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Add to Calendar 27/07/2020 13:00 27/07/2020 17:30 Africa/Casablanca Arab Geopolitics 2020: The Middle East, what kind of future? /*Live broadcast*/ Rome OCP Policy Center false DD/MM/YYYY
Monday, July 27, 2020 - 13:00 to 17:30

Arab Geopolitics 2020: The Middle East, what kind of future?

Live broadcast

Today, the Arab region is undergoing another cycle of wars, after four Arab-Israeli conflicts, three Israeli-Lebanese wars, three Gulf wars, the creation of a self-styled “caliphate”, eight Arab revolutions, while two low-intensity and three high-intensity civil wars are still ongoing.

In the past three years, the struggle around Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya has polarised the area, seemingly around religious oppositions, but the reality shows competing regional clusters in the arena of destabilised countries and against a possible rising Iranian power.

On the backdrop of this regional competition major powers, among which Russia and China, are opportunistically exploiting the enduring turmoil to recover or expand their influence spheres, with indirect impact on energy security of supply.

The great loser in this power struggle is civil society; the same civil society that made its powerful voice and claim for change heard in 2011. War struck societies are mostly engaged in survival, but in some countries vigorous protests are staged that relay the same quest for concrete reforms.

Within this perspective, the NATO Defense College Foundation is organizing an international conference entitled “Arab Geopolitics 2020: what kind of future for the Middle East?” in collaboration with the Policy Center for the New South and the NATO Defense College on July 27th 2020 in Rome, Italy.

The structure of the conference will be articulated in two panels. The first panel will explore the evolving geopolitics and politics of the region, like the role of Iran in the Gulf power competition, the future of the Iran-Russia-Turkey triangle, the alternatives for Saudi Arabia regarding an exit strategy from the war in Yemen and for reshaping its hegemony in the Gulf Cooperation Council and the outcomes of the reconstruction in Iraq and Syria.

The second will be a panel on regional social development. The main themes considered will be: the future of authoritarian states, the restructuring of the social contract with diminishing oil revenues, the evolution of the women’s role and rights and how to re-involve in social participation a disenfranchised youth.

The conference will be held at the Sala delle Belle Arti, Rome Cavalieri, A Waldorf Astoria Hotel, Via Alberto Cadlolo, 101 - 00136 Rome. It will also be live streamed on our YouTube channel as well as on our Facebook page.



Arrival of participants - Registration


Welcome remarks

Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, President, NATO Defense College Foundation, Rome *

James Huber, Military Assistant to the Dean, NATO Defense College, Rome 

Karim El Aynaoui, President, Policy Center for the New South, Rabat (Virtual) *


Opening remarks

Gilles Kepel, Scientific Director, Middle East Mediterranean Freethinking Platform, Università della Svizzera italiana, Lugano *


Session I: An Unsettled Middle East


Claire Spencer, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, King’s College, London


Giovanni Romani, Head, Middle East and North Africa Section, Political Affairs and Security Policy Division, NATO HQ, Brussels (Virtual) *

Youssef Cherif, Deputy Director, Columbia Global Centers, Tunis *

Youness Abouyoub, Director, Governance and State-Building Division for the MENA Region, United Nations, New York (Virtual) *

Mitchell Belfer, President, Euro-Gulf Information *

Q&A session


Coffee/Tea break


Special intervention

Maged Abdelaziz, Permanent Observer to the UN, Arab League, New York (Virtual) *


Session II: The Civil Society, An Open Issue


Maurizio Caprara, Foreign Affairs Commentator, Corriere della Sera *


Robert Watkins, Assistant Director; Head of the Middle East and North Africa Division, DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance, Geneva *

Brahim Oumansour, Associate Fellow, Center for Studies and Research on the Arab and Mediterranean World, Geneva; and Associate Research Fellow, Institute for International and Strategic Affairs, Paris *

Sofia Barbarani, Freelance Journalist *

Mohammed Loulichki, Senior Fellow, Policy Center for the New South, Rabat (Virtual) *

Q&A session


Closing remarks

Keep me informed
About the Speakers :
  • Maged Abdelaziz, Permanent observer to the UN, Arab League

    Prior to his appointment at his current post in September 2017, he was the UN Under-Secretary-General, Special Adviser of the Secretary-General on Africa (2012-17) and Permanent Representative of Egypt to the UN (2005-12). In that capacity, he was the African member of the Bureau of the Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development which laid the foundation for the UN 2030 Agenda and the African Agenda 2063. Vice President of the Economic and Social Council (2011-12) and Vice President of the United Nations General Assembly (2008-09) representing Africa, Mr. Abdelaziz enjoys an intimate knowledge of the UN and the AU’s intergovernmental processes and multilateral diplomacy. As Chair of the Coordinating Bureau of the Non-Aligned Movement (2009-12), he played a leading role in coordinating developing countries position in the UN along with the G77 and China. Diplomatic Adviser to the President of Egypt and Official Spokesman of the Presidency (1999-2005), Deputy Permanent Representative to the UN (1995-99), Political Counsellor in the New York Mission (1995-97), he joined the Foreign Ministry in 1979 and was among other posts the Political Counsellor at the Egyptian Embassy in the USSR (1989-93). Mr. Abdelaziz graduated from the Ain Shams University School of Law in 1973.

  • Youness Abouyoub, Director, Governance and State-Building Division for the MENA Region, United Nations

    Former head of the political office of the UN Under-Secretary General for Conflict Prevention and senior political advisor to the UN Secretary General Special Envoy to Burundi. He directed the political office of the UN Secretary General Special Envoy to Yemen and acted as his senior special advisor. He also was the senior political officer in charge of the regional affairs in the UN political mission to Libya (UNSMIL) and head of office of the special representative of the UN Secretary General in Libya. He also served as Senior Regional Expert in the UN Security Council Panel of Experts on Sudan (Darfur) and worked for the United Nations Department of Political Affairs (New York) and the United Nations Environment Program in Nairobi. Mr. Youness Abouyoub holds a PhD in political sociology (Paris Sorbonne/Columbia University) and MA in Geopolitics and Law.

  • Sofia Barbarani, Freelance Journalist

    Dr Barbarani is a freelance journalist who dedicated the past six years to conflict and humanitarian reporting in the Middle East, with particular focus on women’s issues. She worked extensively in Iraq (where she was based for three years) and Syria, covering the rise and fall of ISIS. She also reported from Venezuela, Cuba, South Sudan, southern Europe and the Gulf. Her words and images have appeared in leading print and online publications including The Telegraph, The Economist, Thomson Reuters Foundation, The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Times and Al Jazeera English, among others. She researched and wrote the 2015 Lonely Planet Iraq Chapter and carried out region-wide reporting and research for The Guardian’s “Latin America Now” series as well as The New York Times upfront. In 2017 she was nominated for the XCity Award for her work in Venezuela, where she focussed on the effects of the economic crisis on children, women’s reproductive rights and mental health. She was based in the UAE from 2018 to 2019, where she worked as an editor of the foreign desk of The National. During that time, she hosted weekly podcasts and worked in front and behind the camera.

  • Mitchell Belfer, President, Euro-Gulf Information

    Mitchell Belfer is President of the Euro-Gulf Information Centre (Rome), Editor of the Central European Journal of International and Security Studies (Prague) and Senior Lecturer at the Metropolitan University Prague. In addition to his numerous works of scholarship, Mitchell is also a frequent commentator in the international media and often speaks on Radio France International among other outlets and has written for the Wall Street Journal, National Review and an assortment of other media. Mitchell's last monograph, Small State, Dangerous Region: A Strategic Assessment of Bahrain, was released in 2014 by Peter Lang Publishing in Frankfurt, Germany. Mitchell specialises in the security related issues in the Arab Gulf region and wider Middle East with an emphasis on: terrorism and counterterrorism, radical ideologies, small state foreign policy and geopolitics.

  • Maurizio Caprara, Foreign Affairs Commentator, Corriere della Sera

    Maurizio Caprara is a foreign affairs commentator for the Corriere della Sera, where he has been writing since 1979. He was Councillor to the Italian President of the Republic, Giorgio Napolitano, and Director of the Presidential Press and Communication Office. Anchorman, editor and consultant for TV and radio programmes, he has collaborated with RAI Radiotelevisione Italiana, Mediaset and Sky. Author of several books, among them Lavoro riservato. I cassetti segreti del PCI (Secret Job. The confidential files of the Italian Communist Party, Feltrinelli, 1997), the chapter The Lockheed case in Parliament (2001) of the book Storia d’Italia edited by Einaudi, and other publications. He wrote during several years for the Enciclopedia Universale Garzanti the contemporary history section dedicated to Italian domestic and foreign politics. He is a member of the Steering Committee of the Istituto Affari Internazionali (IAI) and of the Scientific Committee of the Centre for Politics and International Studies (CeSPI). Dr Caprara has been awarded the honour of Grand Officer of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic.

  • Youssef Cherif, Deputy Director, Columbia Global Centers

    Youssef Cherif is a political analyst who specializes in North African affairs. He is member in Carnegie's Civic Research Network and is contributing to a number of think-tanks. He was previously the Al-Maidan Libya Project manager at the Institute for War and Peace Reporting (IWPR), and an expert affiliated to the Tunisian Institute for Strategic Studies (ITES). He consulted for the Arab Institute for Business Managers (IACE), the UN, The Carter Center in Tunisia, etc.

    Youssef holds a Chevening Master of Arts in International Relations from the Department of War Studies of King's College London, and a Fulbright Master of Arts in Classical Studies from Columbia University, where he first came as a Visiting Scholar. He comments or writes regularly for several media outlets, including Al Jazeera English, France 24, BBC, Fanack and think-tanks such as DGAP, IEMed and the Atlantic Council.

  • Karim El Aynaoui, President, Policy Center for the New South

    Karim El Aynaoui is Dean of the Faculty of Economics and Social Sciences of the Mohammed VI Polytechnic University. He is also President of the Policy Center for the New South, previously known as OCP Policy Center, a think tank based in Rabat and serves as advisor to the CEO and Chairman of OCP Group, a global leader in the phosphate sector. From 2005 to 2012, he worked at Bank Al-Maghrib, the Central Bank of Morocco. He was the Director of Economics and International Relations, where he provided strategic leadership in defining and supporting monetary policy analysis and strategy. He was also in charge of the Statistical and International Relations Divisions of the Central Bank, led the research division and was a member of the Governor’s Cabinet. Before joining Bank Al-Maghrib, Karim El Aynaoui worked for eight years at the World Bank, both in its Middle Eastern and North Africa, and Africa regions as an economist. He has published papers, books and articles in scientific journals on macroeconomic issues in developing countries. Recently, he co-authored a book outlining a growth strategy for Morocco and was the guest editor of a special issue on food price volatility in Oxford Economic Papers.

    Karim El Aynaoui is a board member of the OCP Foundation and serves as a member in the Strategic Advisory Board of the French Institute of International Relations (IFRI), the COP22 Scientific Committee, the Malabo-Montpellier Panel, the Scientific Council of the Moroccan Capital Market Authority (AMMC), and the Trilateral Commission. He holds a PhD in economics from the University of Bordeaux, where he taught for three years courses in statistics and economics.

  • Gilles Kepel, Scientific Director, Middle East Mediterranean Freethinking Platform, Università della Svizzera italiana

    Gilles Kepel is a French political scientist and Arabist, specialised in the contemporary Middle East and Muslims in the West. He is Adjunct Professor and scientific director of the Middle East Mediterranean Freethinking Platform.

    He is also Professor at the Université Paris Sciences et Lettres (PSL) and director of the Middle East and Mediterranean Chair at PSL, based at Ecole Normale Supérieure.

    Originally trained as a classicist, he started to study Arabic after a journey to the Levant in 1974. He first graduated in Philosophy and English, then completed his Arabic language studies at the French Institute in Damascus (1977–78), and received his degree from SciencesPo in 1980.

    His research interests focus on the current geopolitical configurations and conflicts in the Middle East Mediterranean region; on the impact the impact of Jihadi terror in the wake of the Massive attacks on French and European soil. He investigated the developments of Islam as a social and political phenomenon in France, with an innovative approach in Islamic studies in the West.

  • Mohammed Loulichki, Senior Fellow, Policy Center for the New South

    Mohammed Loulichki is a Senior Fellow at the Policy Center for the New South. He focuses on Diplomacy, conflicts resolution and human rights. He has an extensive experience of 40 years in diplomacy and legal affairs. He assumed inter alia the functions of Head of the Department of Legal Affairs and Treaties in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was also Ambassador of Morocco in Hungary, Bosnia – Herzegovina and Croatia (1995-1999), Ambassador Coordinator of the Government of Morocco with MINURSO (1999 – 2001), Ambassador of Morocco to the United Nations in Geneva (2006-2008) and New York (2001-2003 and 2008-2014), as well as President of the Security Council (December 2014). Mr. Loulichki was appointed President of the Counter-Terrorism Committee of the Security Council (2013), President of the working Group on Peace Keeping Operations (2012), Vice-President of the Human Rights Council (2006), Facilitator of the Universal Periodic Review of the said Council (2006 and 2010) and President of the National Committee in charge of the follow up on nuclear matters (2003-2006).

  • Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo, President, NATO Defense College Foundation

    Alessandro Minuto-Rizzo is an Italian diplomat who served as Deputy Secretary General of NATO from 2001 to 2007, and as acting Secretary General of NATO from December 2003 to January 2004, in between the tenures of George Robertson and Jaap de Hoop Scheffer. Prior to being appointed Deputy Secretary General, he served as ambassador of Italy to the Western European Union and to the Committee for Policy and Security of the European Union. He is member of the Italy-USA Foundation.

  • Brahim Oumansour, Associate Fellow, Center for Studies and Research on the Arab and Mediterranean World, Geneva; and Associate Research Fellow, Institute for International and Strategic Affairs

    Brahim Oumansour is an associate researcher at IRIS. He works as an expert in international strategy for the IRIS Sup diploma in Defense, Security and Crisis Management and Geopolitics and Prospective.

    He teaches Comparative Political Systems, Geopolitics and Economic English respectively at the University of Paris-Est Créteil, at the University of Evry val d'Essonne and at the SUPii Mécavenir school.

    His research focuses mainly on the Maghreb as well as on US foreign policy in North Africa and the Middle East from World War II to the war on terrorism and the democratization project. He is particularly interested in public diplomacy and the role of non-state actors (NGOs, unions, influence groups, multinationals, etc.), questions relating to terrorism, conflict management, etc.

    Brahim Oumansour has published in French and foreign academic journals. He is also an associate researcher at CERMAM (Center for Studies and Research on the Arab and Mediterranean World) and lectures at the Global Studies Institute - University of Geneva, as an external speaker.

    He obtained his doctorate in 2014 from the Institut du monde anglophone at Sorbonne Nouvelle-Paris3 University.

  • Giovanni Romani, Head of the Middle East and North Africa Section, NATO

    Giovanni Romani is a former Italian Navy officer. He has been on active duty from 1985 to 2006. He served as a combat operations electronic warfare and intelligence officer on several Italian and US ships, taking also part in the “Sharp Guard” and “Sharp France” operations in the Former Republic of Yugoslavia. In March 2006, he was appointed Head of NATO’s Naval Armament Unit. From April 2012 to December 2017, he led the Land and Maritime Capabilities Section within the NATO Defence Investment Division. Mr Romani is currently Head of NATO Middle East and North Africa Section

  • Claire Spencer, Visiting Senior Research Fellow, King’s College

    Claire Spencer is currently an independent consultant with the British Council working on the Hammamet series of conferences that fosters greater links between the UK and North Africa. The current theme for cooperation focuses on the socio-economic transformations of the digital age and the opportunities the growth of virtual connectivity presents to otherwise marginalised communities. Prior to this, Dr. Spencer was Senior Research Fellow and Head of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) Programme at the foreign policy institute Chatham House, having previously served as Head of Policy for the Middle East and Central Asia for the development agency Christian Aid. Until 2001, she was Deputy Director of the Centre for Defence Studies at King's College, where she set up and led the Mediterranean Security programme.

    Dr. Spencer is a member of a number of advisory boards and associations relating to the MENA region, and has acted as an expert witness in a number of legal proceedings and parliamentary enquiries. She is a Fellow of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce. Dr. Spencer received her BSc in politics from Bristol University and her PhD from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

  • Robert Watkins, Assistant Director; Head of the Middle East and North Africa Division, DCAF – Geneva Centre for Security Sector Governance

    Robert Watkins became Assistant Director and Head of the Middle East and North Africa Division on 15 October 2018. Robert has forged a long career in international organizations, beginning with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies in 1989, then the European Commission, from 2000 to 2005, and the United Nations from 2006 to 2017. He began working at the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies, in Geneva, in early 2018, at the Centre for Conflict, Development and Peacebuilding, before joining DCAF.  

    His assignments over the past 20 years have taken him to Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Djibouti, Dominican Republic, Georgia, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey.
    A British and Canadian national, Robert is married with three children, and speaks English, French, Spanish, and some Arabic.