17 November 2011 - 19 November 2011

Change in the Middle East and North Africa

Chair: Professor Nicholas Burns

(In partnership with The Open Society Foundations)

The conference was looking at the current and future situation in the region, but the main aim was to consider how outsiders could best contribute to the positive processes under way. What we agreed to refer to as the ‘Arab uprisings’ was a historic phenomenon, and an irreversible one. There were common political, social and economic factors at play across the region, but each country was also separate and different. The process would be long and painful – we were in the first act of a five act drama.

For the moment, Tunisia looked the best placed to achieve a successful and peaceful transition, and provide a model, but even there it was very early days. Egypt’s revolution was still in the making. Libya was just beginning to recover from its trauma and 42 years of one-man rule. Bahrain was bound to have more trouble. Yemen seemed in a serious mess, with no obvious way out. Syria presented the greatest current risk of large-scale violence, even full-scale civil war, with huge potential consequences for its neighbours.

The movement for change was by no means spent, even if the momentum had slowed, and nowhere was immune. Some monarchies might have more legitimacy and a better chance of making a success of gradual reform, but they could not escape the pressures for radical change in the longer run. It was unclear where the contagion would strike next – Kuwait and Algeria were mentioned. The small oil-rich Gulf states could probably use their wealth to buy off protest, but Saudi Arabia remained a major unknown. We were unsure how the Palestinians would react over time, but the situation was most unlikely to stay quiet, and there could be real trouble ahead in the Israel-Palestine area.

The threat of Islamic extremism was much discussed. Islamic parties were likely to do very well in elections, which would alarm some in the west, particularly the US. But they would have to come to terms with governing in very difficult political and economic circumstances, and should be judged by their actions, not on the basis of pre-existing fears. The key ingredients for successful transitions would be building strong institutions and constitutional safeguards.

Outsiders, particularly the west, were regarded with a great deal of suspicion by those coming to power in the countries which have had revolutions, with the partial exception of Libya, and needed to exercise great care in how they tried to help. Doing no harm was a vital first principle. But their support and assistance would nevertheless be important in different ways. On the political side, contributing to institution building and better governance, helping civil society, and investing in human capital were the best ways forward. Economic assistance would be crucial at some early stage, but it was unclear where large sums of financial assistance could come from in present global circumstances, and the issue of conditionality would be very sensitive. The IFIs were likely to have a vital future role. Jobs would be needed above all. Only the private sector could provide them, and would need help to do so, including through better trade access and foreign investment. Outsiders would need to engage with a multiplicity of actors in the future. The governments coming to power would need to help them to do so, and explain to their peoples the need for foreign assistance.

Further military intervention on Libyan lines was unlikely, but the pressures to do so in Syria in particular could begin to mount in future in certain circumstances, and be hard to resist. Regional actors should be in the lead wherever possible. Turkey would be an increasingly important player in these events, and was likely to face some very difficult dilemmas.

Overall we recognised both that the Arab uprisings were a positive development, and that they carried great risks for all concerned in the coming months and years. Great skill would be needed all round to navigate these turbulent waters. Outsiders could contribute. But the fate of the new governments would essentially be in their own hands.


The aim of this conference was to take stock of what had happened so far, to look forward to what might happen next, and to reach conclusions and recommendations about what outsiders could best do to help.  While the conference would have been topical at any time during 2011, it could not have been held at a more relevant moment: Tunisia had just completed its first free elections; Egypt was on the brink of its first round of elections, but facing renewed unrest over the military’s role; Libya was trying to absorb and move on from what had happened, with Gaddhafi’s son Saif al-Islam captured as we met; and the situation in Syria was looking ever more volatile and dangerous, with the Arab League deciding on tougher sanctions as we deliberated.  We had huge expertise around the table, including from the region, although we would have liked more regional voices and greater representation from key outside players like Russia and China.  Discussion was extremely lively, and consensus in some areas clearly unattainable, but there was nevertheless a surprising amount of agreement about the nature of the phenomenon under way, the risks and problems associated with it, and how outsiders could and could not help.

There was agreement that the chain reaction which had started in Tunisia was a historic movement, and a turning point in current history. It had many causes, but essentially came out of long-simmering and closely interlinked political, economic and social dissatisfaction.  This in turn stemmed from repression of political, civil and media freedoms, poor governance, dynastic pretensions, and economic malaise, characterised by corruption, nepotism, unemployment and lack of opportunities.  The drive had come from the young, not from traditional political actors, fuelled by the new social media, as well as more traditional outlets, particularly Al Jazeera.  The movement was internally inspired, with no clear leadership, but external support had in some cases tipped the balance.  The chain reaction was not just about the contagion of street protest.  Ideas, images, vocabulary and symbols had also been crossing borders readily.

We discussed whether we should speak of one overarching narrative for the region, or 22 separate dramas.  The answer was both.  There was no doubt that events in one country had sparked off developments in others.  There were clear common political, economic and social factors, and one strong, underlying common feature: peoples had lost their fear and found their voices.  They wanted to be citizens, not subjects.  There could be no going back on this in the region, even if revolution in some countries failed.  All 22 countries would be affected one way or the other.  At the same time the political, economic and social conditions in each country were different, and change would come in different guises.  There was no one-size-fits-all model or solution, and no easy grand strategies which could encompass all 22 countries.

How long might the period of change last?  This was impossible to say, but we were certainly talking of years, and probably decades.  Building new institutions and changing cultures was always a long process.  We were still only early in the first act of a five act play.

Were monarchies more immune to rapid change than republics, as seemed to have been the case so far?  While it was hard in any case to generalise, as if regimes of similar description were in fact the same, most participants thought monarchies faced the same pressures, certainly in the longer run.  Autocracies of whatever kind would only be accepted in the region in future if they could deliver the results people wanted.  Some monarchies did seem to enjoy greater legitimacy, for a variety of reasons – hereditary influence and patronage, religion, and the ability to blame and replace governments were mentioned.  This gave them a greater chance of managing change through gradual reform, rather than revolution.  But it was unclear whether they could succeed in riding the tiger over time – it was hard to find successful examples of top-down change from the past in this region. In any case the monarchies certainly did not seem ready to hand over power to democratic institutions.

Where do things stand now?

The countries most affected so far were each at different stages, but even in the most advanced, the process of change had hardly got beyond the top level in many ways.

Tunisia looked the most promising, not least thanks to underlying previous factors such as rapid economic and social development, good education levels, Armed Forces which stayed out of politics, and a relatively moderate religious tradition.  The An-Nadah Islamic Party, which had won the largest share of the vote in the recent elections, was making all the right noises on the political and economic fronts, not least to reassure foreign investors and tourists. But its capacity to deliver was much less clear.  Tunisia was not central to the region. But if it could continue to move peacefully through an inevitably difficult transition period, with an Islamic party-dominated government presenting a reasonable face to the world and doing a decent job of governing, while remaining recognisably Islamic, it could become a model. 

Egypt was very different.  Its revolution was far from complete, with huge suspicion about what the future Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) had in mind for the future.  The political and economic expectations of its large, young, mostly uneducated population would be hard to satisfy, and the economic fundamentals were bad and getting worse.  Its position at the centre of the Arab world, with one quarter of the region’s population, meant that what happened in Egypt would have huge significance elsewhere too.  It looked likely that the Muslim Brotherhood would do well in the elections, as might the Salafists, while the so-called liberal parties would poll badly.  While it was unclear how the Brotherhood would perform in practice – what they had said so far seemed mostly reassuring – outside reactions to a Brotherhood electoral victory, particularly in the US, could be very negative, however unreasonable or unjustified.  This would reduce the chance of effective outside economic assistance, which Egypt would certainly need at some stage.  At best, Egypt might be in for a period of messy muddling through before it achieved anything like stable institutions and a stable government.  But there could easily be worse scenarios, with prolonged internal conflict of one sort or another, accompanied by economic stagnation.  The economic issues could be particularly hard to manage, even though there was a clear set of measures, including retargeting of wasteful subsidies, which would make a big difference, if explained clearly and implemented steadily.

Developments in Libya remained hard to analyse for the moment.  Its advantages were oil wealth, a relatively small population, a strong sense of national achievement in having ousted Gaddafi, and apparent openness to outside assistance following the NATO intervention.  Its main immediate problems included peaceful disarmament of the militias, building effective institutions virtually from zero, and divisions between Tripoli and Benghazi.  Islamic forces could turn out to be strong in Libya too.

In Bahrain, the process of change had been arrested by the GCC intervention, but not stopped.  There was bound to be more trouble ahead, with the additional toxic element of Sunni/Shia divisions.

In Yemen, the prospects for a peaceful transition looked poor, given the poverty of the country, prevalence of weapons, Al Qaeda presence, and deep social, tribal and territorial divisions.  The prospect of Yemen turning into another Somalia could not be excluded, with potentially highly dangerous population movements, eg into Saudi Arabia and Oman. 

As explained further below, Syria was seen as presenting the greatest risk of large-scale violence, which would inevitably spill over into its neighbours in one way or another, particularly Lebanon. Both Yemen and Syria could become major humanitarian crises.

What next?

Participants were naturally reluctant to offer specific predictions.  But no-one thought the movement (which, by a democratic vote, we decided to call the ‘Arab uprisings’, rather than the Arab spring) would soon exhaust itself. Contagion would continue in one way or another. No country was immune. But the regimes of the countries so far not fundamentally affected had been preparing their defences, and would not give up power without a serious fight.  There was clearly a risk that the conclusion some leaders would draw from what had happened so far was the importance of intensifying control and repression.  Whether the Assad regime managed to hang on in Syria would send an important message about whether ruthless state violence could indeed succeed in stopping popular protest. 

The oil-rich Gulf States had the chance to ‘buy off’ protest, through extensive hand-outs, making sure their own populations became major shareholders in the status quo.  This could be particularly effective for those with very small national populations.  They also seemed determined to act together to stop change they did not like, whatever outsiders thought, as they had done in Bahrain.

Possible new centres of unrest could be Kuwait in the Gulf, and Algeria in North Africa, although in the latter case the experience of so much recent violence might dissuade people from taking to the streets again.  Oman was also worth watching, particularly in the context of succession to Sultan Qaboos. For the reasons already alluded to, Morocco and Jordan might struggle to maintain the current line of gradual, moderate reform, but this was unclear.

Saudi Arabia remained the big unknown.  Oil wealth and the large royal family were seen as bulwarks against protest and revolution, but not guarantees.  Current uncertainty about the future at the top of the royal family hardly helped. In any case, the current cold war between Iran and Saudi Arabia for influence in the region would continue.

We focussed a lot of attention on what might happen in Syria, always regarded as in some ways the heart of the Arab world, along with Egypt.  Opinions were divided over whether the Assad regime was already doomed, and its fall only a matter of a few months, or whether it had plenty of resilience and resistance in it yet and could still last for years.  Most favoured the former scenario, but no-one could foresee exactly how this might play out.  Meanwhile, the risks of serious ethnic and sectarian conflict were increasing all the time.  A full-scale civil war could not be ruled out, with inevitable spill-over conflicts in Lebanon and elsewhere, particularly given the Kurdish angle.  There also had to be a risk that the regime might do something provocative over Israel-Palestine, if it felt it had nothing to lose, and decided to make a play for wider Arab sympathy.  It was unclear how Iran would react to the potential fall of its Syrian allies, or Hezbollah (the latter had lost the Arab support it had previously enjoyed, though it remained a potent military force). But both would do all they could to stop it happening.

What would be the effect of current events on the Palestinians themselves?  In some ways it was surprising that they had not risen again in some way, given the bleak prospects for a peace settlement with Israel.  Some suggested that this was because they were a broken people, given the failure of previous intifadas. The leadership was corrupt and looking more to their legacy than anything else. Others thought a lot was bubbling under the surface, contained for now by the statehood initiative in the UN and the hope that the Arabs would take up their cause with greater enthusiasm in the future once more popular regimes were in place in Egypt and Syria.  While the Egyptian and Jordanian Peace Treaties with Israel were not in jeopardy for now, and there would be plenty of internal preoccupations, future Arab governments would have to take more account of their public opinions in this area.  Israel would be well-advised to look for a rapid settlement on two-state lines in such circumstances, but was likely to go in the opposite direction, relying ever more on military power.  In these circumstances, the Palestinians could well abandon the two-state idea, decide to let demography do its job over time, and meanwhile concentrate on issues like dignity and human rights under the continuing occupation. They had no good options available, and would therefore inevitably choose bad ones.

Some participants drew attention in this context to the risk of a ‘perfect storm’, with the region and its regimes in turmoil, ‘ordinary’ Arab voices being increasingly listened to, Iran under increasing pressure over its nuclear programme, and the Palestinian problem clearly stuck.  Iran could make a play to become the true champion of Palestinian rights, with the support of Arab populations.  This would be very hard indeed to deal with, especially when the West was preoccupied with its own problems.

The risks of ‘Islamist extremism’ were much discussed.  Some saw this as a real danger, whatever fine words were being used by Islamic parties now.  Sharia law, or at least elements of it, was likely to be introduced wherever revolutions had taken place.  This would be hard if not impossible to square with notions of human rights held by many outside, particularly in the West.  Others saw such fears as exaggerated, and on the contrary saw opportunities in the emergence of Islamic political parties having to face up to the practical problems of governing modern states. Islamic parties were not monolithic, any more than other political parties. But religion in Middle East politics was a fact of life we would have to learn to live with.

It was true that parties like the Muslim Brotherhood did not seem very economically literate but they favoured private enterprise, and would learn over time.  In any case such parties were likely to do well in elections, whatever those in the west thought or wanted, and reactions to this needed to be sensible, not panicky.  Part of the answer had to be dialogue and engagement with such parties, not boycotts or attempts to pick other winners.  Meanwhile it would be sensible to avoid using catch-all terms with pejorative connotations like ‘Islamists’. ‘Nationalism’, ‘Arabism’ and ‘Islamism’ were likely to merge in some places.  Most important would be whether the Islamic parties respected democratic choices, in the future as well as now, and the rule of law.

Against this background, the key ingredients for successful transitions were seen as strong institutions and constitutional safeguards, more than attractive ideology or even effective leadership at this stage.  The transitions would inevitably be long and difficult, and might bring neither real democracy, nor stability, in the short term.  It was always easier to overthrow old regimes than build successful new structures, and the temptation to revert to authoritarianism would be very strong in some places. Strong nerves would be needed.

One interesting but little discussed issue was the place of women in the countries which had gone through revolutions. They had been much involved in the protests, eg in Tahrir Square. But there was a risk that they would be marginalised again now, since they had little representation in the political parties so far.

What can and should outsiders do?

There was wide recognition that outsiders had a significant role to play.  Western attitudes to Mubarak had contributed to pushing him over the edge in the end, and NATO-led intervention in Libya had obviously been critical to the overthrow of Gaddhafi.  Freedom activists still tended to look to the west, though not necessarily governments, for support or approval in some ways, and outside opinion counted.  At the same time there was no doubt of the depth of the suspicion with which outsiders were viewed in many cases, not least the old colonial powers of Britain and France, and the US because of its relationship with Israel and the invasion of Iraq. For many of the protesters in Egypt and elsewhere, getting rid of the old regimes also meant getting rid of the western influences which had been propping them up, in the name of stability.  It would take a long time to convince many in the region that western governments now suddenly put ‘values’ before ‘interests’, even though the choice might be a false one in reality.  This was particularly true in the light of the different signals which had been sent about change in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya (clear if sometimes belated support for change), compared to Bahrain and Yemen (much more muted attitudes).  Moreover the genuinely internal sources of the revolutions so far reinforced the point that this was ‘about them, not about us’. Outsiders should not imagine that they could, let alone should, try to manage or shape these events.  In these circumstances an attitude of ‘letting it happen’ might well be best. ‘Do no harm’ should certainly be the first principle.

Outsiders, nevertheless, had large interests in what was going on in the region, and should be transparent about these.  US engagement and interests might be reducing (despite the commitment to Israel), as its attention shifted to the Asia/Pacific, and its dependence on Middle East oil declined.  But it remained a major donor to Egypt for example – $1 billion pa. If there was no change in the direction of this funding, currently mostly to the military, legitimate questions could be asked about US policy. Europe desperately needed a stable and prosperous region on the other side of the Mediterranean, for security, trade and migration reasons, and needed to find effective ways of helping and engaging.  Powers like Russia and China had their own interests too, while neighbours like Turkey had great actual, and huge potential, influence.

What could outsiders offer, realistically, which was needed or wanted?  Military power was generally not welcome at this stage despite (or in some cases because of) the Libyan experience.  The same was true of political interference of any kind.  Money was wanted, or at least would be needed more and more, given the economic problems in eg Egypt. But old memories meant conditionality attached to funding would be viewed with great suspicion.  Experience of past transitions, such as those in Eastern Europe, could be helpful, as long as the parallels were not pushed too far, and preaching was avoided (not least given the West’s own problems). One big difference with Eastern Europe was that the EU was not offering the huge incentive of membership.  Talk of ‘models’ or ‘Western values’ was to be avoided.  There were no instant solutions or quick fixes in areas like these, and genuine humility was required (not often the case in practice, despite lip-service to the idea).

One issue for those from the outside trying to help was how to plug in to the new set-ups, particularly in the present, chaotic phases of transition.  Part of the answer was that single access point countries, with clear bosses, were a thing of the past.  Many more actors were now involved, and would need to be engaged, in and out of government.  Capable governments would certainly take a long time to develop, and needed to be helped and empowered carefully, not deluged with well-meaning advice or advisers.  Outside help would also need to be well coordinated.  Working with civil society would be important, but civil society organisations with limited capacity should not be swamped with funding and new outside partnerships. Western government funding was already regarded with huge suspicion in Egypt (although this was also true, in lesser measure, of Gulf funding). Finding new ways to engage with the young and with the private sector would be crucial.

Against this background, outsiders should try to offer what would work for their regional partners, not for example obviously one-sided trade deals, and offer support for institutions and better governance, rather than trying to pick winners (individuals or parties).  The private sector, both large companies and SMEs, should be encouraged, because they would be largely responsible for creating the large numbers of jobs needed in the future (an essential requirement for both economic and political stability).  Conditionality would be hard to avoid entirely, not least because of the requirement for domestic donor accountability, but should be transparent and designed to help governments tackle tough choices rather than avoid them. The UN was so far an under-utilised resource.

Economic and financial support could be particularly critical in the months and years to come. But where was it going to come from? The US and Europe had huge economic and financial problems of their own, and China and Russia were not likely to want to plough in much themselves. The Gulf countries had the money in theory, as long as the oil price stayed high, but their promises had so far come to virtually nothing – they would not want to encourage revolutions or Islamic activists by financing them. Moreover, those coming to power in the revolutionary countries were deeply suspicious of Gulf motives. No-one quite understood, for example, what game Qatar was playing. The IFIs could have a crucial role, although Egypt had rejected one IMF offer of a loan already because of popular reactions, even though no conditionality had been attached.  They might need a bigger loan before long. Ironically, the IMF might end up saving the Egyptian revolution.

Our rather hard-nosed conclusion was that the countries of the region would for the most part have to deal with their economic and financial problems on their own, without assuming that the rest of the world would solve their financing needs for them.

Intervention and the Responsibility to Protect (R2P)

Most participants saw the NATO-led intervention in Libya as a one-off, in specific, unlikely to be repeated circumstances, including a humanitarian imperative, an Arab League request for help, Russian/Chinese Security Council acquiescence in an enabling Resolution, and an active military resistance with a significant base in Benghazi.  Syria was much more complex in every way than Libya, and it was hard to see how similar conditions could be created there.  There was no current desire in western capitals to repeat the Libyan experience in Syria, or indeed elsewhere.  The chances of a Security Council Resolution authorising military action in Syria looked remote, given current Russian and Chinese attitudes.

A combined Arab League/Turkish intervention of some kind was more conceivable, at least in theory, with the newly invigorated Arab League taking an increasingly tough line. Sanctions, arms embargoes and no-fly zones could be explored, and regime defections encouraged. Certainly intervention from the region would be better than from the outside. But the League had no real capacity, and Turkey would take a lot of persuading to do more than its current policy of allowing Syrian refugees a good deal of latitude.

Some participants warned that R2P-style pressures could nevertheless easily grow again, given the apparent success of the relatively cheap and ‘bootless’ operation in Libya.  For example, if armed resistance began in earnest in Syria, with a base in, say, Homs, and appealed for international help to avoid a bloodbath/civil war/regional conflict, such appeals could be increasingly hard to resist, with the western media once again leading the way, and pointing to the inconsistency of western approaches otherwise.

Conclusions and Recommendations

  • The Arab uprisings are fundamentally a good thing, and deserve our support, however difficult and lengthy the process.

  • However outsiders should take great care about what help they offer and how, and avoid the temptation to be seen to be ‘doing something’ for its own sake. In some cases doing nothing may be a valid policy option. The processes of change will be long and difficult, and there is time to get this right. Awareness of the perceptions of the recipients and genuine humility are essential.

  • Engagement with a broad range of actors will be needed. Leadership is likely to be diffuse at best for a long period. But keeping the local actors in the lead will be essential.

  • Differentiated approaches are needed for each country. The first step is to find out what they want.

  • The focus should be on supporting institution-building and appropriate change processes, not on helping particular individuals or parties.

  • Good coordination of outside help will be needed, without the process of coordination becoming too heavy or a substitute for real action.

  • Conditionality should be approached with great care, and couched wherever possible in terms of incentives, not sanctions.

  • Sharing experiences of other transitions would be valuable, for example how other counties built up viable political parties and got their constitutional arrangements right. The East European experience has something to offer in this area.

  • Economic assistance is likely to be most valuable, even if large financial sums will be difficult to find. Trade access, encouragement of investment and tourism, and help with regulatory reform may be particularly important.

  • Job creation will be especially critical to future prospects for stability. Finding ways to help the private sector do that sustainably would be a huge contribution to successful transitions.

  • The IFIs may have a particularly important role to play at the right moment and should hold themselves ready to do so.

  • The political sphere will be particularly sensitive. Trying to pick winners should be avoided. The UN could play a bigger role, because it is likely to be less suspect than eg individual western countries.

  • Engaging effectively with young people will be critical. Scholarships and other educational initiatives are likely to be both effective and a good investment. Investment in human capital in general is the way to go.

  • Political reactions to success by Islamic political parties in elections should focus on what such parties do once in office, not be driven by fears about extremism.

  • The security area will be even more sensitive but cannot be ignored. We know from experience that without reliable security arrangements and institutions, economic development will be very difficult. If outside help is asked for, the focus should be on helping create institutions which foster and obey the rule of law, not new instruments of repression.

  • Pressure for further military interventions will need to be very carefully managed if hasty and potentially very damaging actions are to be avoided. Regional actors, and neighbours such as Turkey should be kept in the lead as much as possible.

  • In any discussions about future interventions, the aims and exit strategy should be very clearly defined.

  • The temptation to go back to arguments about the need for stability over reform should be resisted.

  • For their part, new governments in the countries with revolutions have to provide ‘sockets’ for outsiders to plug into.

  • They also have a responsibility to explain to their supporters why outside help will be needed and manage actively their reactions to this.

Final thoughts

I had hoped this would be a positive and optimistic conference. In practice, there was a lot of concern and even pessimism on display about the turn events were taking, and fear about the chaotic and dangerous period we were facing in the region. But no-one thought for a second we could turn back the clock. The operation had been necessary, even if the patient might die, as one participant put it. The Arab uprisings were part of a wider global trend of distrust of existing governments and popular discontent. In any case, the genie was out of the bottle, though the wishes of the peoples of all 22 countries might not be granted. Outsiders might be able to help in various ways, but essentially the fate of the new governments would be in their own hands.

This Note reflects the Director’s personal impressions of the conference.  No participant is in any way committed to its content or expression.


Chair: Professor Nicholas Burns (USA)
The Sultan of Oman Professor of the Practice of Diplomacy and International Politics, John F Kennedy School of Government (2008-), Director, Future of Diplomacy Project, and Faculty Chair, Programs on the Middle East and on India and South Asia, Harvard University.  Formerly: US Diplomatic Service (1981-2008); Under-Secretary of State for Political Affairs, US Department of State, Washington DC (2005-08); US Ambassador to NATO (2001-05); US Ambassador to Greece (1997-2001); Advisor on Russian Affairs to Presidents Clinton and Bush, National Security Council, The White House (1990-95).  A Director of the American Ditchley Foundation.

Dr Robert Bowker

Adjunct Professor, Centre for Arab and Islamic Studies, Australian National University (2008-); Formerly: Australian Diplomatic Service (1971-2008); Ambassador to Egypt (2005-08); Senior Adviser, Policy Research, United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East, Gaza and Jerusalem; Ambassador to Jordan (1989-92).  Author. 

Mr Michael Bell

Paul Martin Senior Scholar, International Diplomacy, University of Windsor; Senior Fellow, Munk Centre for International Studies, University of Toronto; Fellow, Weatherhead Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University.  Formerly: Canadian Ambassador to Israel (1990-92 and 1999-2003), Egypt (1994-98), Jordan (1987-90).

Mr Terence Colfer
Consultant, Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade – Canada.  Formerly: Canadian Diplomatic Service (1969-2003); Ambassador to Iran; Ambassador to Kuwait and Qatar.

Mr Gordon Smith
Executive Director, Centre for Global Studies, University of Victoria; Distinguished Fellow, Centre for International Governance Innovation.  Formerly: Chairman of the Board, International Development Research Centre (1997-2007); Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs and Personal Representative of the Prime Minister for G7/8 Summits (1994-97); Ambassador to the European Union, Ambassador to NATO (1985-90); A Member of the Advisory Committee of The Canadian Ditchley Foundation.  Author. 

Professor Erik Berglof

Chief Economist and Special Adviser to the President, European Bank of Reconstruction and Development, London (2006-).  Formerly: Director, Stockholm Institute of Transition Economics; Founder and President, Centre for Economic and Financial Research, Moscow; Programme Director, Centre for Economic Policy Research, London.

Mr Samir Elbahaie

Policy and Government Affairs Manager, Middle East and North Africa, Google.  Formerly: Corporate Affairs Manager, Intel Corporation.

Mr Masood Ahmed

Director, Middle East and Central Asia Department, International Monetary Fund (IMF) (2008-).  Formerly: Director of External Relations, IMF (2006-08); Director General, Policy and International Development, Department for International Development (2003-06).

Mr John Keating

Chief Correspondent, Kuwait News Agency, Paris; President, formerly Vice-President, Anglo-American Press Association.

Minister Plenipotentiary Domenico Giorgi

Italian Diplomatic Service; Director General, Mediterranean and the Middle East, Ministry of Foreign Affairs.  Formerly: Ambassador to Afghanistan (2002-04).

Mr Norman Benotman

Senior Analyst, Strategic Communications, Quilliam Foundation; Co-Founder, Libyan Human and Political Development Forum (2004).

Dr Mohamed Chtatou

Programme Specialist responsible for cooperation with International Organizations, Islamic Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, Rabat; Lecturer in Education, Mohammed V University Agdal, Rabat; Board Member, The Moroccan British Society.

Dr Khalid al-Azri

Visiting Research Fellow in Gulf Studies, LSE Global Governance (2011-).  Formerly: Visiting Fellow, Kuwait Programme, The London School of Economics and Political Science.

Dr Abdullah Baabood
Director, Gulf Research Centre, Cambridge (2008-).

Dr Shadi Hamid

Director of Research, Brookings Doha Center; Fellow, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, Brookings Institution.  Formerly: Director of Research, Project on Middle East Democracy and a Hewlett Fellow, Center on Democracy, Development, and the Rule of Law, Stanford University.

Dr Denis Temnikov

First Secretary, Foreign Policy Group, Embassy of the Russian Federation, London (2010-).  Formerly: Assistant to the First Deputy Foreign Minister, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation.

Dr Ahmed Driss

Director (2005-) and Professor of Law, Faculties of Law and Economic Sciences and Management (1998-), Centre for Mediterranean and International Studies, Tunis.

Mr Fares Mabrouk
Director, Enda Inter-arabe (Micro finance institution); Yale World Fellow (2010); Blogger.  Formerly: Technology Entrepreneur.

Mr Aziz Mebarek
Co-founder, TunInvest-AfricInvest Group, Tunis; Executive Partner, TunInvest.  Formerly: General Manager, ILVA Maghreb and Tunisacier International.

Mr Jeremy Bowen

BBC (1984-); Middle East Editor (2005-).  Formerly: Special Correspondent, BBC Television News (2003-05); Middle East Correspondent (1995-2000).

Ms Lindy Cameron OBE
Head, Middle East and North Africa Department, UK Department for International Development.  Formerly: Head, Helmand Provincial Reconstruction Team (2009-10), DFID Afghanistan (2006-07), DFID Iraq (2004-05).

Ms Linda Duffield CMG
Chief Executive, Westminster Foundation for Democracy (2009-).  Formerly: HM Diplomatic Service; Ambassador to the Czech Republic (2004-09); Director, Wider Europe (2002-04); High Commissioner to Sri Lanka and Maldives (1999-2002); Deputy High Commissioner to Canada (1995-99).

Sir Jeremy Greenstock GCMG
Chairman, Gatehouse Advisory Partners, London (2010-); Non-Executive Director, Lambert Energy Advisory (2010-); Chair, UNA-UK (2011-).  Formerly; Special Adviser, BP plc (2004-10); HM Diplomatic Service (1969-2004); UK Special Representative for Iraq (2003-04); Ambassador and UK Permanent Representative to the United Nations, New York (1998-2003).  Board of Directors, The American Ditchley Foundation; a Governor and former Director (2004-10) of The Ditchley Foundation.

Mr Charles Hollis
Director General, The Middle East Association, London (2010-).  Formerly: Managing Director (Middle East), Kroll; HM Diplomatic Service.

Mr Paul O’Grady
Co-founder and Co-Director, Democracy Reporting International (2006-). 

Dr Claire Spencer FRSA
Head, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House (2005-).  Formerly: Head, Policy Unit for the Middle East and Central Asia, Christian Aid (2003-05); Deputy Director and Head, Mediterranean Security Programme, Centre for Defence Studies, King's College, University of London.

The Lord Williams of Baglan
United Nations Special Coordinator for Lebanon (2008-).  Formerly: UK Special Representative on Middle East and Special Projects (2007-08); UN Special Coordinator on the Middle East (2006-07); Director, Middle East and Asia, Department of Political Affairs, United Nations, New York (2005-06); Special Adviser to the Foreign Secretary (2000-05).

Dr Gülnur Aybet

Senior Lecturer in International Relations, School of Politics and International Relations, Rutherford College, University of Kent at Canterbury.  Formerly, Public Policy Scholar, Woodrow Wilson Center, Washington DC.

Professor Nathan Brown

Professor of Political Science and International Affairs, George Washington University; Non-Resident Senior Associate, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Mr Joel Campagna
Deputy Director, Arab Regional Office, Open Society Foundations, Amman.

Dr Robert  Danin
Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies, Council on Foreign Relations.  Formerly: Head of Mission, Office of Quartet Representative, Jerusalem; Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs;  Director for the Levant and Israeli-Palestinian Affairs, White House National Security Council.

Dr Rita E Hauser
A Member of the President's Intelligence Advisory Board (2009-) and (2001-04); Chair, International Peace Institute (1993-); President, The Hauser Foundation (1992-); Retired Senior Partner, Stroock & Stroock & Lavan, LLP, New York; Advisory Board Chair, International Crisis Group.  Formerly: Director, International Institute for Strategic Studies; The RAND Corporation; Advisory Board Founding Chair, RAND Center for Middle East Public Policy; Director, Council on Foreign Relations; Chair of the Board of Directors of the American Ditchley Foundation (2006-10).  A Member of the American Ditchley Foundation (1980-) and a Governor of The Ditchley Foundation.

Dr Magda Kandil
Executive Director and Director of Research, The Egyptian Center for Economic Studies.  Formerly: Advisor to the Executive Director and Senior Economist, IMF; Professor and Chair, Department of Economics, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. 

Mr James Ketterer
Country Director, AMIDEAST, Cairo (2011-); Fellow, Foreign Policy Association.  Formerly: Vice Chancellor for Policy and Planning and Deputy Provost, State University of New York (SUNY); Staff of New York Governor's Commission on Higher Education (2007-08); Director, SUNY Center for International Development (2000-07); Policy Analyst, Near East/South Asia, National Security Council, The White House.

Ms Amira Maaty
Program Officer, Middle East North Africa, National Endowment for Democracy, Washington, DC (2008-).  Formerly: Senior Program Officer, IREX (2004-08).

Ms Monica Marks
Rhodes Scholar, University of Oxford; Graduate Student, Middle Eastern Studies.  Formerly: Fulbright Scholar, Turkey (2010).

Mr Jonathan Paris
Senior Fellow, Atlantic Council of the United States; Associate Fellow, International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation, King's College London; Member, International Institute for Strategic Studies and Council on Foreign Relations.  Formerly: Senior Associate Member, St Antony's College, Oxford (2004-05); Middle East Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations (1995-2000).

Mr Anthony Richter
Associate Director, Open Society Foundations, New York; Director, Middle East and North Africa Initiatives and Central Eurasia Project; Chairman Revenue Watch Institute.

Dr Eugene Rogan
Director, Middle East Centre, Faculty Fellow and University Lecturer in the Modern History of the Middle East, St Antony's College, University of Oxford.

Ms Fatima Ayub

Senior Advocate, Open Society Foundations, London.  Formerly: International Center for Transitional Justice, Afghanistan; Amnesty International, London; Human Rights Watch, Washington DC.

Dr Caroline Freund

Chief Economist, Middle East and North Africa, The World Bank, Washington DC.  Formerly: Lead Economist, World Bank; Senior Economist, IMF; Economist, Federal Reserve Board.