Opinion: Africa takes centre-stage at 3rd Atlantic Dialogues

| January 21, 2014 | 0 Comments

AtlanticDialogues-with-royal-patronage967By Mass Mboup

The Moroccan capital Rabat hosted The Atlantic Dialogues for the third consecutive year. Launched in 2011, this event has gained an important place on the international agenda. It is organised through the initiative of the German Marshall Fund of the United States (GMF) in partnership with the OCP Foundation (Office Chérifien des Phosphates) and its strategic wing OCP Policy Center. Notably, the 2013 edition resulted in a strong commitment  by the Moroccan authorities, at an organisational and preparatory level.

The number of participants, from different corners of the world including South America, India, the Caribbean, Africa, the United States and China, largely exceeded that of the previous year. Politicians, high-level experts, public and private sector representatives, members of civil society and young leaders from around the Atlantic basin attended 50 thematic sessions over the three days. The African continent took central stage represented by delegations from Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Gambia and South Africa, among others.

On opening the Forum, the hosts Mostafa Terrab, President of the OCP Foundation and Greg Kennedy, Chairperson of the German Marshall Fund, gave the background on which The Atlantic Dialogues was founded : an international initiative and a framework of multi-cultural events aiming to promote dialogue and mutual development between the two sides of the Atlantic. The main  challenges  are : the world economic and financial crisis, the fight against terrorism, immigration issues, food safety especially in the Sahel region… among others.

Sessions were held both inside and outside of the Hotel Sofitel. Among the most notable discussions was the panel on regional stability in Africa which brought together prominent specialists including: Major General Obed Okwa, Commandant/Executive Director, Koffi Annan International Peacekeeping Training Centre; Amanda J. Dory, Deputy Assistant Secretary for African Affairs, U.S. Department of Defence; Kamal Amakrane, Chief Advisor to the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for the Ivory Coast. Topics were focused in particular on the impact of cross-border jihadist movements in the aftermath of events that shook Somalia and Mali with tragic consequences.

Commandant Obed Okwa said that it was necessary to look beyond mere observation: “Questions linked to extremist ideology and terrorism, in their various forms, are central to the role of the African Union as a supra-national organisation with its limited resources, but to which it is important to give the political and military means that would allow rapid deployment in crisis areas.”

Kamal Amakrane, a high-level UN official operating from Abidjan, focused on more positive elements such as the “important progress achieved in African stability”. He  added: “The crises which have occurred in Africa should be examined from the point of view of bad governance and other factors such as weakness of institutions, which in turn often causes the spread of corruption, drug trafficking etc.”

Okwa and Amakrane, despite their differences, agreed that in  the face of recurring crises in Africa and considering the spread of tension areas, it is fundamental that “Africa must set itself on the front line so that African problems are resolved by Africans themselves”.

Many other panel discussions tackled  African issues from other angles. Questions were raised about infrastructure, investment, development aid, food safety and public health problems of great magnitude, such as HIV-AIDS which continues to devastate the African continent and other non transmissible diseases including hypertension, heart diseases etc.

According to most  participants, the Atlantic Dialogues 2013 had made significant progress. It was clear that great efforts had been made to improve on the previous conferences. There was a well planned programme, coherent and well selected themes, and it was very well organised.

Technological innovation was put to good use by making an iPOD or an iPAD (running the application AD Connect developed by the company SpotMe from Geneva). available to each participant. Replacing the often bulky paper-documents, this little jewel enabled everyone to follow the panel discussions whilst communicating and exchanging information with each other.

The plethora of sessions aside (which could even have been somewhat curtailed to avoid overlapping), we can be reassured that the next Atlantic Dialogues edition  will be even better in order to respond to the expectations of the transatlantic community, which, in the words of the chair of the GMF, Greg Kennedy. shall be “united by the common challenges and possibilities and not divided between North and South”.


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Category: A Frontpage, Africa, External relations, US

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