The 11th Al Jazeera Forum

State Crisis and the Future of the Middle East

Doha | 15 - 16 April 2017

About the Forum

Al Jazeera Forum is the flagship event of Al Jazeera Media Network. It is a unique opportunity through which Al Jazeera showcases its contribution to the world of media and politics. The forum has been running for eleven years and has quickly grown from a local activity gathering dozens of guest speakers to an international event bringing together hundreds of participants. Within a few years, it has become an essential part of the international conference calendar with its own flavour and reputation. The first seven editions of the forum were organized by the network’s international relations department. From 2014, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies has hosted this event and taken it further in terms of content, format, structure and organisation.

Building on the success of the last ten forums, and keeping in line with Al Jazeera Media Network’s vision to expand dialogue between intellectuals, politicians, policy makers and media experts to provide in-depth understanding of developments around us, this year’s annual forum will discuss the enduring crises of the Arab state and their impact on the Middle East at large.

Discussion themes
  • The Arab State in historical context

  • Reasons for failure and manifestations of the crisis
  • Does the Arab Spring still represent a prospect for reform and change domestically and regionally?
  • years after the Balfour Declaration: What does the existence of Israel mean to the region?
  • What options do Arabs have vis-à-vis the emerging regional powers: is conflict-inevitable?
  • Where is the Middle East headed?

Since its inception, the Arab State has been going through a multifaceted, structural crisis. This is partly owed to the colonial and post-colonial historical context in which many states were born and built. Among the inherent deficiencies are subservience to foreign powers, fragmentation at the regional level and authoritarianism at the domestic level. This crisis has aggravated over the past decades and manifested itself in various forms of failure:

  • Failure in establishing an inclusive participatory political system.
  • Failure in building a strong economy and a sustainable developmental model.
  • Failure in handling international affairs in a balanced manner aloof of subservience 
to foreign powers.
  • Failure in reaching broad consensus and building national identity capable of 
accommodating all social segments.
  • Failure in achieving lasting Arab cooperation and overcoming the regional 
disintegration created by post-World War arrangements.

The apparent failure of Arab states and the continuous escalation of their crises overshadowed the regional order . Despite numerous attempts for unity and convergence, the Arab world has so far failed to build an efficient regional system homogeneous in its orientation and unified in its foreign policies. Since its foundation, the Arab League has mainly acted as a formal framework for meetings without transforming into a driver of cooperation and joint work. Other regional forms of convergence such as the Maghreb Union, the Arab Cooperation Council and the Gulf Cooperation Council have failed as well in mobilising the capabilities of their member states to face the challenges of economic and cultural globalisation. The former has perished, the second has been paralysed, and the latter is functioning but with little effect. On the other hand, fragmentation replaced unity and competition replaced integration. The entire region is plunged into endless, complex encounters with foreign intervention adding more salt to the wound. 
The Arab Spring has only uncovered the extent of fragility and vulnerability of states and the weakness of the regimes that have been in power for decades. The number of Arab countries threatened with instability, insecurity, social divides and territorial integrity is increasing. The already ailing regional order is collapsing amidst competing agendas. Its recovery is subject to new arrangements capable of bringing structural reforms of Arab states. Alternatively, the Arab world will remain an open arena for regional conflicts, and conflict will remain the key factor in shaping the future of the Middle East. 

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