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Engaging for Peace and Security:

The Middle East and North Africa (MENA) is a volatile region marred by conflicts and affected by arms build-ups, including weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and uncontrolled proliferation of arms to violent non-state actors.

In the late 1990s, GCSP initiated a series of training modules for officials from that region in order to promote adherence to and effective implementation of multilateral arms control, disarmament, and non-proliferation instruments. After an interruption of this executive programme between 2015 and 2017, the GCSP decided to resume its offer to countries of the MENA region thanks to funding from the Swiss Government.

The first module of this new series was held in Geneva from 10 to 14 July 2014. Participants included civilian and military officials from Egypt, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Morocco, Qatar, the State of Palestine, Saudi Arabia, and Tunisia as well as the Swiss Defence Attaché in Jordan. The experts who contributed to this course represented a sample of the expertise available in Geneva on arms control, with experience as academics, practitioners, and civil society actors. During the course, participants discussed mainly multilateral legal and other responses to arms proliferation (nuclear, biological, chemical, conventional weapons including antipersonnel landmines, cluster munitions, the arms trade, ‘inhumane’ weapons, etc.) as well as the geopolitical context of the MENA region, space security, the humanitarian approach to disarmament, and the role of civil society in that process.

Considering the current tensions in the region, the participants also benefited from a unique opportunity to engage with each other, address differences and common interests, and pave the way to forming a community of practice within the GCSP Alumni network.

The next edition of the course will be held in Amman, Jordan, from 12 to 16 November 2017, with some of the participants to the Geneva course and new ones. The focus of the course, which will be organised in partnership with the Jordan Institute of Diplomacy, will be regional security and possible cooperative approaches to security challenges, including arms proliferation to non-state actors.

In view of the failure of the international community to launch the negotiation of a WMD-free zone in the Middle East, despite commitments dating back to 1995, and because of the current challenges faced by the MENA region, GCSP’s executive education programmes appear useful in filling this gap. Indeed, a generational change is taking place among the decision-makers and practitioners dealing with arms control. Ensuring that their capacities to address such challenges are developed can only contribute to more effective, rule-of-law-based, and collaborative solutions to be applied in the interest of peace and security.