Abu Dhabi Dialogue: Challenges and Opportunities for Change in the 21st Century

The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) annual conference coincides this year with the ECSSR’s Silver Jubilee. The event titled ‘Abu Dhabi Dialogue: Challenges and Opportunities for Change in the 21st Century’, will examine opportunities and challenges as we move toward the future. Four panels will highlight a variety of significant issues throughout the conference. Panel I titled ‘Modern Technology and the Future of Energy’ will include sessions focusing on Technology and the Future of Fossil Fuel, Prospects for Development in the Field of Renewable Energy, and The Future of Electricity in the World’s Energy Mix. Panel II titled ‘Change and Security’ will tackle Technology and the Changes in Warfare, Technology and Internal Security, and Crisis Management in Light of Technological Advancement. Panel III titled ‘Industrial Strategy for Sustainable Competitiveness and the Role of Business Education’ will include sessions on Industrial Strategy and International Competitiveness, Place-based Smart Specialization and Ecosystem-based Strategies, and Business Education and Industrial Strategy for Sustainable Prosperity. Panel IV titled ‘Cultural and Social Changes’ will explore New Media and Its Effect on Social Values, National Identity in Light of Global Changes, in addition to Change and the Future of the Arabic Language.


Annual Conference 23


The Future of the Region: Oil Price Challenges

The Middle East is experiencing accelerated political, economic and strategic changes. The region is at the center of international powers’ conflicting policies and interests and is witnessing apparent changes in Arab-regional alliances as well as uncertainty regarding the future of domestic stability in some regional countries. Major international political changes – most notably America’s new administration in Washington, DC led by Donald Trump – are expected to affect interactions and developments in the region. Moreover, several regional countries are waiting to see the policies of the new administration in the Middle East. Alongside these transformations in the region, several regional and international economic and political changes since mid-2014 have led to volatility in competing energy markets due to increased oil production and supplies as well as a remarkable drop in oil prices. Consequently, experts in the field have been studying and analyzing the new variables on the global oil map to predict their effects on future oil and energy price trends.

As part of the continued interest of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) in following up on developments regarding the regional and international energy map as well as discussing and analyzing them from political, economic and strategic perspectives, the ECSSR will present its 22nd Annual Conference entitled “The Future of the Region: Oil Price Challenges.” The conference will consist of four main panels that will discuss developments in the field of energy, taking into consideration the implications for the United Arab Emirates, the GCC states, the Arab countries and the world at large. The first panel, “Developments in the Region: Determinants and Challenges” will cover policies and interests of international powers in the Arab region, address the future of domestic stability in Arab states and explore the shifts in Arab-regional alliances. The second panel, “Administration of US President Donald Trump and the Future of US Policy in the Middle East” will shed light on US foreign policy under a Trump administration. This panel will explore future US–regional alliances in the Middle East, alongside Trump’s perspective on US–GCC relations as well as US policy concerning political Islam and religious extremism. The third panel, “Future Trends of Oil Prices and their Potential Impacts” will explore the policies of oil-producing states in light of these changes and the current and future role of OPEC in the global oil market. The conference will conclude with a panel discussion entitled “The UAE in Confronting an Unstable Regional Environment.” This panel will address the role of GCC states in maintaining regional stability, tackle the impacts of an unstable regional environment on development plans and domestic conditions in the GCC states and propose a strategy to protect Arab regional stability.


Youth and Development

The youth embody nations’ aspirations. They are national assets who play an effective role in communities and whose immense energy drives the wheel of development and ensures its sustainability. They are the leaders of the future, with strong opinions, mature thinking, and the desire to positively impact all aspects of life in their countries, whether ideological, artistic, cultural, educational or political. The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries comprise one of the most youthful regions in the world today, a characteristic that will form the basis of their power in future. Hence, the question arises of how to enhance the capabilities of young people and enable them to contribute to the betterment of their societies and countries. Their effective participation is vital for achieving advancement, prosperity and stability.

The Twenty-first Annual Conference of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), focused on the most important challenges and risks facing the youth, hence its title: “Youth and Development.” The Conference discussed the threat of extremist thought, the issue of identity and imported negative values alongside the causes of and remedies for youth unemployment. The Conference also discussed the role of educational institutions in youth development and knowledge building, the role of religious institutions in spreading moderate thought amongst youth to counter the delusion spread by extremist groups, and the role of digital and social media in serving the needs of youth development.

Further, the Conference addressed aspects of the role the youth play in national development, including: the importance of comprehensive political awareness amongst the youth for positive citizenship and community development; the role of young entrepreneurs in contributing to the development of the economic sector; and the youth’s leading role in innovation, creativity and distinction. The Conference presented select local, regional, and international examples of youth and development for benchmarking. The Conference concluded with a panel discussion featuring young people. They discussed how they see their role in development; how educational curricula contribute to preparing them for real participation in community development; and whether effective programs and policies exist to empower them politically, economically and socially. In addition, they addressed the reasons underlying the rise of extremist thought, along with means to face it, and their opinion of religious institutions’ counter-extremist discourse. The discussion also tackled the issue of youth identity, focusing on the balance between openness to the world and the preservation of cultural, religious and societal characteristics.


The Middle East: Shifting Roles, Interests and Alliances

Under the auspices of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), and pursuant to the ECSSR’s mission to discuss the most important contemporary strategic issues at the local, regional and international levels, the Center convened its 20th Annual Conference under the title, “The Middle East: Shifting Roles, Interests and Alliances.” The Conference was aimed to offering a platform from which an integrated approach can be established to set priorities regarding the challenges facing the region. It also provided opportunities to explore future strategic trends and develop a comprehensive view of events at all levels in light of the rapid pace of current developments.

The conference hosted experts on domestic, regional and international issues, including officials, academics, strategic experts, media representatives and diplomats from the UAE and abroad. They exchanged ideas and opinion with a view to establishing common findings.

The conference was an ideal platform for conducting in-depth discussions during the course of its five specialized panels. The first panel explored the current political and strategic landscape in the Middle East, focusing on the changing interests and alliances among regional powers and those Arab countries which have recently witnessed major internal transformations; the present situation in these Arab countries; and the opportunities and challenges facing the international coalition against terrorism.

The second panel examined security threats in the Middle East; the future of the Arab nation-state in the face of non-state actors; the evolving thought and strategies of terrorist organizations; and the issue of religious and sectarian polarization in the region.

The third panel discussed regional and international balances in the Middle East; international relations and coalitions, and their implications for the region; the role of energy issues in shaping the strategy of regional and external powers; and Chinese influence on the balance of power in the Middle East.

The fourth panel explored the future political scene in the Arab world, opportunities and prospects for stability in Arab countries that have recently witnessed change, the role and future of collective Arab institutions and prospects for intra-Arab relations.

The fifth and final panel discussed the role of the GCC states in regional and international transformations.


Technology: Impacts, Challenges and the Future

The Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) organized its 19th Annual Conference – Technology: Impacts, Challenges and the Future – on 18-19 March, 2014, under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of ECSSR. The Conference addressed the possible impacts of future technological developments in various fields and the challenges facing their implementation. It focused on the potential benefits and risks they may bring for a globalized world.

The Conference proceedings began with the Welcoming Remarks of His Excellency Dr. Jamal Sanad Al-Suwaidi, Director General of the ECSSR. H.R.H. Princess Rym Ali, Founder of the Jordan Media Institute, Jordan, delivered the keynote address. This was followed by four separate panels that discussed the regional and global impacts of current and potential technological advances against a backdrop of growing global interconnectedness and globalization.

The effects of technological change in the spheres of politics, governance and leadership, and the related repercussions for defense, security and law enforcement were also analyzed during the Conference. It considered specific challenges posed by technology in the areas of education, media, and culture. The Conference also evaluated current and future applications of technology in the field of sustainable development, assessing technological contributions to economics, business, human resources development and trade.

The Conference concluded with an outlook for transformative future trends and opportunities that will define the technologies of tomorrow and their potential impacts on the world, focusing on emerging information systems technology in the realms of innovation and knowledge creation. It also analyzed technology forecasts and the frontiers of technological innovation with a view to determining whether we are approaching a new level of civilization.


The Future of Warfare in the 21st Century

Information technology has brought about a revolution in the military and defense industries. This revolution has contributed to the creation of a new reality that altered previously recognized concepts of wars and armies, whereby asymmetrical warfare dominated traditional forms of conflict between adversaries. This technological evolution requires the provision of electronic warfare units in many of the world’s armies, where their role includes maintaining internal civil security and stability. Such technology advances have had implications for the quality and form of naval, air and land-based weapons, whether defensive or offensive. These vital topics form part of the regional and global research focus of the Emirates Center of Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR), which held its 18th Annual Conference under the title:

'The Future of Warfare in the 21st Century'

The conference was held under the patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) on 9–10 April, 2013. The conference comprised four sessions, during which 12 research papers were presented by prominent experts, intellectuals, researchers and officials from the UAE, the Gulf region and the rest of the world.

On the first day of the Conference, discussions were held on the changing nature of warfare and the new challenges facing national security such as terrorism and electronic warfare. The topic of innovation in the defense industry and the future role of technology in military use was also discussed.

The second day's discussions included political and civil aspects affecting the future of warfare such as relations between civil and military institutions, the future role of armies in war prevention, peacekeeping, and the close and strategic relationship between arms manufacturers and military institutions. The proceedings of the conference concluded with a session on the future of warfare and stability in the Middle East, which included topics related to the region such as the purchase of weapons, nuclear weapons proliferation, and the risks facing the region’s security.


Water and Food Security in the Arabian Gulf

With a rapidly expanding world population, rising food prices, and shrinking agricultural acreage due to increasing scarcity of water resources, water and food security has emerged as one of the most serious challenges facing today’s governments, including those of the GCC. Arab Gulf countries do not have sufficient natural water resources, and mainly rely on sea water desalination to satisfy their requirements. They also import most of their food, which makes fluctuating food prices a major factor of economic and social instability in the region.

In recognition of the importance of this issue at both the regional and international levels, the ECSSR will convene its 17th Annual Conference under the title: Water and Food Security in the Arabian Gulf.

The conference will be organized under the generous patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of the ECSSR, on March 26–27, 2012. It shall consist of five sessions, comprising 16 lectures delivered by a group of prominent experts, academics, researchers and officials from the UAE, the Gulf region and beyond.

On the first day, the conference will address: strategic dimensions of water in the Arabian Gulf, with a special focus on the current regional and international status of water resources; challenges facing the management of water resources; and the impact of economic development and population growth on existing resources.

On the second day the speakers will address: food security, including the challenges facing global food supplies, and food security strategies in the Arabian Gulf; the economics of agriculture and food; and the impact of rising food prices on the Gulf countries. The conference will conclude with a session dedicated to discussing strategies to ensure water and food security in the United Arab Emirates, with an emphasis on efforts to ensure national sustainable development.


Global Strategic Developments: A Futuristic Vision

Forecasting future events and developments has become an imperative for all countries that aspire to advance and progress. In light of the current developments the world is witnessing at various levels and their subsequent effects, the ECSSR has embarked on a scientific predictive analysis of future developments as a primary step to turn current visions and ideas into clear and well-structured action plans. Based on the ECSSR’s firm belief in the importance of future studies at local and regional levels, its 16th Annual Conference will be held under the title: “Global Strategic Developments: A Futuristic Vision”.

The Conference will take place from 21–23 March 2011, under the generous patronage of His Highness General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of the ECSSR. The Conference will contain five panels, in which 18 lectures will be delivered by various prominent experts, scholars, researchers and officials from the UAE, the Arabian Gulf and other countries.

On the first day the Conference will discuss the future of the global political system; unipolarism and superpower politics; the role of rising powers on the world stage; and the future of the United Nations and the Security Council.

On the second day the first panel will examine the future of military developments; the future of war; future military alliances; and offer a strategic vision to ensure Gulf security. The second panel will examine security challenges; the protection of vital installations; risk management; and the implications of the privatization of security on internal state safety and protection.

The third day’s discussions will address the global economic outlook by examining international financial institutions and world economic stability; the impact of the international economic crisis; and the future of the international monetary system. The concluding panel will set a roadmap for the future of the Arabian Gulf states based on anticipated strategic developments and the prospects for human development in the Gulf.


Education and the Requirements of the GCC Labor Market

The majority of GCC countries are facing the problem of conforming their education output to the requirements of the labor market. Such problems have led to the failure of labor market nationalization policies and a rise in the percentage of unemployed nationals, as well as an increasing demographic imbalance in the Gulf labor market.

In recognition by the Emirates Center for Strategic Studies and Research (ECSSR) of the importance of this issue at local and regional levels, and the need to address the challenges surrounding this phenomenon, the ECSSR will organize its 15th Annual Conference under the title:

Education and the Requirements
of the GCC Labor Market

The conference will be held under the patronage of H.H General Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces and President of the ECSSR, on 1 -3 February 2010. The conference will consist of six sessions and up to 18 presentations covering the conference topics, which includes:

  • Education Output: Current Predicament
  • Education that Meets Labor Market Requirements: A Road Map
  • Labor Market in the Gulf Region: Costs and Returns
  • Challenges Facing the GCC Labor Market
  • Globalization, Education and the Labor Market
  • Adapting Education to the Labor Market Requirements

We hope that the papers presented at the conference and the subsequent discussions will contribute positively to  resolving this vital issue. It is also hoped that the conference will act as a meeting place for scholars and decision-makers and help lead to a consensus on practical solutions to this problem facing the GCC countires