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20th edition of the Doha Forum: understanding the challenges of the coming world

Par Sébastien Boussois

Two years after its last edition, and a pandemic later, the Doha Forum has just celebrated its 20th anniversary. At the heart of complex geopolitical issues, in a region fuelled by fire and powder, at a time in recent history when Europe is itself in the grip of war, this new edition of the second largest political forum in the world, to analyse the future transformations of the world in the light of a new era.

Introduced by the Emir Tamim Al Thani, this edition welcomed nearly 1,600 people from all over the world. The Qatari leader stressed the importance of the challenges facing the world in the years to come: inequality, injustice, climate, wars, refugees, the situation of Palestinians, Syrians and Afghans. He also regretted that many countries in crisis are opting for a militarization of political solutions instead of promoting a politicization of military solutions.

Stressing the importance of dialogue, he recalled his role in the play of international institutions and his determination to always make the choice of multilateralism contrary to many of his neighbours who constantly defy international law: “The new era we dream of and for which I personally work is the era of peace, coexistence, social justice, where everyone can meet their needs in education, health, food and water, of dignity and ultimately fulfillment.”

The first carbon neutral forum, the Doha Forum has gone through two decades of political and geopolitical crisis to become today, behind Davos, the preferred meeting place of politicians, institutions, academics, members of civil society and discuss several major themes: the climate issue, youth, refugees and migration, economies in times of war, post-pandemic business, issues and dangers of artificial intelligence, education, energy transition, challenges in Africa, the issue of natural gas, engagement and disengagement from conflict zones. He also spoke about the first consequences of the conflict in Ukraine triggered by Russia, the transformation of strategic alliances in this context, global health and vaccination, as we have seen with the Covid-19 pandemic.19, the new international cooperation to be defended in a multipolar world, etc.

The opening of the Forum plunged the public into the heart of the news, with the live intervention of President Volodymyr Zelensky, adapting -as often- his speech to the audience he is facing. He stressed the importance of Muslims in Ukraine and the dangers they are currently facing in the country. Convinced that empires do not stop at a single victory, and that they have reason only by their extension, Zelenski is worried above all for his country but for the whole world with the policy of Vladimir Putin. But he also spoke of the need for Europe to keep its absolute independence, and to detach itself from Russian gas as soon as possible, Qatari natural liquid gas being a serious option to be developed as soon as possible according to him.

We know, beyond the wealth of hydrocarbons available to Qatar, the importance of meditation for Doha and negotiation in favour of peace on mined battlefields. His active role in the negotiations in Afghanistan since 2018 and his major action in the humanitarian repatriation of thousands of individuals after the fall of Kabul, was praised by the whole world, including the United States with Joe Biden, and the United Nations in the person of its Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.  On this occasion, a special award was presented to a young Afghan entrepreneur, Roya Mahboob, in charge of the «Digital Citizen Fund», who set up a company of young computer scientists despite the war. Since the return of the Taliban, his plan to build a factory has been suspended, as has his idea of a computer school. She recalled in her testimony that her first visit to a cyber café had changed her life: at the time it was very difficult to access culture, books and the computer opened a window on the world.

Afghanistan has been a poor country for decades, where nearly 27 million young people like everyone else on earth want access to the Internet. By giving meaning to the lives of her young comrades, and to work, she makes robotic technology a tool for development and development. A week before the Taliban arrived, she had just obtained her approval to start her factory but everything stopped clean. Instead, as Roya Mahboob likes to point out with hope. She dreams that one day her country can become a country of high technology. For the time being, all he has left to resist is knowledge, as long as it is not completely taken away from him in the coming months, as it is from millions of women on the ground. Especially since the Taliban’s Afghanistan has just closed schools for the latter recently.

The international community has been struggling for years to guard against these wars from Afghanistan to Ukraine. Abdulla Shahid, President of the United Nations General Assembly and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Maldives, sees this context of unprecedented tension as an opportunity also to evolve our international system. For him, as for many of the participants of this 20th edition of the Doha Forum, preventive diplomacy, soft power and humanitarian aid must be put back in the saddle above all. Three recommendations are urgently recommended for him: support the financial system to help the most vulnerable countries to manage their liquidity in the framework of an action programme for 2022-2031 before they become a global debt bomb, equip billions of people with modern and secure digital tools to support education and personal empowerment, and finally fight climate change with all its forces. John Kerry, President Joe Biden’s special envoy, was there to remind him. The world is slowly but surely becoming aware of the phenomenon: from the ultra-polluting Western countries to the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China), the urgency is no longer to overcome the ecological crisis (because we will not succeed), but the urgency is already at least to overcome the most dramatic consequences of this crisis if nothing is done. This will already be a significant act for future generations.

Sébastien Boussois

Doctor of political science, researcher Middle East Euro-Arab relations/ terrorism and radicalization, lecturer in international relations, scientific collaborator of CECID (Université Libre de Bruxelles), OMAN (UQAM Montréal) and SAVE BELGIUM (Society Against Violent Extremism)

Facebook: Sébastien Boussois

“The art of knowledge is knowing what needs to be ignored.” Rumi

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