Florida and Nonresident Fellow at the Arab Center Washington DC; Jessica Barnes, Associate Professor in the School of the Earth, Ocean and Environment at the University of South Carolina; and Bessma Momani, Professor of Political Science at the University of Waterloo. Imad K. Harb, Director of Research and Analysis at Arab Center Washington DC, will moderate.

** To register in the conference's sessions.