Nahyan bin Mubarak opens Ideas Abu Dhabi

Abu Dhabi, 27th March, 2019 (WAM) — The collective power of intellect can produce ideas and initiatives addressing major problems facing the world and help turn ideas into actions that positively impact the lives of individuals and societies. This was the spirit of the opening address by Sheikh Nahyan bin Mubarak Al Nahyan, Minister of Tolerance, as he opened Ideas Abu Dhabi – a two-day event that brings together some of the brightest minds from the UAE and around the world to tackle complex global challenges.

Day one of the high-profile forum included thought-provoking discussions by speakers including Dr. Anwar Gargash, Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, and Sen. Matteo Renzi, Former Prime Minister of Italy.

This morning’s session opened with remarks from Sheikh Nahyan, who emphasised the essential role of tolerance in enriching human life, considering Ideas Abu Dhabi as “a festival of knowledge, innovation and creativity because of its focus on the generation of ideas and the exchange of views. This event is dedicated to the belief that the capacity of thinkers and scientists to be agents of positive change locally and globally, is immense.”


He stated that world progress rested on the quest to find peaceful and innovative solutions to the problems of the world, knowledge-sharing and the promotion of its application to improving quality of human life; and the constant nurturing of creativity and new ways of thinking to enhance peace and prosperity and solve the great global challenges we face today.

“Ideas Abu Dhabi expresses our conviction that our shared values and ideas can bind us close together when they are forcefully and passionately articulated,” he added.

In his address, Sheikh Nahyan also referred to Abu Dhabi recently hosting the Special Olympics World Games last month; as well as the historical meeting between Pope Francis and Dr. Ahmed El-Tayeb, Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, as an example of the moral force and commitment needed at various levels to foster social development and address global challenges.

Ideas Abu Dhabi is held in association with the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organisation based in Washington, DC, and is hosted by Tamkeen, a company that delivers projects enriching Abu Dhabi’s social, cultural, and educational landscape. Part invite-only Forum, part public Festival, Ideas Abu Dhabi is taking place at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) on Saadiyat Island until 28 March.

For his part, Dr. Gargash said that an increasingly fragmented global order and the prospect of America retreating from the world stage is “worrying” the UAE.

The minister, speaking at Ideas Abu Dhabi, told his audience the country wanted to see more cross-border unity but is looking on with concern at divisions in Europe and the possibility of more confrontations between the United States and China.

He spoke after Gordon Brown, the former UK leader whose country is currently in crisis over Brexit, and Matteo Renzi, the former Italian Prime Minister who lost power as the anti-establishment Five Star Movement rose to prominence, expressed their own fears at the consequences of a rise in populism.

In conversation with The National, Dr. Gargash described the global situation as “very fluid” and “very worrying”, and that more competition between nations was a challenge for the Emirates.

“I was on a recent trip to Washington, then I was on another trip to Europe, and what I really saw was there is an introspection,” he said. “In America, there clearly is huge inner dialogue about America’s place in the world, most acutely about America’s place in the Middle East.”

The situation has left the UAE questioning if the current US approach is caused by a “normal cyclical battle” or whether a major ally had changed for good.

“This is very worrying for a country that has always seen America’s role in the region as a positive,” he said. “In Europe, clearly the optimism of the European project – that this is a linear projection of European integration – is no longer the view.

“I share a lot of the views we have heard with regards to China. I am very concerned about this new great power confrontation that could be looming and is being seen as a strategy, because clearly from our perspective, the more co-operation there is between the US, Europe and China, the better it is also for us. The more agreement we have, the more co-operation we have in the international order, the better it is for us.”

He said it was important that the wider Middle East region moved away from “political Islam” as a system of government, which he said had been a “total failure”.

“If you look at political Islamists, they took over Egypt,” he said. “If you look at their literature they have hundreds of books on segregation between men and women.

“And they have very, very little on running a modern economy.”

Significantly, he also spoke openly about his hopes for finding a resolution to the Arab-Israeli conflict. He called for a “more stable regional system” that would allow Middle East nations to resolve problems such as the Israel-Palestine conflict, the Yemen civil war or Syria crisis between themselves.

He said the decision of many Arab countries not to talk with Israel had complicated finding a solution over the decades.

“Many, many years ago, when there was an Arab decision not to have contact with Israel, that was a very, very wrong decision, looking back,” he said. “Because clearly, you have to really dissect and divide between having a political issue and keeping your lines of communication open.”

He predicted increased contact between Arab countries and Israel, such as small bilateral deals and visits by politicians and sports players, in the years ahead. But he also forecast a deeper “strategic shift” in relations.

“The strategic shift, needs actually, for us to progress on the peace front,” he said. “What we are facing, if we continue on the current trajectory, I think the conversation in 15 years’ time will really be about equal rights in one state.

“I know that this conversation is there right now but it’s on the margins. But this conversation will shift because a two-state solution will no longer be feasible because a sort of reduced rump state will no longer be practical.

“From the perspective of the UAE, we do need to resolve it, because this issue has this tendency of jumping out of the background when it’s quiet to suddenly becoming headline news.

But the current trajectory we are seeing, I think 10 to 15 years, the discussion will be what is the nature of the Israeli state, what are the rights of the Palestinians within that Israeli state, should they be equal citizens, is it sustainable that they are not equal citizens?”

He also admitted changing global dynamics had created “conundrums” for the UAE, not least when deciding what to do about Yemen.

“And for countries like us we are in a conundrum,” he said. “Because the rules of the game are changing but the rules are not out yet.

“So suddenly, we have a challenge such as Yemen, for example. What do we do here? “Do we sort of secure our own regional interests, stability, or do we allow an emergence of another Hezbollah scenario, as we saw in 1983.

“So, these are two tough choices, we made the first choice, and then we notice that our strategic narrative has been lost to a more humanitarian narrative, in many ways rightly so.

“So these are all issues of a region where the international order is in flux and the region itself is supposed to adjust but doesn’t have really the tools to adjust.”

For his part, Gordon Brown, UN Special Envoy for Global Education and Former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, addressed the event in a session titled “Globalisation: What’s Next? Protectionism or cooperation?”

The role of education in combatting populism was discussed extensively by former Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. He stressed the importance of championing educational initiatives, creating a new generation of young people who understand the problems we face, and can be equipped to find solutions.

Ideas Abu Dhabi is held in association with the Aspen Institute, an educational and policy studies organisation based in Washington, DC, and is hosted by Tamkeen, a company that delivers projects enriching Abu Dhabi’s social, cultural, and educational landscape. Part invite-only Forum, part public Festival, Ideas Abu Dhabi is taking place at New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) on Saadiyat Island until 28 March.

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