The Middle East Next Generation of Arms Control Specialists Network (MENACS) held an event in the United Nations Headquarters titled “Change in Action: Overcoming Barriers to Nonproliferation in the Middle East.” Unique in the make-up of its members—all young, emerging specialists from the Middle East region—the event offered a fresh perspective on developments in the Middle East, and offered a constructive approach for advancing arms control and nonproliferation prospects in the region.
The event took place on May 8, 2014, and was sponsored by the Heinrich Boell Foundation North America. Former UK Secretary of State for Defence Lord Des Browne, newly appointed vice chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, opened the event. Following his opening remarks, three of the Network’s members—hailing from Egypt, Iran, and Israel—kicked off a discussion on challenges and potential avenues for cooperation, regional security, and arms control in the Middle East. The event took place as part of the 2014 Preparatory Committee (PrepCom) for the 2015 Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).
The panel began with an analysis by Ariane Tabatabai on the region’s current landscape and proliferation trends. Her talk recounted the challenges and difficulties facing arms control and nonproliferation in the region, and explored some of the more positive events that have taken place in the last year, such as the negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program, the ongoing Syrian chemical weapons disarmament and its accession to the Chemical Weapons Convention, as well as consultations with regional parties on the prospects of holding a conference on the establishment of a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the region.
Turning to future opportunities, Aviv Melamud discussed issues relating to proliferation and weapons of mass destruction that require special focus and creative approaches to enable a process of arms control and strengthened nonproliferation in the region. Using the three pillars of the NPT—nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses—as a guide for her analysis, Aviv explored how these issues could and should be addressed before, and even in lieu of, a regional process of arms control and regional security.
In conclusion, Karim Kamel offered possible ways to move forward, with a particular focus on the role of the region’s next generation and its unique contribution to discourse and activities relating to arms control, nonproliferation, and disarmament in the Middle East. Furthermore, the objectives and projects of the Network, as an important component of this, were presented.
The event was moderated by Dr. Chen Kane, CNS Middle East Projects Manager, who founded MENACS in 2010 as a unique setting to empower the next generation of specialists from throughout the Middle East to exchange views and ideas on issues of arms control and regional security, and to develop and promote a regionally based approach to these issues. In the volatile and highly proliferated setting of the Middle East, the network is an exceptional exercise in collaboration and the foundation for fresh and cooperative work in the region.