Day 1

27 April 2019


Reception Area



Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

Welcome & Keynote Addresses

SHEIKH HAMAD BIN THAMER AL THANI, Chairman of the Board of Al Jazeera Media Network
KHALED AL-MESHRI, President, High Council of State of Libya
MEHMET MEHDI EKER, Turkish former deputy and former minister
SALMA ALJAMAL (Session Moderator)


Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

Intra-Gulf Relations:

The Blockade of Qatar, Two Years Later

As the blockade of Qatar enters its third year with no solutions on the horizon, it seems that the crisis will continue indefinitely. Several countries continue to enforce a land, air and sea blockade of Qatar, while Doha still refuses to cede to their demands, arguing that this would be an infringement on its sovereignty and independence, and interference in its domestic affairs. In the meantime, much has shifted in intra-Gulf relations, and in the Gulf’s regional and international relations. In the face of the Saudi-Emirati bilateral alliance and coordination on several foreign policy issues, other Gulf states are growing more distant, forging unilateral ties to other states, and looking to regional and international alliances outside the Gulf system, all of which has had an adverse impact on intra-Gulf relations.

How should we read intra-Gulf relations two years after the start of the Qatar blockade? What are the repercussions of the crisis on the Gulf countries?

MAJED AL ANSARI, Professor of political sociology, Qatar University
MOHAMED EL-MOCTAR EL-SHINQITI, Professor of political ethics, HBKU
SAMI AL FARAJ, Adviser to Kuwaiti government
RORY MILLER, Professor of political science, Georgetown University-Qatar
OSMAN AYFARAH (Session Moderator)


Book Signing:

Qatar’s Experience in Good Governance

13:30 – 14:30

Lunch break



Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

The Reality of the Gulf System and the Erosion of Saudi Influence

Not too long ago, the Gulf Cooperation Council was the sole Arab regional institution operating consistently and actively with a cumulative record of accomplishments and a coherent collective vision. There were even calls to turn the GCC into a Gulf Union. Since the Qatar blockade, however, this trend reversed, as the institution was paralyzed and unable to play its original role. Not only has the GCC been unable to repair the rift among member states, foster a rapprochement for a diplomatic solution to the crisis, and coordinate positions to confront common security threats, but all of its agencies have been brought to a standstill and are now struggling to survive. If the Gulf system as a whole has less strategic influence today, the biggest loser has been Saudi Arabia. Whereas it traditionally used the GCC to leverage its influence in the region and elsewhere, its influence is now waning.

How has the Gulf crisis affected the GCC, specifically the leadership role played by Saudi Arabia? Can it survive, much less reclaim its strategic heft?

NASSER AL-DUWAILAH, former Kuwaiti Member of Parliament
ABDUL AZIZ AL ISHAQ, Qatari political analyst and media consultant
MOHANNA AL-HUBAIL, Office of Oriental Islamic Studies in Istanbul
TALAL AL ATRISSI, Professor, Lebanese University
KHALED RAMMAH, Researcher, Sheba Center for Strategic Studies, Yemen
JALAL SHAHDA (Session Moderator)


Coffee break



Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

The Assassination of Khashoggi: Adding to Regional Complexities

Seven months after the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, the issue is still a live one in various media outlets and foreign policy circles. Setting off a new crisis in the already crisis-ridden Middle East, the assassination also exposed a different face of Saudi policy in the region and shed light on other tragedies,  such as the war in Yemen, the Qatar blockade, Saudi Arabia’s role in Lebanon, and the kingdom’s treatment of dissidents at home and abroad.

Saudi Arabia’s image shifted from a country seen as a major regional power and guarantor of security and stability, to a state threatening security, fomenting crises, and meddling in the internal affairs of other states.

Is the Khashoggi assassination a fleeting crisis, or will the incident and the issues it raises have more profound consequences for Saudi Arabia’s conduct and its domestic and foreign policies?

FERHAT ÜNLÜ, Investigative Reporter, Daily Sabah, Turkey
ALI AL-DAHAB, Yemeni security expert
SIMON SPANSWICK, Chief Executive, Association for International Broadcasting (UK)
RAWAA AUGE (Session Moderator)


Al Rayyan Hall

Gala Dinner

MOSTEFA SOUAG, A/Director General, Al Jazeera Media Network
BENEDIKT FRANKE, Chief Operating Officer of the Munich Security Conference 
SABRINA ELHADJ FRADJ (Session Moderator)

Day 2

28 April 2019


Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

The Arms Race in the Middle East: Drivers and Trajectories

 With the proliferation of Middle East crises and the lack of effective regional and international conflict resolution instruments, the arms race has picked up steam. The Middle East is now the world’s leading importer of weapons.

A report from the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute issued in March of this year puts Saudi Arabia in first place as the world’s biggest arms importer, with the kingdom having doubled its weapons purchases in the past five years compared to the preceding five-year period. The report also noted that the Middle East accounts for more than one-third of global arms purchases.

Weapons imports have increased dramatically not only in Saudi Arabia, but also Egypt, Israel, the UAE, and Qatar. The race is gathering momentum amid a highly charged regional context, as tensions in some arenas threaten to spill into open conflict – in addition to several already existing conflicts.

Where is the region heading in light of this arms race and heightened war footing? Can the region’s decision makers recalibrate and direct their people’s resources to development and stability, rather than conflict and regional and global security threats?

PIETER D. WEZEMAN, Senior Researcher, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute
MURAT YEŞILTAŞ, Director of security studies at SETA Foundation (Turkey)
MASŪD ASAD ILLĀHĪ, expert on Iranian-Arab relations
ANDREI FROLOV, Editor, Arms Export magazine (Russia)
Salem Almahroukey (Session Moderator)


Coffee break



Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

The Challenges of US Policy in the Middle East: The Gulf – Iran – Israel

Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination highlighted important aspects of the US’ Middle East policy toward the Arab Gulf, Israel, and Iran, the latter whose regional influence the US administration and its allies seek to contain.

To list some of the challenges facing US policy in the Middle East:

  • Countering Iranian influence by imposing sanctions and forming a counter-alliance against it
  • Pushing Arab allies, particularly Gulf states, to normalize relations with Israel as part of the so-called deal of the century
  • Backing the Saudi-Emirati war on Yemen, despite its human, moral, political, and material cost
  • Withdrawal from Syria amid growing coordination and consensus between Russia, Turkey, and Iran

What are the US’s policy priorities in the Middle East? What are the ramifications for Gulf relations, the Iranian issue, the Palestinian Question, and the Yemen War?

SEYED MOHAMMAD MARANDI, University of Tehran
MAHMOUD JARABA, Erlangen Centre for Islam and Law in Europe (Germany)
OMAR AYASRA, Jordanian political writer and analyst
MOHAMMED CHERKAOUI, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies
Peter Dobbie (Session Moderator)


Lunch break



Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

Global Media and the Dilemma of Political Crime

The Khashoggi assassination was not simply a criminal act committed under cover of darkness. It quickly acquired the status of a political crime in light of the circumstances, time, and place of its commission; the nature and connections of the perpetrators; and the regional and international fallout.

But the primary factor that made the incident a focus of Arab and international attention was undoubtedly the critical role of the media in exposing the facts, following up on details, and informing public opinion.

Khashoggi’s unique position – a columnist working at one of the biggest US newspapers – as well as the broad coverage on Al Jazeera and in the Turkish press, which was the prime source of information, raises questions about the media’s role in confronting political crime.

How did the Arab and international media cover the assassination of journalist Jamal Khashoggi? Where did they succeed and where did they fail in exposing the truth and setting the media, political, and public agenda?

SALAH NEGM, Director of News, Al Jazeera English
HASHEM HASAN AL-TAMIMI, Dean, College of Journalism, University of Baghdad
JESSIKKA ARO, Journalist from Finland
BARBARA TRIONFI, Executive Director, International Press Institute
Liqaa Maki (Session Moderator)


Coffee break



Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

The Gulf’s Future Role in Reshaping Power Balances in the Middle East

The Gulf crisis has stripped the member states of the Gulf Cooperation Council of much of their strategic influence, with adverse impacts on their regional roles. As a result, some member states have directed their attention to the Gulf crisis instead of external threats and their common future.

At the same time, the regional balance of power is being reshaped by rising regional powers like Turkey and Iran, which seek to extend their influence with both soft power and direct military intervention.

Preoccupied with other matters, the Gulf is largely excluded from the equation. For the second year, Qatar lives under a blockade led by Saudi Arabia and the UAE, while Yemen is torn apart by a destructive war led by the same two states – a war that has now entered its fifth year with no end in sight.

The assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi exposed the dark side of Saudi Arabia’s domestic policies, shaking its global image and sapping more of its stature and influence in the Gulf system and the region.

Will the near future see a serious reconsideration of Saudi and Emirati policies that threaten the unity of the Gulf order? Will the Gulf reclaim its cohesion and its ability to make a positive contribution to the new regional balance of power?

STEVEN WRIGHT, Hamad bin Khalifa University (Qatar)
MAMDOUH SALAMEH, oil economist
HANI BASOOS, Sultan Qaboos University (Oman)
WALID AL-ZUBEIDI, Iraqi political analyst
Ezzeddine Abdelmoula (Session Moderator)


Plenary Session – Al Majlis Hall

Closing Remarks

MOHAMMED MUKHTAR AL KHALIL, Director, Al Jazeera Centre for Studies


28 April 2019


Al Rayyan Hall

Panel 1/2: Challenges Facing Free Press & the Safety of Journalists


MOSTEFA SOUAG, A/Director General, Al Jazeera Media Network
BARBARA TRIONFI, Executive Director, International Press Institute
ABDELFATTAH FAYED, Editor of Egyptian affairs in Al Jazeera
RAWAA AUGE  (Session moderator)


Coffee break



Al Rayyan Hall

Panel 2/2: Press Freedoms: Confronting Impunity & Protecting the Rule of Law


AHMED BINCHEMSI, Advocacy Director for Human Rights Watch
EVARISTE KARAMBIZI, Director of The United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR)
BARBARA TRIONFI, Executive Director, International Press Institute





Al Rayyan Hall

Panel: The Hashtag Wars

The Gulf Crisis is often seen only through the prism of its strategic and political implications, but this crisis is fairly unique in that it has reached new depths in the virtual world – especially on Twitter.

Twitter was the go-to place where Gulf politicians postured and outlined their demands, and the main source for the leaks from their intelligence agencies and psychological warfare units.

Twitter is where activists and officials called each other out, and it was the place where journalists chose sides.

Welcome to the world of the Gulf’s Hashtag Wars, where the trolls reign sovereign.

ZAID BENJAMIN, multimedia journalist
JABER AL-HARMI, former chief editor, Al-Sharq (Qatar)
ABDUL AZIZ AL ISHAQ, Qatari columnist
MOHAMED AL-MARRI, Lecturer, Qatar University


Coffee break


Al Rayyan Hall

Book Launch & Panel Discussion: Data Journalism in the Arab World

The Al Jazeera Media Institute launches it’s latest publication, A Guidebook on Data Journalism, focusing on helping newsrooms “interview” data. Speakers:

MOHAMMED HADDAD, Head, Al Jazeera Interactives
AHMED AL BADRI, Senior Producer, Creative Solutions, Al Jazeera
AHMED ASHOUR (Session moderator)