conf poster


Date: 17 - 18 October 2017

Venue: Sheraton Hotel, Pretoria, 643 cnr Stanza Bopape

Concept Note

A century ago, the Sykes-Picot agreement was signed, carving up parts of the Middle East between French, British and Russian spheres of influence in the event that the Ottoman Empire collapsed. That agreement led to the formation of a number of states – as preferred by the British and French, and had a profound influence in shaping what the region looks like today. The sponsors of Sykes-Picot imposed a nation state system that has not served the interests of the people of the region. Also a century ago, penned in November 1917, the Balfour Declaration promised the Zionist movement that the British supported the creation of a Jewish state on land whose residents were not consulted. A hundred years later, the state in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region is in crisis, and substantial credit for that is due to these two documents.

Recently, the MENA uprisings that began in December 2010 have had a massive impact on the social contracts that previously governed state-society relations. While the gains of the uprisings (except in Tunisia) have largely been reversed, or have led to civil wars, some elites in the region sought to protect their states by quelling dissent through financial incentives; others intensified the repression that had already existed. While the region remains fragmented, most states find themselves floundering, and governance has effectively collapsed in Yemen, Libya, and Syria, there are also attempts to create new states, with varying degrees of recognition by the international community. Sections of the Kurdish population; the Palestinians; the Saharawi; and the Islamic State group have all either attempted to create states, or to get recognition to formalise states which do not exist in reality.

The concept of the state is a contested one in political theory and international relations, with various understandings of what criteria are sufficient for a state to exist, the role of recognition in the existence of states, what defines a state as a person in international law, the role of the economy (and capitalism) in defining a state, and so forth. Some of the contestation is ideological, and related to the limits on the roles and functions of a state. The role of the United Nations in defining and recognising states became crucial in the second half of the twentieth century. Nevertheless, criteria are not always applied uniformly or universally, and, often, dominant states bend definitions and offer or withhold support on the basis of their interests rather than any theories or agreed-upon definitions.

Although still contested, perhaps two understandings of the state that have become most accepted are those of Max Weber and the 1933 Montevideo Convention. Weber argued that the state was a political organisation with a centralised government ruling over a given territory, and where that organisation holds a ‘monopoly of the legitimate use of physical force’ in the enforcement of its order. The Montevideo Convention on Rights and Duties of States defines a state as a space possessing a permanent population; a defined territory; and a government capable of maintaining effective control over the territory, and of conducting inter-state relations. The questions of whether and how these approaches apply to states in the Middle East before 2010 – and since – will form part of the deliberations at this conference.

Studies of state formation in the MENA region have, in the main, focused on two key elements: political economy and social factors. The former includes the provision of rents (especially through oil resources), and ‘strategic rents’ (financial and military aid by international powers), and the influence of these on state formation. Social factors refer, inter alia, to cultural aspects and the importance of tribal affiliations in inhibiting the formation of a national identity and in enabling the provision of services on a local basis. Both these elements have allowed most MENA regimes to shun accountability to their citizens; and the provision of services by the state has often been diverted toward wealth accumulation for elites.

By 2010, in many MENA states, national identity and domestic state formation was circumscribed. Rampant corruption and increased securitisation, coupled with the 2008 global economic crisis and implementation of structural adjustment programmes saw the collapse of the autocratic bargain that resulted in populations tolerating repression and lack of political freedoms in return for (real or imagined) economic growth.

The Afro-Middle East Centre’s conference on the future of the state in the MENA region will consider these debates regarding the concept and formation of a state, and academics, policymakers and activists will deliberate on the current and future position of the state in the region.


Conference Programme


Tuesday, 17 October 2017

09:00     Opening session:

                Welcome, introduction

                Keynote addresses

10:00     Coffee Break

10:30     Session 1: Understanding ‘the state’

The state: Concept and historical development

State and state recognition in international law

Contesting ideologies shaping (and opposing) state formation in MENA

12:30     Lunch

13:30     Session 2: History and development of the MENA state

Post-Cold War foreign interventions in the MENA region

Monarchies as spoils of the Ottoman Empire

Colonialism giving way to military dictatorships

Whither statehood? 100 years of Palestinian anti-colonial resistance

15:30     Coffee Break

16:00     Session 3: Crisis of the contemporary MENA state

Capitalism and the MENA economic plight

Crisis of development and society

The MENA democracy and development challenge



Wednesday, 18 October 2017

09:00     Session 4: Impact of globalisation and foreign intervention on the MENA state

How healthy is the nation state project globally?

Displaced persons and statelessness: From and on the state

How foreign powers continue to shape the MENA state

Rise and impact of armed non-state actors

11:00     Coffee Break

11:30     Session 5: ‘Aspirational’ states in the MENA region

Kurdish nationalism and Kurdistan ‘ideal’

The question of Palestine

Al-dawla al-Islamiyah

The case of Western Sahara


13:30     Lunch

14:30     Session 6: The future of the MENA state

Nationalist appeals in the service of authoritarianism

The resort to parochialism [Return to local roots: ethnic, religious, tribal]

Developing reconfiguration of the MENA region, states and alliances

16:30     Closing session


Afro-Middle East Centre & Al Sharq Forum
Towards a New Security Architecture
for the MENA Region

18-19 March , Istanbul - Turkey
■ Simultaneous translation will be available in Turkish, Arabic and English
■ Konferansımızda Türkçe, İngilizce ve Arapça simültane çeviri olacaktır
■ الترجمة الفورية ستكون متاحة باللغات: الانجليزيه، التركية، والعربية



Conference Description

The collapse of regional order has made the security failures of the Sharq region ever more apparent. State failures, violent extremism, the emergence of militia groups as prevalent regional forces, chemical warfare, and the arms race are among the security problems, which call for the development of a new security architecture for the MENA region.

The phenomenon of the failed state as witnessed in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Libya triggered the rise of violent extremism and militia forces as new security apparatuses in the region. The legitimacy concerns surrounding non-state actors, given their prevalent terrorist actions across the region, make determining legitimate actors of the new security architecture even harder.  The long-standing crises the region has been suffering seem to have created support for autocratic regimes and whether the foreign powers favored these regimes is an issue that should be discussed.  In efforts to map the road ahead for establishing the new security architecture, the role of international powers is of paramount importance especially in the issue of implementing economic and political cooperation. Additionally, the regional leadership is needed in consolidating counter-terrorism efforts without resorting to proxies to end sectarian divisions in framing this new structure.

The region witnessed change in the nature of security apparatuses and the nature of conflicts. Energy resources, nuclear efforts, technological developments, and even social media became sources of conflict, let alone the emergence of new characteristics in warfare and type of militarization. In order to determine a well-functioning new security architecture, understanding the nature of conflicts is a must. Yet, amid this surge of conflict, the issue of human rights and its importance in the new security architecture should not be overlooked. Peoples of the region have deeply suffered from the use of chemical weapons, asymmetrical force and continue to be exposed to surveillance that overrides the right to privacy. To find solutions to breach of rights, the integration of human rights into this structure through international and regional conventions should be debated. The new security architecture also needs to lay grounds for law enforcement in complying with human rights and citizenship rights in the region. The role of regional and international multilateral organizations is another point of debate. The new structure need to assess the role that global institutions such as the UN, UN related bodies, NATO, OSCE and regional institutions including the Arab League, the OIC and the GCC should play in the region.

This conference organized by the Al Shaq Forum and Afro Middle East Center (AMEC) partnership will bring together experts, policymakers, and current and former officials, as well as representatives of international agencies, to share new perspectives and provide new insights on the aforementioned security issues in order to suggest frameworks for a new security architecture in the MENA region.


Hosted by AMEC and Al Sharq Forum

Date: 18-19 March 2017

Place:  Istanbul, Turkey.

Register: Register here.


The collapse of regional order has made the security failures of the Sharq region ever more apparent. State failures, violent extremism, the emergence of militia groups as central regional forces, chemical warfare, and the arms race are among the security problems of the region which call for the development of a new security architecture for the MENA. This conference will bring together experts, policymakers, and current and former officials, as well as representatives of international agencies, to share their perspectives and provide new insights on current security issues and suggest frameworks for a new security architecture in the region.


Plenary 1 – Session 1
The collapsing regional order and the need for a new security architecture for the MENA region

  • The failed state phenomenon, terrorism and the emergence of militia forces as the new security and military apparatus in the region
  • Dictatorship vs. democracy: Are the long-standing crises in the region creating the backing for autocratic regimes?
  • The role of foreign interventions and foreign involvement in the collapsing security order in the region: direct military operations and indirect involvement (e.g. political, financial and military aid)
  • What is the role of military alliances and aid in fueling current military conflicts and security dilemmas in the region?
  • What should be the pillars of the new security architecture?: Economic, military and/or political cooperation?
Parallel Session 1
Determining the actors of the new security architecture
  • Who are the legitimate state actors?: Questions of the legitimate use of force and state terrorism in defining actors within the new security architecture
  • Defining legitimate non-state actors:

a) The problems associated with the legalization of non-state militia groups

b) The unlawful characteristics of militias as barriers for legitimization: terrorist acts committed by militia groups across the region

c) What should be the balance between the integration and elimination of militia groups vis a vis the new security architecture?

  • Defining stateless actors: long-term stateless actors as governing bodies
Parallel Session 2
The role of regional and international multilateral organizations in the  new security architecture
  • What can the Arab League, the OIC, the Maghreb Union, the GCC and the African Union offerthe new security architecture in the region?
  • What can the UN and other related bodies offer the new security architecture?
  • Can NATO, OSCE or the EU provide frameworks for the new architecture?
  • Can multilateral organizations help prevent the use of armed groups as proxy war and foreign policy tools in the region?
Parallel Session 3
The changing nature of conflicts in the region
  • What are the changing characteristics of war and militarization in the region:
  • The impact of the demand for a particular type of military equipment and training due to the increasing threat of civil wars, coups and internal conflicts
  • Porous borders and cross-border military entities
  • Energy resources as war targets and sources of war funding
  • Nuclear military capacity in the region: how to ensure nuclear non-proliferation within the new security architecture
  • How illicit arms trade interests in the region affect current crises and how to bring rules and standards to the arms trade in the region
  • The role of social media in recruitment for terrorism and disseminating the fear of terrorism
  • The impact of the use of unmanned devices (drones, UAVs, etc.) in the region
Parallel Session 4
Human rights and the new security architecture
  •  The tragedy of chemical warfare: preventing the use of chemical weapons in regional conflicts
  • How can we integrate human rights into the new security structure?: The role of international conventions and the need for drafting regional conventions
  • What can be the mechanisms to enforce human rights in the new security architecture?
  • How to determine the moral and ethical pillars of the new security architecture in the region?
  • Where is the line between lawful surveillance and the invasion of the right to privacy?
Final Session – Plenary Session 2
Mapping the new security architecture: the road ahead
  • Which states, actors and organizations should/could be at the nucleus of the new architecture?
  • How essential are economic and political cooperation as complementary efforts towards the new security architecture?
  • What role can international powers take in the new architecture?
  • What are the ways to end the sectarian divide under this new security framework?
  • How can we prevent the use of non-state actors as proxy war and foreign policy tools?
  • How can we create effective counter-terrorism efforts within the new security architecture?: Consolidating counter-terrorism efforts under regional leadership

Event Description

Turkey and South Africa are two regional powers with international roles, responsibilities and influence. This conference will bring together experts, policy-makers, current and former officials, as well as representatives of international agencies to share their perspectives and provide new insights on the current situation and future of Turkish and South African politics and relations. The conference will have three sessions: The first session will focus on the ways in which dominant party politics affect internal and international dynamics within these two regional powers. The second session will evaluate the roles and responsibilities of Turkey and South Africa towards the MENA region. The last session will concentrate on new initiatives and opportunities for partnerships between Turkey and South Africa in Africa.


09:00 – 09:30 Registration
09:30 – 09:45 Welcome, Introduction:
09.45 – 11:00 Keynote Address
11:15 – 12.45 Session I: Opportunities and challenges of dominant party politics in Turkey and South Africa
  • AK Party and ANC: Dominant parties at play
  • Political economy of Turkey-South Africa relations: Opportunities and challenges
  • The implication of Turkey’s failed coup on Turkey-South Africa relations  
12.45 – 14.00 Lunch
14.00 – 15.30 Session II: Turkish and South African roles in the face of a turbulent MENA region
  • The evolution of Turkey’s Middle East Policy: Causes, Consequences, and Implications
  • South Africa’s imperatives in its foreign policy on the Middle East
  • Where will Turkey’s Syria policy lead to?
  • A South African view on the Syrian imbroglio
15.30 – 15.45 Coffee Break
15.45 – 17.15 Session III: South Africa and Turkey: The potential for cooperation in Africa
  • Is the new ‘scramble for Africa’ good for the continent?
  • Turkey’s role in Africa: A critical assessment
  • Development Aid in Africa: Old Issues, New Solutions?
  • The potential for South African-Turkish cooperation in Africa after the failed coup attempt in Turkey
17:15 – 17:45 Closing Remarks

The conference will take place at the Sheraton Hotel in Pretoria, South Africa.

Sheraton Pretoria Hotel
643 Stanza Bopape St, Pretoria, 0007, South Africa - Pretoria

Sheraton Pretoria Hotel

AMEC's international conference scheduled for 27 to 29 August promises insightful discussion, vigorous debate and close interrogation of issues as around twenty foreign and South African speakers come together to deliberate on the uprisings in the Middle East and North Africa, possible futures for the region and the impact of all of this on the African continent.

Academics, politicians and analysts will deliberate and discuss critical issues facing the region and look towards scenarios that could unfold, examining the possibilities for the emergence of real democracy. There will also be discussion on whether the South African experience of transition might be useful for countries in the MENA region.

Preparations are in full-swing at the Afro-Middle East Centre for the conference to take place in Pretoria, South Africa's capital city.

Attendance to the conference is strictly by pre-registration. Those interested may register online or email conference at (replacing 'at' with @).

Speakers who have already confirmed their attendance include:

Ebrahim ebrahim

Ebrahim Ebrahim-Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperatation of South Africa;


Wadah Khanfar - former director general of the AlJazeera Network and now executive director of recently-launched Sharq Forum;

larbi sadiki

Larbi Sadiki - senior lecturer at Exeter University, author and columnist;

juan cole

Juan Cole - professor of history at the University of Michigan and a prolific writer on issues concerning the Muslim world;


Najib Ghadbian - professor of political science and Middle East studies at the University of Arkansas and member of the Syrian National Council;


Ashur Shamis - Author, Islamist leader from Libya and advisor to the Libyan prime minister;

dr Mohsen Saleh

Mohsen Saleh - executive director of the Al-Zaytouna Centre for Studies and Consultations based in Beirut;


Yossi Shain - professor at Georgetown University and Tel Aviv University, specialising in international relations and comparative politics.

phyllis bennis

Phyllis Bennis - director of the New Internationalism Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, author, analyst and activist on Middle East and UN issues for many years;


 professor of international relations and history at Boston University. He has written numerous articles, book reviews and translations and specialises in Middle Eastern politics, cultural history, Shiism and international law;

 garth le pere

Garth le Pere – senior partner for Research and Development at DAJO Associates and professor of political science at the University of Pretoria;

John Daniels2

John Daniel - academic coordinator for SIT Exchange. From 1997 to 1999 he was a senior researcher with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC);

yahia Zoubir

Yahia Zoubir - professor of international relations and international management and director of research in geopolitics at Euromed Management, Marseille School of Management;

francis Ikome

Francis Ikome - an African affairs analyst, Ikome works for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa;

Yasmin sooka

Yasmin Sooka - executive director of the EU-funded Foundation for Human Rights in Johannesburg and former commissioner of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC).

Shamil jeppie

Dr Shamil Jeppie – associate professor in the Department of Historical Studies at the University of Cape Town, and is currently based in its Institute for Humanities in Africa (HUMA). He is also Director of the 'Tombouctou Manuscript Project';

Mzukizi qobo

Dr Mzukizi Qobo - public speaker and political risk consultant;

Maryam al-khawaja

Mariam Al-Khawaja - Bahraini human rights activist and current acting president of the Bahraini Centre for Human Rights;

fawaz tello

Fawaz Tello - Syrian opposition member;

 taha ozhan

Dr Taha Ozhan - Director general of the Foundation for the Political, Economic, and Social Research (SETA).

Anwar Maaroufi - Ennahda Party, Tunisia

Essop Pahad - Editor of The Thinker. Former minister in the Presidency of South Africa.

Mohammad Marandi - Dr Seyed Mohammad Marandi is associate professor in the faculty of world studies at the University of Yehran and chairs the university's department of north American studies.

The conference will discuss the uprisings across the MENA region since the end of 2010, explore possible futures for the various countries in the region and examine the impact of the uprisings on the African continent.

Click here to view the conference programme.

Attendance at the conference will be strictly by pre-registration only. To register,click here or email conference at (replacing at with @).

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