Middle East must focus on conflict resolution, Abu Dhabi conference hears

  • 6 October 2015

With 59 million people displaced around the world and refugees spending, on average, 17 years away from their homes, experts said the situation after the Arab Spring had only got worse.

They said states should learn to better cope with conflicts so that they do not end up destroying what had already been built.

“In the last five years, the situation has been getting worse,” said Dr Bahgat Korany, professor of international relations and political economy at the American University in Cairo.

“This is according to the Fragile States Index, the Human Development Index, the Worldwide Governance Indicators and the Global Peace Index. These indicators are very consistent in this regard and we are in serious trouble.”

He said Syria would need 41 years to reach the level of development it enjoyed in 2010, should the war end today. “There is a need for a new social contract,” he said. “We know why we are in this situation now, because the state neglected society and tried to govern on its own, so there is a need for a state-society partnership. This means mutual empowerment.”

He said Arab youth should be used to the countries’ advantage. “Our development priorities are confused,” Dr Korany said. “Youth are more than two thirds of Arab society but we are wasting that asset and it is becoming a liability because we want to give them the right education but we do not plan for their employment, so they become a problem of drug addiction and of going into violent organisations. So this is certainly a reflection of confused development policies.”

With 300,000 child soldiers fighting in conflicts around the world, experts called for a doubling of efforts. “Youth turn to violence because they are angry due to corruption,” said Dr William Farrell, senior advisor for special projects at Mercy Corps in the US. “So if you are able to foster a feeling of justice, it can reduce vulnerability to recruitment or exploitation by extremist groups. As we look to engage further and address questions of violence and youth, we need to look at the root cause.”

He said the situation in Arab countries that had undergone change was highly volatile as new players came on the scene.

“Effective state building will be a lengthy process,” he said. “But despite that volatility, we shouldn’t shy away from helping people in dire situations so that we can get to human security and prosperity.”

Dr Tariq Al Haidan, Assistant Foreign Minister for international organisations’ affairs, said stability and security in building a nation after conflict was very difficult because of the challenges the Arab region still faced today after the revolution.

“Most importantly, these are security challenges, the framework of activities of terrorist groups internally and the economic challenge such as the increase of poverty and unemployment,” he said.