Rome MED – Mediterranean Dialogues was convened in Rome on Nov. 30 under the patronage of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation and the ISPI (Italian Institute for International Political Studies). It is closing today after a series of plenary and dialogue sessions among 45 heads of state, ministers and top representatives of international organizations, 800 leaders in business, politics, and culture, and 80 think tanks and international institutions from 56 countries. Rome MED Mediterranean Dialogues “Beyond turmoil, a positive agenda” in its third edition has turned Rome into a global hub for high-level dialogues to come up with a positive agenda for the Mediterranean. It was preceded by a series of 10 meetings in five cities from June until November 2017, and 10 forums in Rome on Nov. 29 and 30 about women, policy planners, youth, religion, energy, sport, euro-med think tanks, media, and business and development cooperation topics. In addition, Med Report was published as a tool to support debate through compiling various opinions and policy recommendations on current dynamics and future developments in the Mediterranean region at the political, security and socio-economic levels. The report and all meetings and forums conducted have steered debates and opinions reaching Rome Med that is built on four pillars: Shared Prosperity, Shared Security, Migration, and Civil Society and Culture.
What distinguishes this annual high-level initiative is that it is not a classical conference, forum or summit but a dialogue to shed light on the importance of structured dialogue among all stakeholders to address our current dynamics and challenges as well as future developments.
High level representatives were getting into dialogue to digest new ideas, rethink traditional approaches and address shared challenges at both the regional and the international levels. It is noticeable that this initiative is a process oriented one focusing on the structured dialogue and debates among all stakeholders.
The Rome MED dialogues is bringing its “positive agenda” approach in a critical moment for Europe, MENA region and the entire globe. The Mediterranean is currently passing through a wave of critical inter-regional trends that are going to shape the future of interactions between countries on both banks of the Mediterranean Sea. Terrorism is on top of these trends which does not distinguish in its target between north or south countries. Besides, Brexit is undoubtedly another influencer on the future of both regions on which an intensive dialogue among the region is imperative. Energy security, knowledge economy, international trade and global development, all are examples of a long list of issues that form the regional dialogue platform.
Lebanon’s President Michel Aoun, in his keynote speech at the Rome MED opening stressed the importance of dialogue as an essential need for confronting challenges in the region. The president repeated in his speech what Pope John Paul II said about Lebanon: “It is more than a country; it is a message!” The president also reiterated his call at the United Nations General Assembly in September to nominate Lebanon as “a permanent center for dialogue between the various civilizations, religions and races,” and transform it into “a school to train educators who uphold human values and coexistence.” What the president said is the main mission of Lebanon even before its inception. Regardless of wars and political polarizations, it is worth noting that Lebanon is a human, cultural and civilization mission and more than just a nation. Historically, Lebanon has been a bridge for civilizations between the East and the West. It is the republic of dialogue, education, sciences, culture and arts.
Lebanon, despite its small population and territory, is a real exemplar of the Euro-Mediterranean diversity. Its richness in religious, ethnic and cultural diversity represents a true model for integration. This model is worth serious investment from the key players in the region.
Lebanon’s stability is an actual regional cause for maintenance and preservation. It is a cornerstone for Middle Eastern stability and barometer for the health of its economic development and regional resilience. Lebanon’s human capital is one of the highest educated and skilled in the region. It represents the proper human capital to act as a stimulus and mediator for social regional integration and skills transfer.
The Rome MED dialogues comes at a critical moment in the modern history of the region. It constitutes a proper space for senior policy dialogue and intellectual exchange. Moreover, the keynote speech of President Aoun represented a vision for Lebanon’s true position in the region. It is critically needed to have the European and Mediterranean institutions invest in the stability and development of Lebanon. This investment is necessary to foster regional stability and social peace given the richness of Lebanon’s fabric. The Mediterranean has interlinkages and interactions that are rarely seen in other regions of the world, and hence, it is worth promoting and maintaining in order to preserve an essential part of human civilization.
Hiba Huneini is the manager of the Youth and Civic Engagement Program at the Hariri Foundation for Sustainable Human Development. Email her at [email protected]
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on December 02, 2017, on page 3.