The opening session of the Doha Forum 2018, 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.
WORLD LEADERS DISCUSS COMPLEX REGIONAL AND GLOBAL ISSUES
Shortly after, H.E. Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani, Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, participated in a discussion on the complex state of regional and international alliances, commenting:
“Regional alliances are still valid and important because we share common concerns and interests [with our neighbours]. But, these alliances need to be revisited not just by big countries and superpowers, but also by member states in the UN and as part of the region,” he added.
His Excellency also touched on the Gulf dispute, stressing dialogue as a crucial tool to resolving this crisis. He continued, “We are a firm believer that a dialogue with blockading countries based on mutual respect will end the crisis that exists in the region. The regional alliance has been undermined by the crisis. Therefore, the alliance that existed needs to be reshaped and redesigned to ensure future stability and security of the region,” he added.
THE GROWTH POTENTIAL OF EMERGING MARKETS
H.E. Ali Shareef Al-Emadi, Minister of Finance, Qatar shed a spotlight on the potential of emerging markets and the factors impacting global economy. His Excellency appeared hopeful about emerging markets and discussed “China and India being at the forefront of global growth and how they must continue their progressive economic agenda and adapt best practices in corporate governance”. Christian Sewing, CEO of Deutsche Bank, commented, “The challenges that our world is facing can be further complicated by a number of potential economic and geopolitical issues that can arise in the near future, making 2019 more vulnerable than 2018.” H.E. Berat Albayrak, Minister of Treasury and Finance of Turkey, also participated in the panel.
POTENTIAL FOR FUTURE US-IRAN TALKS: A CONVERSATION BETWEEN IRANIAN FOREIGN MINISTER, H.E. MOHAMMAD JAVAD ZARIF AND ROBIN WRIGHT
In an interview with The New Yorker’s Robin Wright, Iranian Foreign Minister, H.E. Mohammad Javad Zarif delivered a contentious talk questioning US policy towards the nuclear deal, the effectiveness of sanctions, and stressing that peace in Syria was a common goal between Iran and other influencers in the region, even if they don’t see eye to eye on all matters. He reinforced Iran’s position on direct talks with the US and Western allies, commenting, “Five years ago you could say Iran never tried direct talks, but we have compensated for the last 40 years. For two years, myself and John Kerry spent more time with each other than with our wives.”
“Now talks need to have an objective, we shouldn’t have them for the sake of a photo [opportunity]. There is room for talks but you must first respect the outcome of talks we already had.”
SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT GOALS DEEMED ESSENTIAL BY EXPERTS
Panelists in the plenary session elaborated on the importance of United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG). H.E. Vaira Vīķe-Freiberga, President of the Club de Madrid and former President of Latvia, explained that our planet is dying and “achieving the Sustainable Development Goals is essential to protect our planet.” Achim Steiner, Administrator at the United Nations Development Programme, stated that “We have to reinvent our economies in terms of transportation, agriculture, finance and energy” as he explained that SDG goals essentially redirect the money to ensure sustainable economic growth. He added, “SDG’s are about access to energy, they are about eradicating poverty, and they are about creating employment opportunities.”
HOW EFFECTIVE IS MILITARIZATION? A CLOSER LOOK AT THE SAHEL.
Realizing that militarization is ineffective in addressing the core issues leading to terrorism, panelists called for dialogue between local populations and their governments in order to promote more effective strategies. “We need to talk to [the violent groups] and understand why they are blaming us,” said Yéro Boly, Former Defense Minister of Burkina Faso. “We should not fight with force. We need to engage in dialogue and mobilize institutions. I don’t think dialogue should be a taboo,” asserted H.E. Moussa Mara, Former Prime Minister of Mali.Further reiterating the need for dialogue, Hannah Armstrong, Senior Sahel Consultant at the International Crisis Group, commented, “Niger is an interesting case because it was able to remain stable amid the instability surrounding it, and the reason is effective decentralization and approaching issues with a dialogue-centered approach, as opposed to centralization.”
TRADITIONAL OR ONLINE MEDIA: WHICH WILL YOU CHOOSE?
The first day at Doha Forum tackled the demonization of journalists, the consequences of misinformation and the weaponization of social media platforms. Ahmed Elmagarmid, Executive Director, Qatar Computing Research Institute (QCRI) spoke about the importance of distinguishing fake news from real news. Maria Ressa, Executive Editor, Rappler and one of the few to be awarded the ‘Guardian of Truth’ award by TIME last week said, “The world is so infested by online information that people don’t realize they are being manipulated. I was hit with 90 hate messages per hour when I introduced the propaganda war story in October 2016. Violence online moves into the real world. Repeated incitement to hate on social media tends to erupt in the real world”. Sean Spicer, Former White House Press Secretary, while speaking about online sensationalism, drew a parallel to tabloids in the U.S. that thrive on fake news to manipulate people’s minds.
INTERNATIONAL CYBER SPACE NORMS: CAN THEY PROTECT US?
Dr. Latha Reddy, Co-Chair of Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, stated, “cyberspace is a borderless domain and attribution in cyberspace is difficult. Therefore, building national capabilities to address cyber security and developing international norms are essential to secure cyberspace.” Dr. Hessa Al-Jaber, Vice Chairperson of Es, hailSat Qatar Satellite Company, explained that realization of internationally accepted cyberspace is close to impossible. She said “it is very hard to track and identify the origin of a cyber attack, making it extremely difficult to hold a party accountable. As a result, bilateral and multilateral agreements in cyberspace can be very vulnerable.” Marietje Schaake, Member of the European Parliament, said: “the laws that apply offline should also apply online”. Additionally, she also stated, “online norms should be developed with diverse stakeholders such as governments, civil society, and academia”, to ensure the norms encompass all aspects of the society.
Additional marquee speakers included H.E. Lenin Moreno, the recently elected President of Ecuador, H.E. Maria Fernanda Espinosa Garcés, the President of the United Nations General Assembly, H.E. Hassan Ali Khaire, Prime Minister of Somalia, H.E. Teodor-Viorel Meleşcanu, Foreign Minister of Romania, Brett McGurk, U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, Vladamir Voronkov, U.N. Undersecretary General for Counter Terrorism, H.E. Berat Albayrak, Minister of Treasury and Finance, Turkey, Christian Sewing, Chief Executive Officer at Deutsche Bank, Dr. Latha Reddy, Co-Chair of Global Commission on the Stability of Cyberspace, and H.E. Sigmar Gabriel, former Vice Chancellor and Minister of Foreign Affairs for Germany, among others.