Davos 2020: Global efforts toward de-escalation in Middle East at risk

World Economic Forum warns that conduct of individual states is weakening international consensus for conflict resolution in region

A picture taken on January 13, 2020, during a press tour organised by the US-led coalition fighting the remnants of the Islamic State group, shows a US soldier walking past a drone at the Ain al-Asad airbase in the western Iraqi province of Anbar. Iran last week launched a wave of missiles at the sprawling Ain al-Asad airbase in western Iraq and a base in Arbil, capital of Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region, both hosting US and other foreign troops, in an operation it dubbed a response to the killing of Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Guards' Quds Force, in a January 3 US drone strike near Baghdad's airport. / AFP / Ayman Henna
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The rise of nationalist and populist agendas around the world is undermining international efforts to support de-escalation in the Middle East, the World Economic Forum warned on Wednesday.

There currently exists an unsettled global landscape, shaped by “powerful economic, demographic and technological forces” undermining alliances and multilateral institutions as more countries pursue individual agendas, according to the Forum.

“In this landscape then, which used to have the international consensus moving toward really coming together and solving these issues…now we are seeing some conduct and behaviour that is actually exacerbating these risks,” Mirek Dusek, the deputy head of the Centre for Geopolitical and Regional Affairs at the Forum, said on Wednesday.

De-escalation of tensions in the Middle East, particularly in Iraq following the US drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad, will be high on the agenda at next week's World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, Switzerland.

Mr Dusek said that as well as Iraq that “there are longstanding fault lines in the region that the World Economic Forum has always worked on dialogue around” such as the Palestinian-Israeli conflict, Syria’s civil war and now the fighting in Libya.

However, internal governance risks which are at the root of all these conflicts should not be underestimated even though “geostrategic issues” may be taking the attention away from them at the moment, Mr Dusek said.

These issues remain a big risk for many economies of the Middle East and North Africa, he said.

In Davos next week will be 53 heads of state including US President Donald Trump as well as China’s Vice-Premier Han Zheng.

“The steps that these two nations [China and the US] are taking are crucial for all us. President Trump will be in Davos next week and it is crucial that also, leaders from all over the world use this impartial platform for dialogue,” said Borge Brende, the Forum’s president. “I am pretty sure that questions related to trade, the importance of de-escalation of conflict in the Middle East and climate change will come up in the dialogue.”

On Wednesday, the Forum released its Global Risks Report 2020, in which over 750 chief executives, experts and decision-makers ranked environmental risks as their biggest concerns over the next ten-years.