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Security experts convene at Amman arms control conference

Geneva-led event highlights Kingdom’s continued importance for regional security

By Johanne Kalsaas - Nov 15,2018 - Last updated at Nov 15,2018

AMMAN — An annual course on arms control in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) has gathered a wide range of stakeholders in the fields of peacebuilding, development and security, under the title “Building Capacities on Arms Control in The Middle East and North Africa Region”.

Taking place in Amman between November 7 and 12, the event was organised by the Geneva Centre for Security Policy (GCSP) to “increase understanding of the MENA-region’s geopolitical landscape, explore responses to arms proliferation and seek cooperative solutions to regional security threats”, according to its organisers.

“The people taking part in the conference come from so many different backgrounds: Egypt, Yemen and Syria, representing everything from the armed forces to the private sector and civil society,” said participant Anas Chalabi. 

Identifying as a “millennial”, Chalabi epitomises a generation of young Jordanians dedicated to the issue of regional security. “I think the fact that we grow up in such a turbulent region makes us more interested in these topics. We are constantly discussing them with friends and family, always striving to have as much insight as possible,” Chalabi explained.

Originally from Iraq, he said Jordan offers unique opportunities for people to speak up about improving the Middle East’s volatile situation. “I’ve lived in five different Arab countries, but never experienced anything like the equitable environment we have here in Jordan,” the young man stated.

He noted that “the present course is a good example — I can interact with anyone, no matter their rank and position, and have an open conversation to share my concerns. There is no filter between the authorities and the people”.

“I think the Jordanian government has done a good job of translating the voice of the people into policy. The country is setting a good example for the region. During this event, participants have mentioned several times that Jordan is like the Switzerland of the Middle East,” Chalabi continued, emphasising the Kingdom’s potential as even-handed facilitator in regional reconciliation efforts.

GCSP course director and disarmament expert, Marc Finaud, agreed: “We chose Jordan as a location for this event because of its key role in the Middle East. It represents continuity, stability and dialogue, and has high regional credibility.” 

Another factor for bringing the training to Amman was the abundance of local expertise, he highlighted, saying “the training is organised in connection with Amman Security Colloquium, enabling us to benefit from the capacities and capabilities already present at this event”. 

The capacity-building course is a successor to the 1991 Madrid Conference, which aimed to revive the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. After the conference broke down, the GCSP recognised the need for a platform to promote continued dialogue between the parties, Finaud explained, saying that “we recognised there was a vacuum to be filled in the region. The course attempts to do this by building trust and raising interest in the field of arms control and non-proliferation”.

The event was held in collaboration with the Arab Institute for Security Studies and the Jordan Institute for Diplomacy.

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